Pirates of the Sag Harbor Wharf

Come July, the yachts line up off Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. David E. Rattray

Part of the appeal of going out in your early 20s is that you never know where you’ll end up. You start at a bar, maybe, arrange yourself in line of the wind, and put your sails up. 

There is a skill to it, partying. If you catch the wind right, you might end up with some pre-rehab child stars at Moby’s SoHo loft, where you’ve just been framed for clogging his toilet — Natasha Lyonne set me up — at a barbecue in Brighton Beach with a slew of Russian mobsters and a former roller-skating champion; stealing the mike from the lead singer of the B-52s at the Elbow Room’s karaoke night as Tatiana von Furstenberg and Sam Ronson look on, bored; at the Plaza on New Year’s Eve counting down the strokes to midnight with a room full of well-dressed strangers; at a Turkish hookah spot with Stevie Van Zandt, who buys you a take-home plate of baklava after he hears your mother is Greek; in the bathroom at the Copacabana, snorting coke post-show with a Latin singer who jerks off into the sink after you wipe your nose and say, “I’m not that kind of girl.” Ah, youth! I almost never end up anywhere these days.

I am only ever where I’ve planned to be. I go to parties to which I’m invited, dinners I’ve arranged long in advance — trying to match schedules with friends, a job in itself — or else cancel plans and stay home with a book, the most exclusive party of all. 

At the clambake I sat next to a friendly couple with five kids. “We’re not Catholics,” the wife explained. “He had three and I had two from a previous marriage. We met at a divorce support group.” 

I wondered aloud if I should attend divorce support groups, though I’ve never been married. Maybe a good way to start? 

“My mom met my dad at a widowers’ support group and she wasn’t widowed,” she offered encouragingly. 

The long picnic tables overlooking the bay were elegantly set with white linen and fine plates. We complained of the bugs — “No-see-ums.” “Is that Latin?” — as we bonded over the application of bug spray. John’s friend Lou was in real estate, he told me, “and jiu-jitsu.” He showed me a photo of himself in a gi flanked by one of his sons. A few drinks later he put me in a wristlock and told me he liked me. 

“You want kids?” 

“Very much, but there’s no man. I’ll probably go it alone in the fall.”

“I’d love to have more kids,” he volunteered, tipsy, and began hammering out the logistics of sperm donation. Is this how a single 40-year-old woman gets lucky? 

We ate lobster as fireworks exploded over the bay. The restorative properties of CBD were discussed at length. “It’s great for arthritis and anxiety. Like weed, but without the high.” It was the kind of party Odysseus might host after he’s been back in Ithaca a while. “I can’t [eat lotos] anymore, it makes me paranoid.” His adventures behind him, a 50-something Odysseus hires a caterer.

“We’re going to smoke a cigarette,” the friendly wife announced. “The real kind that burns!” she said before heading to the driveway.

I wanted to follow — if every cigarette takes five minutes off your life, smoking is a gesture of terrible luxury. “I can afford to lose time, I have plenty of it,” youth says, and when you’re middle-aged, the illicit cigarette thrills all the more. You’ve been building for a long time — a career, a home, a family — what a fine fire it would all make. A vape won’t suffice, for it destroys nothing; the price is what you’re after. You want to pay with your life, to feel again that you’ve plenty of it. Here’s five minutes. “I’ll have one, too.”

“You coming to the next party?” the jiu-jitsu master asked. 

I looked at my watch and yawned reasonably — 10 p.m. “Nothing good ever happens after 10 p.m.,” I said, but then, a wind coming off the bay, the open sea calling Odysseus back. . . .

We pulled up near the Sag Harbor wharf and approached a great yacht docked at the end. Through a window, hanging from a doorknob, was a tall black pair of Louboutins, like a pirate flag. A breeze stirred my dress. I took off my shoes and stepped aboard. 

Young women in mini-dresses decorated the older, pot-bellied men in Hawaiian shirts sprawled on the rear banquette. A cabin boy asked if I’d have a drink. No, thank you. I peeked into the cabin, weaved through the standing guests as dance music played, and walked all the way to the back before reaching a bedroom and turning around. 

“What’ya up to?” said a gray-haired man exiting the bathroom. He wore a necklace that flashed. I shrugged. He leaned in and looked me up and down. “You’re a fuckin’ hoot. Y’ave a boyfriend?” 

I followed a circular stairway into the control room, where a 50-something anesthesiologist I’d met earlier at Polo Hamptons sat with four young women he’d picked up at Bilboquet’s bar. I looked over the various controls and the surveillance video of what was happening lower aft, and spotted my friends amid the crowd. 

They came up from another stair to meet me on the rear, where a Jacuzzi was bubbling like a cauldron, only instead of three old witches surrounding it, there were three young women within it. A Macbeth-aged man circled, as we three stood off to the side.

“Whose boat is this again?”

“Len’s.”

“What does Len do?”

“He’s in business. You know. He’s a businessman.”

“John!” said Macbeth, stepping away from the boiling girls. 

He and John were in the same poker club, Macbeth told me, before introducing himself.

“They call me Big Dick.”

“Nobody calls you Big Dick. You can’t give yourself a nickname.”

“I’m not. They call me Big Dick because I place such heavy bets.”

“You wanna hit this?”

A vaporizer was produced. 

They passed it back and forth, unable to find the button.

“I can’t find the spot.”

“Give it to me, I always find the spot,” said MacDick, looking at me as if I’d asked the definition of leer. “But it’s easier if I use my tongue.”

MacDick took a hit, then drifted back toward the girls for a second prophecy.

“Should I get in?” said Lou, nodding toward the soup.

John and I explored the rest of the boat. We followed a path wrapping the ship’s edge, passing a small parapet set up with chairs, which seemed a great place to do away with Natalie Wood.

At the bow: 

“I’ve known him forever, like two years. But it’s weird. You know Len, but you don’t know Len. You know what I mean?” 

“Totally. You know him but you never really know him, you know?” 

We stood and looked east, toward the searchlights and purple strobe coming from a party on the shore. 

“Should we check it out?”

“Double, double toil and trouble.”

The girls were still boiling, and I worried they were getting prune fingers. 

John: “How long have they been in there?” 

MacDick circled unsteadily, holding his vape pen before the face of one, then, waxing Shakespearean, said, “Suck it. Suck it all the way.”

Then Lou put John in a chokehold, pointed to me and said, “Sperm,” and stripped to his underwear. “I’m getting in!” 

The hot tub overflowed with the addition of a fourth body. 

“We’re all one big happy family,” said a deckhand, bringing towels for the girls. “You can look, but you can’t touch,” said he, before the clock struck 12 and the girls, like Cinderallas employed by a top escort firm, rose and left.

The wind died. 

John said we should have dinner this week, maybe at his house because it’s his week with his daughter. 

I said I was overwhelmed with work but would check my schedule. 

Lou bubbled alone.