Over coffee
A casual appraisal
a smile, lowered eyes
nervous chuckle.

A check
both hands reaching
brushing skin
soft silk gliding.

Out in the street
silly small talk
a suggestion, decision,
off into the night.

music pulsing
careful distance
inching, inching closer.

hearts and cunts
sliding arms over backs
around waists, eyes locked.

Still shy
sweat sheen coating
careful touch
colliding, hands in hair.

A friend of mine I haven't talked to since July called yesterday. We haven't talked in that long, for many reasons, most of which are unpleasant. But he called just the same. We chitchatted for a little bit, and then he said, I didn't call to chat, unfortunately. Although I am really well, I thought you should know a friend of ours has died. It came as quite a shock. This young man had just gotten into art school. I had heard that he was getting his life on track. That he was cleaning up. That he had decided what he wanted to do with his life, and he wasn't messing around anymore. He overdosed on herione. He wanted to do it just one last time.

And then this morning I got in the car and popped a tape into the player, and that Garth Brooks song came on. And, I had to pull over I was crying so hard. A year ago I made a definitive desicion to get my life in order and this, unfortunately meant not being around people who supported my bad habits. This young man, the one that died, I was going to call him after I graduated in two weeks just to catch up. I was so happy to hear that he'd gotten into art school and I wanted him to know that.

Recently, I've even been wondering where I'd be now if I'd decided to stop fooling around two years ago, what I'd be doing, where I would be going to graduate school, etc. Until this morning. For some reason, today it just made sense. I'm glad I didn't know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go. I am happy for every scar, every memory, every minute we spent out at the res smoking. I am so grateful for every shot of whisky we did. And, every time I hear that one Pixies song, I will always think of us, plastered and screaming lyrics at each other. If I've learned anything about the dance in the last twenty four hours, its this: The past is the past, its okay to remember it, but not okay to try to touch it.

What's just one last time, anyway?

Its a phone call never recieved. A conversation never had. Its everything. If I had known two years ago that today I would be sitting here crying, who's to say I would have done it the same? There are no guarantees in life, least of all guarantees on happiness. My only regret is taking a moment of the dance for granted.

My life is better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance.

A pile of rags blocked the window of a theater. Two hands pressed against the glass, and a tin cup lay on the ground, slowly filling with snow. One of the chandeliers lit a bruised young face with the dead eyes that imply an alcoholic father. A woman wrapped in furs said something in a tone of pity. Then the lights dimmed and the woman forgot: the show was beginning.

A dancer stood at the center of the stage. Rows of chairs radiated from her feet in concentric arcs and sped away into the dark. She could not see to the rear of the darkened auditorium, but she knew that she stood at the point where every line of chairs converged and every arc bound its focus.

The first movement of her hand silenced five hundred spectators. She allowed her arm to float slowly to the ceiling, and her eyes followed it. Then she pulled her elbow to her side as if to snap an invisible rope. The joy from the action carried her across the stage and climaxed in an effortless leap. Her face and the tempo of her step projected the same confidence, as if that emotion had shaped her mind and body to live in a world where obstacles did not and could not exist.

The girl standing at the window trembled. She did not know if the cause was the cold freezing her skin or the awe burning in her stomach. If she had ever been taught the subject, she would have thought that the dance gave her the impression of a mathematical proof – a thing whose every element was chosen and, at the same time, an inevitable consequence of the one before it. This was a message from a world where fathers did not become alcoholics, where families did not fall into poverty, where daughters did not walk the streets to beg, where certainty could be captured and cast in flesh and warmed by the heat of one thousand eyes.

The girl no longer felt that it mattered that she could not fill her cup with change that night. She no longer cared whether her father bought his next case of beer. The figure clad in black swept all of the girl's desires away and replaced them with the imperative: become this. Her mind drew the implications from it in an instant, and she saw her life in front of her as a narrow path of light.

When the performance ended, the audience filed out onto the sidewalk in a mass of dresses, jackets, and pearls. They did not know why they parted for a pile of rags with burning eyes that walked past them, in a straight line, into the distance.


"Faster," she said. "We've got to be back in Lisbon by 0600 hours. Unless you find the prospect of being indicted on sedition charges enticing." I pulled a besotted silk handkerchief from my back pocket and mopped my brow. "If I were dancing any faster, I'd get friction burns from the air resistance," I replied, glancing back at the crowd that had began to gather.

"You were always more of an architect than a performer," she sneered through clenched teeth. I grinned sharply. "Not if I were dancing about architecture!" The barest hint of smile crossed her lips. 

And so we danced our way across the cobblestones, the sound of our boots clattering like an army of skeletons with castanets. Soon, spectators were transformed into willing participants. Here, a young couple miming our frantic tarantella. There, a elderly woman remembering how to polka. 

Still faster we spun and lunged and stomped and twirled. My lungs burned and my veins pumped acid. She seemed to gain energy from the whole pulsing mob, each new person joining the fray adding velocity to her manic whirl.

The cacophonous clattering turned into a roar that gradually exploded into automatic rifle thunder. That night, the city burned. The hallowed halls of government crumbled to ash and every pork-fed politician roasted or ran.

In the middle of it all, as so meticulously planned, we simply vanished. Hours later, we watched it all on some twenty-four hour Portugese news network, the lyrical language belying the harsh reality of their words.

I turned to her with a smirk. "Dance, dance, revolution!"

She slapped me.

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