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Preemptive Homesickness | 2010 | The Struggle to Write

01.18.10 4:44 p.m.

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.  

-Japanese proverb


On the Dance Floor

Suitable nineties

It isnít that I am not enjoying their company, but that I would rather be dancing. The sole reason I am out on this frozen night, wearing little more than a black t-shirt and jeans, is that I am giving solo dancing another chance. When last I visited Cabaloosa, I was rewarded with a cougar trying to pounce on be because I had dared to let her dance in my proximity for the duration of an unromantic eighties pop song. Nineties Night with Jacki and crew had to be safer.

I couldnít know just how safe until I made my excuses and leave Jacki, John, and crew at Bacchus to finish up their second plate of dancing fuel. I pay my three dollars at the door and get my wrist band. The dance floor is empty. The smoking area, vacant. The bar features maybe eight people, drinking listlessly and not making eye contact. The DJ plays some undanceable industrial song, her disappointed eyes huge behind thick rims. As I shift my weight from one foot to the other, trying to swallow my embarrassment at having ditched my friends for this, a former student walks past to the exit and shoots me darts, mentally begging me not to acknowledge him. "Donít worry," I say mostly to myself under the thrum of the music, "this isnít exactly a treat for me."
This should be nothing but sweaty bodies as far as the eye can see

I return to Bacchus so quickly that only Jacki realizes I have been elsewhere than the bathroom and touch the bottom hem of Jacki's black vinyl top, accidentally grazing her stomach with my fingertips. "Wow, you are really soft!" I say almost without meaning.

"I know, John and I had the argument last night."

"Did he argue against your softness?" I ask, which a joking edge in my voice.

"No, I did. It's a long story," she says, in a way that suggests that whispering to one another four feet from John may not be the ideal time to tell me. I want for Jacki to be happy and know that, since Kevin dumped her last year, she has had a hard time fully realizing how beautiful and worthy of love she is. John realizes just how dear she is, for which I appreciate him so much the better. But she still has healing to do on her own, which is an admirable decision that I wish would work more quickly. Thankfully, these are not my decisions to make.

I wait next to Jacki, fidgeting less, for another forty-five minutes, until two hours have elapsed since Nineties Night had begun. Cabaloosa is still largely empty. I would be surprised if the dance floor had seen a single footstep tonight.

This is nothing I can allow to continue. I urge Jacki and John toward the dance floor, at one point going so far as to mime using rope in hopes that they will take pity on my ridiculousness and relent. I wonder how John dances, if he dances, but he isn't inclined to sate my curiosity.

Within the course of the song, if because the dance floor is technically not uninhabited or because they have had hours to get drunk enough, others at the bar follow suit and dance. The DJ gets barely more aware that it is in her best interest to get people dancing, still playing music to which one could mosh at best, but Jacki and I dance as much as is feasible.
Jacki and John  
Yeah! Wait... what?

I am aware that I am no Fred Astaire, nor am I even likely good enough for someone to say that derisively. I don't care, I love how it feels to be on the dance floor, forgetting myself and moving (even when the music is, unbeknownst to me and despite the point of the night, Lady Gaga).

I donít expect that I will ever be especially skillful at dancing, but it is despite the point. Perhaps dancing is little more than an extension of some primal mating ritual. I know that my hormones idly kick into high gear when dancing, when watching women dance. Dancing is something my body wants to do, even if I am poor at it, even if I am perhaps laughable. If one can forget oneself, they can be beautiful on the dance floor.

Melanie has said that she will dance with me once she returns, since she has decided that she does not much care how ridiculous she looks. She tried to verbally guide me on doing the most intentionally ludicrous dance she could imagine to inure me from the judgment of those watching me with a nonverbal "Hey, I know how I look like a parody. I am okay with this. Back off."

Dancing with Jacki feels like an extension of the natural, even when our dance while touching is little more than the box step with enough space between us for the Virgin Mary and half the disciples. She apologizes for the sweat on her back provoked by dancing in vinyl, but I would have it no other way, the memory realer for the wetness on my fingers. She is mine, the friend who I think knows me the best (aside from Melanie, to whom I make an effort to confess even the secrets that embarrass me terribly), and I want to pull her closer for giving me the opportunity to dance.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, writing.

last watched: Arrested Development
reading: Infinite Jest
listening: Mark & James

Preemptive Homesickness | 2010 | The Struggle to Write

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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