Short Story | ‘Going Dancing’ by Sara Summa, Illustration by Delilah Buckle
«What is she doing?» he thought out loud while lifting the end of his left sleeve to take a look at the golden wristwatch. He was standing under a lamppost on a deserted street at dusk. He always used to stand under lampposts. Not anymore though. But tonight he’d agreed to it one last time. For the beauty of the image, the beauty of the moment, la beauté du geste as the French would put it. It was a day for last times anyways; and this would be their goodbye. So, symbolically, he’d agreed to stand under the lamppost once more. But it was dusk already and she was late again. When would she understand? Did she at all understand?
Ela was home getting ready. She would always have to wonder which one she liked most: dancing or preparing to go dancing. The second one was quieter and yet probably bore the most excitement: the expectation was growing in her and Ela was trying to meet every step of it as the moment was coming closer. The level of intensity she would then reach, only equal to the increasing degree of self-satisfaction with her physical appearance, remained so far unmatched to her. Just the right touch of red on the cheeks, the briskness of her most delicate perfume, the appropriate fluffiness of the dress, ribbons and pearls to go with, were what she at turns had to find, to change, to combine and all things said, to fashion. What came after that, the dancing part, was like the rest of life: so rough and raw it would destroy just every attempt that had so far been produced at freezing time in an image. The image she’d moments before poured such energy into creating! It was life. It was: never ending twirls, and cheeks that would reach that indecent shade of red only lovers or runners normally care to share; hairdos would go loose, ribbons lost. And the heat! One’s body would melt into the sea of surrounding strangers, as boundaries went on being transgressed. Ela looked through the mirror and over at the clock hanging above the bedroom door. She let out a sudden «God!», instantly covering her mouth with her right hand; she was now in a rush. Why was it she could never get anywhere on time?
He was getting terribly impatient. He would soon pick up his things and leave. Who needs a last dance anyway! It’s all the ones before that matter. He’d always suspected her to be secretly drawn to some sort of romantic ideal, and had so far been graciously collaborative and forgiving. But what did he care now. She was abandoning him! That’s when it hit him. He suddenly realized he’d come here tonight to receive the final blow. That decisive event that was going to end the world as he knew it. He then had to admit to himself that there was nothing else he could do but stick around till it came. Wait till she announced the end. So he stood there. He stood under the lamppost at dusk and waited for the last time. Only before, he was to spit out the mentholated chewing gum he had been ruminating, and replace it with a small pipe he took out of the inner pocket of his dark plaid jacket, and lit. Finally… Relief ensued.
Ela was tying her laces. She had chosen to wear her light leather bootees. They had been her first and up to date only French love: she had surprised them in a shop window on a trip to Paris her parents had taken her with in her teens, and had begged her mother to satisfy this seldom caprice. The latter soon had yielded. The bootees were now slightly tight on Ela’s feet, but still fit. The years had given both woman and boot character. Once on the dance floor she would forget the pain. She would forget everything. Once on the dance floor, nothing needs be said, nothing explained. Just pure ecstasy, cathartic blast. The only thing Ela will mind is the heavy cloud of thick smoke always hovering above the crowd, and in and out of their lungs. There was a fundamental contradiction between dancing and smoking, she found. Dancing was the expression of youth of spontaneity of joy; of innocence? Maybe. Smoking founded the principle at the core of depravation: the aestheticization of morbidity. It was vile, dingy, complacently malignant; and sexy. But Ela thought that tonight she would at last be free. Free to danceloose, see stars all along, not come home till dawn or the next dusk – how could she yet know. The prospect of that promiscuous darkness was full of new promises, muffled whispers, warm sighs and inviting fragrances. Bodies would come close, sometimes meet, then part again. The waltz of bangs and caresses went on, on, on. She was out now, and running already. Her head had the lightness of those early drinks. -But Ela never drinks. She breathes in the fresh air and smiles with pleasure, for she feels the world is her dream.- Her cerise scarf was flying behind her as she crossed the street without looking, only hurrying.
At last he spotted her: at the crossing, a few sidewalks away. But the light was not green. So she stopped, and patiently stood on her heels – prune and high, unlike her blue jeans. Suddenly they saw: the woman in front of her had decided to cross; halfway through, she stepped on the light red shawl that had been floating in the air around her seconds before. Ela had been choked and shocked and was seeing only stars when that car did not stop. Her cheeks had had time to blush.
Illustration by: Delilah Buckle