At the bottom of a blue-lit staircase I adjust my mask, pulling anonymity over my eyes, nose, mouth, face. Sanctum Club, in Beverly Hills, is a masquerade. It’s an exclusive club, a den where all is welcome with the exception of prudence.
I enter with high expectations because Sanctum is not simple to get into. It is not a matter of arriving early enough, standing in a line, or bribing a bouncer. In fact, without an invitation, I would not know where to find it, the location kept secret and disclosed only to those who are chosen.
I was picked, receiving a message on Facebook. “Jannifer, you have made the cut. Your profile was gone over by our team and you have been approved to purchase one guest presale ticket for yourself. Welcome to the inner sanctum.”
Me? Really? Has a mistake been made? I decide to go with it. I’ll pretend that I belong, and I begin to imagine what I might experience.
I envision sharp lines, uninhibited performances, pristine bodies. The art director is from Cirque du Soleil, and so the showmanship I know will be exact, creative, moving. I picture the guests as sophisticated and open, men in black tie and women in sleek dresses, and lingerie on those comfortable enough to boast their own skin.
When I enter, when I see the purity or insanity implied by a room dressed in white, I’m not disappointed. There’s a grand piano, a man who resembles the Phantom of the Opera playing it. There’s performance art via the body. Men and women, writhing, bending, being tied up and whipped. There’s a ceremony master of sorts, a tall ringmaster’s hat distinguishing him, and he welcomes us, a part of the show.
There is a VIP room, only those who wear the purple pin may enter, and mine is red, but I hear inside is a singular performance, a man and woman–Greek God and Goddess stepped out of a painting or sculpture. Zeus and Aphrodite come to life.
And while the visual spectacle is overwhelming, my eyes darting from one feast to another, I am mostly fascinated by the other guests, all in masks that make them impossible to know. Who are these people?
There is an expectation of me and the other guests. Sanctum requires that I veil the false representation of my visible identity in order to reach that hidden self the world insists cannot exist, because don’t we masquerade in every day life, living for others, with rules, so as to not offend, or just to fit in. We play roles for those we love and for those we don’t, and where is that self that is not a persona? Who is that self I’ll recognize as true?
I find myself wondering, is tonight a metaphor for life? If it is, it’s that tired old metaphor I used a moment ago. We all wear masks, blah, blah, blah. But here, looking on from my vantage point on the white couch, seeing red lights highlight obscured faces, I have to ask, “Am I escaping, am I hiding, am I pretending, or am I attempting something else? Something less cliché?”
Who am I trying to be? Or do I have to try at all since I have a literal mask and I’m not figuratively concealing me? Am I free? After a moments thought, I know I’m not, and I can see it in myself. I can feel the tension from my figurative mask has not been relieved by this literal one, as beautiful as it is, as disguised as I am by it.
I am anonymous here, but it is not anonymity that I’m seeking. I’m not looking to escape a persona crafted for me by others, so that I can breath, and feel, and be somehow truer to myself for a night in the darkness of a basement.
Why am I here? To write. I’m here to experience Sanctum Club so I can pen a blog, so I can create a name for myself as an L.A. blogger, so I can expand my writing career. I’m here so a literary agent will notice me, will take me seriously, will at least look at my name twice, but this blog that has garnered me more attention than anything I’ve previously undertaken, has also come with a price.
I’m exhausted. From the frantic pace of going, going, going for 365 days straight? Yes. But there’s something else, something that is tugging more urgently at my soul. I’m tired of holding up the mask. I’m worn out, trying to keep up the persona who writes my blog, and I’m here at Sanctum Club.
I’m trying on faces at this masquerade. My fairness hidden beneath finely crafted metal lines, painted black, handmade in Italy. The persona I am in this blog is not real. I’m a woman much deeper than a girl who goes out in Los Angeles every night, trying every club, and drinking, drinking, drinking.
So maybe this club, Sanctum, has done exactly what was intended. It has revealed to me a part of myself that I would have been unwilling to expose in the light, a part of myself too vulnerable to listen to in daily life, a part of myself that I mask as way to survive.