“We’ve laughed here, we’ve cried here.” Saying goodbye to the basement of my youth.

Travis Tí, Secret Queen and BINX stand outside Machine nightclub Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Sabrina Schnur / BU News Service

By Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service

BOSTON – Everyone should remember their first nightclub. 

I first visited mine on an October night when my roommate and I, the home base for our friends’ nights out, had declared that frats were for freshmen and we sophomore’s wouldn’t be caught dead in a sweaty basement again. 

Someone had mentioned a gay club on Boylston Street that was open to 18-year-olds on Friday nights. It was a $15 cover, but we’d try anything once. 

We invited everyone to our place to get ready and said “bring money because we’re going somewhere new.”

One of our friends, Jay, brought a fellow sophomore who had been to this club before. Mikey walked into our room and declared immediately that we must get in line for this club by 9:30 p.m., or we wouldn’t get in. He laid down very specific ground rules and said he would guide us through the night.

My roommate and I were taken aback by this stranger who had walked into our dorm and started running the show, but he said he’d been and that was enough for us to trust him completely.

We got in line for Machine nightclub promptly at 9:30 p.m., and what we found there was home. We paid $15 every Friday until the end of sophomore year for an air-conditioned safe haven where sexuality was fluid, music was loud and the floor was never sticky. 

Machine was home to everyone we knew. As a Catholic schoolgirl growing up, I never thought I’d walk home at 2 a.m. as men in leather chaps sauntered past, having spent the night throwing dollar bills at drag queens. 

On Jan 12., Machine posted on Facebook, announcing their closing party.

We’ve laughed here, we’ve cried here, we’ve talked on Tinder and met up here, we’ve made out with a cute girl on the dance-floor here, we’ve seen our exes make out with a cute girl on the dance-floor here.” 

Machine made people feel safe. People you didn’t speak to in class became best friends if you ran into them at Machine. A number of our friends from that year discovered whole new sides of themselves at Machine.

I broke up with my boyfriend of two years after a night at Machine. I told my parents all the things I really felt about my childhood after a night at Machine. The club empowered me to wake up Saturday mornings and be the same person I felt like Friday night.

The club also brought out sides of my friends I didn’t know existed. I will always remember the joy I felt bringing a newcomer onto the dance floor with us. 

“Welcome to your new safe space,” my friends would say as we descended black stairs in anticipation of a dance floor that couldn’t be seen yet. 

In January, a 15-story apartment complex was approved for the space by the Boston Planning & Development Agency. But Machine has housed more people in its basement than any apartment complex ever could. 

I don’t speak to my sophomore year roommate anymore and, since we turned 21, Friday nights at Machine feel too young for my friends. I’m much too straight to join the other nights of the week, when the club serves as a safe space for LGBTQ Bostonians who need it much more than me. 

I’ll always remember Mikey running the show on our first night at the club. And I’ll always remember how my roommate and I became him, when we chaperoned others on their first night to our haven. 

Machine taught me so much about friendships, sexuality, inclusion and who I wanted to be in life. The fact that other students may not have that experience brings tears to my eyes.

I wish there was a way to say thank you to the LGBTQ club that welcomed a straight private school girl and taught her to stay out late, smile more and throw money at the queen on the stage. 

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