They unclip the velvet rope as you swagger in, entering a smoky anteroom beneath a purple awning that reads, in cursive, Herve’s. A song is playing with a beat that throbs, the melismatic voice of a female singer stretching out over an ethereal soundscape, like waves crashing on the shore of a cosmic beach. The bouncer looks past you, unsmiling, the knot of his tie at the height of your head, gold rings with diamond inlay on his fingers suggesting a sort of aristocratic menace. Those diamonds have had blood cleaned off of them before. So has the floor, come to think of it, invisible though it is in the dim light. You’re all but ignored on entry, but this just means that you’re welcome—the fact you haven’t already been tossed out to the curb means you are, indeed, a valued member of the club. The ease of entry is a perk. To a certain set of the elite, Herve’s is meant to feel like home.
The elevator has no buttons—it goes down if you’re allowed, a kind of second barrier to keep out the occasional fraud. Either the elevator is slow, or the club is unfathomably deep—nobody knows. Even in public records, Herve’s is an utter mystery—no blueprints, no paperwork. Officially, it doesn’t exist. Do you know the sort of price it takes to make a place like this so invisible?
At the bottom, security steps up again—three bouncers, this time, men with the stature of gorillas in custom Valentino suits. These gentlemen are more congenial—if you’ve gotten this far, the last checkpoint is a formality.
You raise your Oscar de la Renta sunglasses—the ones that you found at a Florida bus stop. You tip up your chin to the trio. “What’s good?”
You are guided down a spiral staircase, ever deeper into the belly of the city, down beneath even the sewers, where the core of the earth is more deeply felt than the warmth of the sunny sky. Now the music is a flouncy thing, a throwback track, live from the main stage, now visible over the silver banister. You pause for a moment to take a pull off of your vaporizer, your prized Cloud EVO with the ruby inlay, and personalized embossing in gold ink—я не буду целовать тебя до утра; to my princess of the West.—Timur. Below, a youthful singer with a radiant glow is swinging his way across an opulent stage, bordered by a proscenium that would not look out of place in ancient Rome at its most decadent height. He is singing a brassy version of a classic tune, hypnotic to your ears, uplifting to your soul, as though it were all just for you.
“Life’s a bitch, and then you die / That’s a-why we get high / ‘Cause you just never know / When you’re going to go…”
She calls your name from the middle of the floor, your usual table, with an unusual crowd—save for her. It’s a typical weekday evening at Herve’s, not full, not raucous, but still with a sense of constrained menace, as though the club were really a ballroom on a supersized palatial ship, traversing dangerous seas. You recognize her by the glint of her emerald necklace, a twenty-stone antique rumored to be worth upwards of thirty million dollars—it’s Mana Hitomi, pride of Tokyo, dancer, billionaire, lover, poet.
Down on the club floor, you feel at home—through a trick of the lighting, the walls seem to stretch upwards endlessly into a starless sky. Every table is a legendary tale all to itself—some of these people are supposed to be dead. Where they go in the daytime, no one knows, or at least you don’t—there are avenues the rich may walk that most don’t know exist, even those who would like to think they’re of the flock. Many of these people have unfamiliar names—it’s been quite the challenge, they would tell you, to keep it that way. You pass by one table, recognizing a face, and simply can’t resist making a comment, starstruck and bashful. You lean in close to his ear, hoping that your intrusion will be forgiven. “I loved your last album,” you whisper, placing a delicate hand upon the artist’s shoulder. He touches his fingers to yours. “In case you haven’t heard,” you continue, “everybody else did too.”
“What did Pitchfork say?” he asks.
You wince a little, inflate the number. “You got a nine. Nine point zero. Best New Music.”
The artist winces, turns away. At least you had that fleeting exchange—even if you were to now be banished for a perceived indiscretion, that alone would have been worth it, to your beloved niece and nephew, Roya and Jim. “You’re the coolest aunt,” they tell you, in your dreams.
Mana greets you with two kisses on the cheeks, which you return, with compliments. “You smell fantastic.” She does.
Bashful, a little drunk, she lowers her head. “Aw, thanks.” She leans in close. “Sorry about last night.”
The sensuality of the moment is suddenly thick as the ocean is deep. “Don’t apologize to me,” you whisper. “Apologize to the state of Virginia.”
You both blush—Lord willing, you’re going to marry that girl someday. She introduces you around the table.
“This is Rocky Cabot, first astronaut to walk the moons of Saturn.”
You shake his hand. “I hadn’t realized we’d done that yet.”
He winks, and smiles with a set of perfect teeth. Truly, out of this world. To call him soap-star beautiful would be maybe getting at only half the truth of it. “I’ll have to take you sometime.”
Mana continues, clockwise. “Jennifer Mezzaluno—her family invented handwriting.”
You extend your arm across the table, but she only deeply nods. It’s not rude. “Is there a lot of money in that?” you ask. “Handwriting?”
The table laughs, as though the answer is obvious. You smile, proud of your accidental humor.
“And this is Malia Obama.”
“Oh, I know you,” you say, shaking her hand. “You’re extremely tall.”
Music fills the awkward silence.
Pack a four-matic that / Crack your whole cabbage!
“Anyway.” You take a seat at Mana’s side. “What it do, boo?”
“We’re drinking whiskey recovered from the wreck of the Titanic,” she says. “It’s on special.”
“Cool, cool,” you remark, as she provides you a liberal pour from a crystal decanter. “But, c’mon. You know what I’m really talking about.”
She leans in again, her lips brushing against the very outer skin of your ear, tickling irresistibly. If you don’t get to do some fucked-up shit with her in the club bathroom tonight, you’ll just feel borderline betrayed.
“The waiter will bring it by shortly,” she whispers. It makes your body shiver—you’re embarrassed to be so obviously smitten in open company.
This was all you needed to hear. The stars have aligned for a perfect night. Whatever you did to deserve this is a mystery to you more than anyone else.
The singer finishes to applause, bowing deeply, and withdrawing backstage as the lights go up in deep blue tones on a silhouetted harpist, singing “Hallelujah”.
And then you catch it on the air. The smell, the synergy, the sizzle.
A waiter drops it off like a silent specter, plated just so on flatware that costs more than a human life. The Herve’s Club Sandwich, described in song and story—and on the menu—as “the pinnacle of all creation.”
Nothing differentiates the Herve’s Club from the typical style, at least in regards to the ingredient selection—the simplicity is a part of its charm. Herve’s is a classy place—they know some things don’t need fixing.
Baby, I’ve been here, before / I’ve seen this room, and walked this floor / I used to live alone, before I / Knew you…
Toasted wheat, charred and blackened just to the moment before burning in the center, encasing the treasure within—chicken breast, juicy and tender, its texture contrasting with bacon just crisp enough to crunch, and break at a modest bite. Lettuce as green as Mana’s brilliant necklace, snapping between your teeth with a sound like twigs breaking underfoot in a tranquil forest. Tomatoes of the perfect thickness, uniform, sliced with atomic-level accuracy as though with a knife guided by laser beams.
“And this mayonnaise,” you say, an ecstatic, unmannered moan around a mouthful.
Mana puts a finger to your lips. “It’s vegenaise, love. With a little honey mustard in a squiggle on the top. For you.” She brushes a crumb from the edge of your mouth, where it is promptly swept up from the floor by a waiting attendant.
As fantastic as the sandwich is, you all but drop it on the plate in your haste to stand. This has become too much to bear. You take Mana by the hand. “If anyone wants this pickle,” you say as you retreat with her, “Tough shit, billionaires. Get your own.”
You sprint off to the restrooms with your paramour, and by the dictates of decorum, we politely exit here.
Youtube Rabbit Hole: Jeff Buckley—Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
Photo Credit: Delicious TV