[Issue 10 / August 2014]
He moved through glancing bodies, between vibrating speakers, within lambent rays of color, deaf and blind and dumb, all neurons, gliding.
The woman he danced with was half his age and smiling. Spangles, like rows of gilded teeth, gleamed gold light from her blouse and pants.
After twenty minutes the pulse slowed. “Drink?” he said; she shrugged and cupped her hands to her ears. “You want a drink?” he said again, louder, though he wasn’t certain he heard himself above the surrounding walls of sound; he waved toward the bar. She nodded and led him from the dance floor through the horseshoe’s open end, up iridescent purple steps to the long marbled rail, and sat on a high black-and-chrome stool. He stood, lit a cigarette. “What are you drinking?” he said.
He ordered two gin and tonics, lit her cigarette, smiled, smoked. In the muddled blue light he was barely able to make out the blue of her eyes. “You’re really great,” she told him. “Out there, I mean.”
He nodded. “So are you.”
“I’ve never seen you here,” she said. “Most of the guys who come here are, well, under thirty.”
“I’m twenty. Don’t tell the bartender, okay? I’ve got ID.”
Her foot moved with the music. He leaned against the bar and watched, in the smoky light, the people crowded around them, the dancers crowded on the coruscated floor, watched her, and himself.
“You don’t look forty-five,” she said.
“Don’t tell the bartender, okay? I’ve got ID.”
“You’ve got ID? How’d you get it?”
She smiled. “Friends. In California. That’s where it says I’m from.” She drank, clinking the ice cubes.
“Is that where you’re from?”
“Unh-uh. London. We came here when I was ten. I’ve been there a couple times though.”
“You ever been there?”
He nodded again.
“Vacation? Or what?”
“Or what? You want another drink?”
“Not yet. Thanks.”
He finished his in a single swallow and waved at the bartender.
“I like California,” she said. “Warm all the time.”
“Yes,” he said.
“You know people there too?”
He took a deep breath and, very slowly, exhaled it. “I used to,” he said. “I knew people. Is that where you’re from?”
“You asked me that.”
“Oh,” he said. “I did. I – sorry.”
“You ready to dance again?”
“Yeah. In a minute. When we finish these. I hate it when the ice melts and they get watery.”
He lit another cigarette and sat, watching the dancers’ reflections in the mirrored ceiling. The lights strobed across their bodies, swathing them in alternating pastel flares of fire.
“I’ve never been in one of these before,” he said.
“You’re kidding. Never?”
“We – I just didn’t.”
“What d’you think?
“I’m not used to it. The music.”
“It’s not really music.” She stopped her foot, tucked it beneath her stool. “It’s just sound; you know? I mean, they call it music but it’s not. I mean, it is… but it isn’t, it just sort of keeps things – going. Know what I mean?”
He nodded. “All very present tense. No past. No future. No thinking.”
She laughed. “You like it?”
He considered. “I like the proximity, the immediacy. The… detachment.”
“What does that mean?”
He started to answer, clipped the wings of a smile; then he said “Come on, let’s dance.”
She laughed again. “Okay. But what does that mean, what you said.”
“Oh… nothing.” He shrugged.
“All ri-ight,” she said, smiling, and raised herself and her eyebrows. She took his hand, as if to lead him back to the dance floor, but just stood. “You’re nice,” she said, so softly he almost didn’t hear. “A little weird, maybe. But I like you. I’m glad you asked me to dance.”
He cleared his throat. “Let’s dance, then.”
She kissed him then, briefly, completely, on the mouth. When she pulled away, his eyes were still closed.
They danced. He lost track of everything but the rhythm, the sound, the motion and was surprised when he felt his heart pounding. He looked for her then and found her in front of him, flecks of light masking and revealing her face, eyes closed. While he watched, she opened them, smiled, then moved closer.
“Getting tired?” she shouted over the music.
“Want to sit down again? Or get some air?” She glanced toward the door.
He followed her gaze. “Air,” he pointed.
“I’ll get my sweater,” she mouthed. “Wait for me?”
The night was cool. He took off his jacket and sat on the parking lot guardrail, letting the light breeze dry the sweat. She stood beside him, listening to his breath come, first in soft rasps, then gradually in a regular rhythm.
“You okay?” she said.
“Yes. A little out of shape, I guess.”
She sat beside him and dabbed a handkerchief at his temple. “You’re really forty-five?” she asked.
She shook her head. “I’ve never – been with a guy that old.”
He refused to laugh. “I’m an adventure?”
She smiled. “No,” she said easily. “I just like you.” She leaned in, kissed the corner of his eye. “You close your eyes when I kiss you.”
“That’s nice.” She lit a cigarette and offered it to him.
“No,” he said. “Thanks.”
They sat quietly, watching the traffic, listening to the sound reverberating inside. Finally she said, “You live near here?”
“Not too far. A couple miles.”
He paused. “Yes,” he said. “Alone.”
“Me too,” she said. “Me too.”
In the morning she kissed him lightly when she woke and watched him recognize her face. She held to him, just a long moment; then she showered, managed the very bitter coffee he made, and smiled through small talk back-grounded by Albinoni. As she gathered her things, she noticed something she hadn’t seen in the darkness the night before: There were pale, rectangular spaces on the walls of every room and no photographs, anywhere.
Evan Guilford-Blake writes fiction, plays, poetry and creative non-fiction for adults and children. His prose and poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals including, recently, Wisdom Crieth Without (here) and freeze frame fiction (here) at as well as several anthologies, won 18 contests and received two Pushcart Prize nominations. His novel Noir(ish) is published by Penguin. Holland House will issue American Blues, a collection of his short stories, in October. Both are available on Amazon. His plays have been produced internationally. Collectively, they have won 42 playwriting competitions; 30 are published by Playscripts, Pioneer Drama Service, Eldridge, Off the Wall Plays and others. He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a healthcare writer and jewelry designer, live in the southeastern US.