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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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On the Dance Floor

There’s a first time for everything, they say,

and we had one of ours the night we met

in that dark bar: old floorboards scraped by chairs

and feet, and spattered with old beer; heavy

tables, round and dark, and nearly empty,

that night, ’cause everyone was dancing.

     Except us. Mary’s bright red dress

flashed in and out of sight, and Edna’s swirled,

it’s colors blurred as she went twirling by,

spun and caught by an ecstatic stranger.

Only we sat on, and I wondered why.

Shy, yes. Even fully fortified, as he was

     that first night, he had deference,

     a light touch, a hint of shyness. At first,

I thought perhaps he didn’t dance, or else

the war might end, cats and cattle fly,

and rivers run upstream before he’d ask.

I wasn’t even sure he wanted to;

he sat and looked at me and drank his beer,

or watched the other dancers on the floor,

all those women he’d proposed to, first

en masse then one by one from the bar,

while I’d watched from the hall by the door.

I only came back in as they helped

him down— “Easy, fellow—” but

he shook them off and walked, under his own

power, right behind me to my table,

to lament his failed proposals.

And there he sat, after asking me

to marry him, not asking me to dance.

Only a quick-flicked glance, table to me

to dancers, plus his tapping foot, gave him away.

Proposing marriage was, apparently,

no big deal (the more, the merrier?),

but ask a girl to dance—now that presents

a challenge. I could have helped him out; a touch

on the arm and “Shall we?” with a glance

at couples turning usually did the trick.

Why didn’t I? Because, truth to tell,

I got a kick just watching him make up his mind,

and I wondered how he’d go about it.

His style in other things (proposals) being

so much his own, I wanted to see his style

in this. Then he stood. What if he leaves,

I thought, and watched my heart sink to the floor.

     I had just time to be amazed at my

startled disappointment, when he

held out his hand. “Dance?”

     Why didn’t I just take his hand?

I wanted to. But no. “Are you sure?”

“Why? Is there something I don’t know?”

“I’m kinda tall.” It sounded just as

idiotic then as it does now.

He managed not to laugh.

                              “You think I’d cut

and run, because you’re tall?”

                                   “Others have.”

He shook his head. “Cowards. Fools. Come on.”

He didn’t talk as drunk as he’d been acting.

He stood there, holding out his hand, and when

I stood, he just said, “Wow.”

Other men had said that, when I rose

to my full and unapologetic

five-foot eight, but for some the word

(if it is a word) covered—what?

The time it took to phrase an exit line,

I guess.

      “You don’t mind?” I was curious.

He laughed, moving close, and looked at me,

straight and level. This was the second time

he’d looked at me like that, (the first being

fifteen minutes earlier, when he’d

proposed), a gaze so clear all other gazes

     seemed to pass through gauze.

He had an inch or two on me, not more.

Compact, lean, the muscles laid close to the bone.

Nothing beefed up or exaggerated.

“I don’t need to loom over you. Besides,

     this way, we can really see each other.”

Now he didn’t seem shy at all.

     Nor did I.

I’d danced a lot, those past few years; been held,

more or less, by a lot of fellows.

There were the timid types, who barely touched

your shoulder, lest you scream or faint or break;

the suave, who whirled and dipped but rarely knew

your name; the aggressive ones, who yanked

you near and thrust a leg (and sometimes more)

between your legs; the fumblers, for whom the dance

was just a cover for whatever they could get away with.

Cory did none of that: he wasn’t showing off,

to me or anybody else; nor

was he apologizing; he just danced,

and he danced well. We didn’t even stand

that close, because we kept on looking

               into each other’s eyes.

 

               I know it sounds corny but

                    that’s what we did.

               It’s not corny, Grimmy.

                    It’s romantic.

               Thanks, Pussycat. That’s how it felt.

                    Scared me to death, it did.

               Scared you to death? Why?

               You try falling in love with someone

                    on your first dance. If you’re not

                    scared, you’re a bigger fool than you look.

“This way we can really see each other.”

It sounded like a line, but hadn’t felt like one.

Back in my room, I wondered: had I been had?

Had I fallen for a well-worn line,

     and would it break, with the slightest tug

of my desire? And what about my heart?

               would that break too?

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