I met up with Onyx, last week, for a long overdue face-to-face. We swap messages most days, but actually live quite far apart. Although we work in a similar part of town, the pressures of the commute home often draws us in different directions, at the end of each shift.

So this particular evening was unusual, but much needed. It’s good to see a friendly face.

We met on the edge of central citadel, where the illuminated towers of the financial industry give way to the entertainment zones of the trendy east. A buzzing area, it offers the watering holes and party bars that the younger corporate shills need, shouldered up against the thrills and imagination of independent enterprises.

Progress being progress, of course, means that the area is changing. As a part of town becomes a go-to spot, its creativity and wonder drawing people in, the bigger industries follow. The towers spring up, the brands and chain venues snap up real estate, and luxury living annihilates the cheaper property that once homed the local talent.

Already, this part of Citadel changes. The original crowds move on, the monied crowds take over. The scensters, the city folk, the party crowd. The creativity drifts, east and north.

All this is not to say don’t go there. It’s worth a visit, and sometimes the party is needed. Just, well, mind the egos. There’s a lot of young and unblunted arrogance out there. On this particular night, Onyx and I were not visiting the regular bars though, we were heading somewhere a little different.

We first sought out a cheap food-joint. Good quality, low-credit stuff, it easily met our needs. Onyx was dressed in black with a plunging neckline, her long hair cascading over shoulders, full lips painted bright red. She wore a smile that complimented shining eyes. We like seeing each other.

Catching up didn’t take long. We quickly fell into our routine of semi-serious talk buried between goofy cross-chatter and weird asides. It is always bright and playful conversation with her, no matter the topic. Anyone looking on at us could easily think we were on a date.

We were not. We got that discussion out of the way a couple of years ago. We’re friends. It’s good, this way.

Our destination, for the night, was a dark bar, hidden down a dark side street. I followed Onyx there, trusting to her directions. We were venturing to a world that she knows better than me. A world hidden intentionally within the cracks between lives. Ever-present, in our society, but not always obvious.

The place was low-lit, with a deep, but not overbearing, throb of background music. A red hue, cast across blacked walls and dark furnishings, added to a sense of enclosed welcome. Here, an eclectic mix of patrons came together to meet, socialise and discover each other.

This is not a normal night out; where crowds profess to socialise, but rarely talk to anyone they don’t know, even as they rub shoulders with strangers. Here, in this place, one found only when looking for it, people seek each other out; mixing and mingling as they follow the gentle drift of conversation int he crowd. New friendships are seeded. New romances sparked.

This is a place where people can be open about who they are. They can express their thoughts and their needs, discuss the physical and emotional past and future. It is an embracing group, with a huge swathe of lifestyle experience. Veterans of the scene mix with neophytes, and no judgement is cast. All are welcome, as long as all are accepting of others. It is a thrilling world.

It would be easy to assume that here, in such a place, desire and lust ride a little closer to the surface than is usually found. Yet, in fact, it is not the case. In a place where people are open honest about their interests, the space instead becomes a more considerate and accepting, where boundaries are understood and safe to discuss. There is no assumption that discussion equates to invitation, unless invitation is expressly given.

Out here, on the edge of central Citadel, within the fringe of society, it is unexpectedly the most welcoming of spaces. A place where people who have found a different approach to life, and are gathered to appreciate it.

We stayed for a while, but not all night. Onyx left first, after happily weaving through the crowd and catching up with new and old faces. She had bought me to this place to help me understand it, and I made a point for staying on after she left, to soak in the experience for while longer. I made a couple of new contacts, and promised to myself that I will find more of such places over the coming months.

It’s tempting to hit this scene with a bang and a rush, and I think I tried that approach out in the past – crashing to an unpleasant and confused halt abruptly, after throwing too many credits into drink and events. Instead, this time, I wish to use care and acclimatise to it properly. This time, it is the slow burn.

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