She had a disco ball in her living room suspended at eye level and all the lights in her apartment were off except for the streetlamp outside which streamed through the window onto the segmented globe enough to cascade its fragments across our faces. I stood in front of it, occasionally turning it with the palm of my hand: mesmerized.
We’d walked from the bar to her house a few blocks away and then she remembered she’d locked her bike in an alley so we walked back. She got on the bike and I apprehensively climbed behind her (putting my feet on the pegs and my arms around her waist) and when we went downhill our combined weight shifted. I remembered my first roller coaster ride as a child: the drop, a relinquishing of control.
This was April, it’s now December, the winter solstice actually, the longest night of the year. She put Nina Simone singing “I put a spell on you” on the stereo and as the silver fell into her eyes like a rainstorm, a bird twittered against a backdrop of cars and grass being watered by automatic sprinklers.
She said, “dance with me” and I said, “I don’t know how to dance” and she said, “oh it’s easy, you just follow the rhythm and move your hips” and it was. The song was on repeat and the third time it played we danced slower and then we kissed twice, the first time slow and the second time not, and she said, “that was nice, just like I thought it would be.”
I ran my left hand on her cheek and I don’t remember quite which but she might have said “no” or, “that’s enough” – she stood there for a long time inscrutable just watching me like a cat in the dark (it was probably the latter) almost expectantly.
I decided against breaking. Whatever it was that I’ve never understood that seems to be necessary to break, when I think about it pictures of a slow blue tide receding and leaving white shells and black stones in the sand come to mind.
I gave her a quick, mischievous smile (the kind I’d practiced in front of mirrors) and said, “I guess I’ll go home, I got work in the morning” and left, walking out into the April night to that floating sensation, that immense weariness that for a breath seemed almost shared.
I still see her sometimes but we’re not especially close, not like that briefness but there’s an unspoken thin humming string of a secret identity between us. I can never break the moment, I can come close and push against that vast glass pane that seems to cover the night in a blanket (the solstice seems to have lasted for years now) but there is an act of mutual wreckage that I have confronted sometimes and never quite been able to crack.
I always did like Screamin Jay Hawkins’ version of that song better anyway. But as I walked home the trees seemed to radiate organic, deep neon lining the street in an archway exhaling oxygen down at me.
I am not a breaker but I come close sometimes, push my hand against the fabric of a long night until its material creaks.
I pull my hand away just as there’s almost breath on it, almost. That’s my game: the almost.
Somewhere there is someone capable of wielding a hammer against the soft locking motion of 2 AM disco, because these things require a willingness to let go and when we were on that bicycle I held onto her going down that hill like I didn’t ride down it on my own bicycle every day.
Somewhere there is someone, it’s not me though I come close. And that’s enough, because it has to be.