This is about the last time I danced with someone. I think it was with my mother. I know for sure we were in the living room. A ballroom, a brilliant and towering main, mythical in size, lofty, and vastly disused, it’s a shame we never used this before. The record player had a crackly tone, it popped and hissed as I stepped slowly.
I remember I had to be guided. My feet would not keep up. Then something came over me, the song sounded new again and I could spin and twirl. The room full of people cheered me on as I kicked my leg to the rhythm, yet as soon as they came, they left. Along with the ornate setting, I must’ve forgotten to get home.
My dance partner is my old girlfriend. She is sweet and dear. I had not seen her in years. She has me playing chess and she is kind enough to still make me food. I wonder why she decided to come back. I remind her how things ended all that time ago, and I guess she finds it funny now.
She places a piece of toast on the side table and leaves. Her face is soft and smiling, blonde hair, and a blouse tucked into her jeans. I ask her to dance and she tells me I need to eat. She goes to clean up the dishes and my mother comes back out. She wipes my face with a cloth. Am I a child? Get that fact cloth away from me. I swat at her hand.
“Hey, you started choking.”
It’s time to go outside. My mother takes my arm and walks me to the front door. We wander out of the ballroom and into the garden. It felt warm and serene. These plants sure grow fast.
“Do you remember when you first made this garden, I said you were out of your mind? That must have been forty years ago now.”
The tomatoes are ripe and red. Just moments ago they were green, tiny bushels buried deep in the soil. Who’s bright idea was to plant a garden on a desert mountain. My girlfriend is impressed with the fragrant flowers that blossom near the zucchinis. She sits me down and a song begins to play. A nocturnal and drunken melody. She picks a few tulips and drops them in a vase beside me.
“It’s almost time for dinner.”
I ask her if she’s staying. She laughs and says of course. She tells me I am funny when I look at her. I was never funny to her before. We go back into the kitchen and the song leaves. There is a smell I remember, Christmas dinner of some kind. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, brussel sprouts. My mother puts a plate in front of me. I tell her we are having guests tonight and she says that is fine.
“Who is coming tonight?”
Does she not remember? After dinner, I think I will take my sweetheart out dancing. It has been so long since we had a night to ourselves. She leads me into the ballroom and I sit on a lavish chair. My legs feel stiff, and I say I need a minute.
“Oh don’t get up, sweetie, you just went for a walk.”
My friends have never complained about aches and pains. We would go into town with a case of beers and see where the night takes us. Maybe the college students across town would fire up their hot rods and we could watch them burn down the main drag. Jeremy had his old pickup and would swing by later to pick us up. I told my girlfriend that we’re going out tonight.
“Where are we going?” Said my girlfriend as she places a chessboard in front of us.
The game is close, but she is cheating. I catch her moving my pieces, changing sides, telling me what moves I can and can’t make. That’s why I like her, she never wants to lose. I say if I win, I get a kiss. If she wins, she gets a kiss. She smiles and says that’s not a very good bet, kissing an old man like me. Old man? Where does she get off?
Despite her cheating, she lost again. She stands up and places the needle on the record player. A grand old tune begins to play. It’s a song I haven’t heard in years, saporous to the ears. My girlfriend takes my hand and we begin to move to the music. Around us, people are in unison. Hands clasped, rotating and navigating by the other dancers. I was never very good, but she is a great dancer. Confidence like I have never seen.
“Don’t move too quickly, you’ll fall off the rhythm.”
I tried to say something, but I forgot. Seated in the chair, I asked my mother if she would like to dance. A son has to be kind to their mother, sacrifices and all. She tells me that we just danced. I think my mother is losing it.
So this is about the last time I danced with someone. What a night out, the hustle and bustle of the townies, bright lights illuminating the strip, colours from marquees reflecting off pools of water. I hadn’t done something like this since, well, a while I guess. My girlfriend must’ve left, and my mother isn’t the type to want to hear about my night.
“What are you thinking about, sweetie?”
I think I feel like dancing.
About the Author:
Ryan Robinson is a Monreal-based author/musician who grew up on the west coast of Canada. His work tackles the middle-class experience, mental health, and the unspoken emotions that permeate our everyday life. He strives to write truthful, hard-hitting pieces that resonate regardless of experience. He is currently writing a full-length novel and can be found at @notryanrobinson on Instagram and @Notryanrobins0n on Twitter.
This piece is a part of Issue Two: CHRONOS. Read more like it here.