RICE

ASIA, UNFILTERED

×
Photography by Marisse Caine

It’s Ladies Night at Zouk and the place is bursting with people. They’ve come here tonight for all sorts of reasons: to get out, to get laid, to get wasted.

As hundreds of sweaty bodies cram together in the middle of the dance floor, gyrating in time with the music, LED lights spin overhead, painting the club shades of blue, red and yellow.

To most people, the dance floor is where all the action is. Not the bar, not the VIP area, and most definitely not the toilet.

But trips to the toilet are a quintessential part of any clubbing experience.

Maybe you’re there to reapply your lipstick or to relieve your bladder. Or maybe you’ve come to give your tired eardrums a reprieve from the thumping music, or to get away from the handsy boy on the dance floor.

Perhaps you just want to gossip about that couple who’s been making out in the corner for the past 10 minutes. Or you need advice on whether you should approach the cute guy you’ve been eyeing for awhile.

Whatever the case, the toilet is every girl’s go-to spot for when things get a little bit too much in the club (which it always does).

11.52 PM

Laura stares at herself in the mirror and frowns.  

After several moments of close inspection, she lets out a dissatisfied sigh and combs her fingers through her hair. Great. The night has only just started and her eyeliner is already smudged.

For the past two minutes, she’s been camping out in the ladies bathroom at Zouk trying to fix it.

Unfortunately, the black stains on her undereye refuse to budge. She lets out yet another sigh and spins round to face her friend.

“No more drinking tonight okay? I already look like shit.”

Laura’s friend looks up from her phone and cocks an eyebrow. “If you say so. Faster let’s go back!”

Hand in hand, the two of them descend the stairs from the bathroom, half-walking, half-running, and jump right back into the middle of the dance floor.

12.05 AM

For men, bathroom visits are just like fast food: in and out, quick and easy with no frills attached.

For girls, it’s like fine dining. First there’s the preening, followed by the selfies. Throw in some laughter, some giggles, some more selfies, and then more selfies again.

I watch as a group of three girls huddle together for a photo. They look good, but the club’s lighting just isn’t doing them justice—something which they’re quick to realise as well.

“The lighting sucks. Oh my god,” says one.

“You try tilt higher? Or maybe we move left a bit more?” another suggests.

After too many tries, they finally get their photo. “Oh this one not bad,” says the one dressed in a black body con dress.

“No, I look so fat,” interrupts a girl in a denim dress. “Take again can?”

Suddenly a fourth girl appears by their side. “Eh! Never tell me you all taking picture, I want also I want also,” she yells above the music.

They position themselves before the camera again.

The lighting still sucks.

12.18 AM

As I’m contemplating going down to the dance floor, I spot a guy in a dark blue jacket and grey jeans climbing up the stairs.

Crap. It’s the same guy I had brushed off earlier after he had tried to hit on me outside the club. I don’t feel up to running into him again, and so I duck back into the toilet to hide out for a while. It’s empty, and for a moment it feels good to be alone.  That is, until two girls burst in, speaking in frantic Mandarin.

“Shit!” says a petite, red-haired girl. “My ex is outside! Oh no, why is he here tonight? How can I go out? What if I see him?”

“Huh? Who’s that?” Her friend evidently has had a little too much to drink.

“My ex!” repeats the red head. “Jialat, now how? I don’t want to go home so soon.”

In what I suppose she thought was a wise and calming move, her friend pats her on the head and tells her not to worry. She’ll exit the toilet first to check it out.

I am left alone with the red head. We catch each other’s eye and I smile. She shifts her gaze to the floor.  

10 seconds pass, then she sighs and turns to face the mirror. A minute later, she pulls out her phone and starts checking her messages. Yet another minute passes, and this time she glances from the door to me and then back to the mirror.

The door stays shut.

She lets out another sigh and opens the door to leave—but not without first ensuring the coast is clear.

12.22 AM

Not a minute passes after red head leaves when the toilet door swings open again. This time, two lanky blondes enter.

For some reason, girls never come to the toilet alone. Rather, it’s always a team visit—in pairs, in threes, in fours, and even in fives. Logistically, it makes sense; it’s much easier to fight your way through the crowd to the bathroom and back when there are two (or 10) of you.

But I suspect these ladies are here together for a different reason entirely.

When they see that the toilet is empty, save for me, they break out into smiles right before ducking into a cubicle together and locking it behind them.

O-kay. I wish they were more quiet.

Even over the sound of the bathroom speakers blasting Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, I hear them laughing, moaning and shrieking. They emerge five minutes later, this time to a much fuller toilet.

No one bats an eye.

12.45 AM

In Zouk, it’s easy to spot who fits in and who doesn’t, who’s a seasoned clubber, and who has no idea how the hell they ended up here.

These six young girls, in particular, definitely do not belong. Bespectacled, they look barely a day over 19 and are dressed in bedazzled shirts. It’s their first time here at Zouk to celebrate a friend’s birthday and they’ve come to the toilet to regroup.

“Should we leave?” one of them asks.

The rest nod in agreement, “I think Amanda wants to go to Chupitos, you all want to go?”

“Okay,” a voice pipes up from the back. “But I have to be home by 1 AM guys, curfew.”

She’s never going to make it.

1.19 AM

Yet another group of young girls enters the toilet. Unlike the previous group, they’re clearly buzzed.

All except the girl in black.

Her eyes are wide and her face is red. She crosses her arms in front of her and looks down at the floor. For a minute there I think she might cry.

Her friend whips out her phone. “Eh, picture leh.”

The four of them lean in close, arms around each other and cheeks pressed together for the photo. I see her expression change and her arms uncross as she smiles up at the camera. For a moment, I wonder if I just imagined the whole thing happening.

But then the pictures stop, the girls separate, and her smile fades.

1.30 AM

“Shuli! Shuli! You okay or not?”

I walk into the girls’ toilet to see a girl in a leather miniskirt and white knitted top pounding on one of the doors.

I hear a toilet flush and Shuli—a pale faced girl in a striped dress emerges from her stall shakily.

“You okay or not?” 

Shuli doesn’t say anything, she just nods.

“Did you puke?” 

Shuli shakes her head.

“Okay then! Let’s go again!”

RICE Close
© RICE 2016