There was a dance everyone did in the clubs in 1988 and my friend Maeve had it down. You would sort of awkwardly tumble forward then hop, beat the imaginary bongos for a bit, spin and repeat. She really had a style and when the DJ would play The Promise, she would shine. She always seemed to come right out of a perfect 360 degree spin at, “I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say” and when she beat her arms, she would take it a step further and go really low like she was taking a bow. It was mesmerizing.
I had other friends who were dazzling dancers too. When David had on his Creepers and three hits of Ecstasy, he could spin for what seemed like an entire song. Kelly’s dance moves were slower and more intentional, most likely because his belly contained as many capsules of X that his pockets did, but his gum-chewing jaw moved at the speed of light. Black-clad with black-light illumination flashing our faces, appearing and disappearing only heightened by the drunken disorientation and disconnection, everyone was electric.
I always knew when Kelly was ready for something more as he would take off his sunglasses and his eyes would find me in the neon light. Feelings were often hard for him to articulate at this point, but he could usually say my name directly in my ear and he smelled like sweat and Drakkar Noir. Later, when I would kiss him back in his tiny trailer, his mouth tasted like metal. His furniture looked so different then against wood paneling than in the airiness of the previous condo and his hands had taken to shaking so bad, I wondered how he could even brush that taste out of his mouth. I could always stumble out to the sound of him snoring before I’d even have to take off my pants and drive away.
Being held by a man and led across a dance floor, boots gliding across the waxy wood of a country bar feels like being wrapped up in a warm blanket, nestled into your Grandma’s couch. I could have gotten off of my welding shift, on my way to an Equal Pay Rally with my Fuck The Patriarchy shirt on and no one would be able to change my mind about this. It has to be some ancient, divine yin-yang expression of the masculine and feminine that your bones know even if your brain protests. Faces softly filtered through a warm glow of purples, reds and oranges like it’s perpetually sunset only boosted the romantic notion that it was reasonable to form a relationship with a boy like Dale, recently graduated from high school and born a decade too late to be appropriate for me, all in the span of a song.
If I ducked into the bathroom during some new ear-piercing country twang, when I reemerged it would never fail that the next song would be by one of the Georges or Conway or Johnny Lee and Dale would look at me through the dreamy haze and shrug his shoulders like, What have we got to lose? His hand in my lower back and my face nuzzled in that small spot between the neck and shoulder that houses the smell that describes the very essence of a person, you could have sold me any oceanfront property in Arizona. The harsh lights of a parking lot at 2am were the only thing that made any sense and could momentarily convince me that I would be going home to a sleeping husband as I five-Shiner-Bock-fumbled for my car keys.
The next days, I was always awoken by the almosts. There was excitement that teetered on the edge of almost. It was dangerous, there was mystery there and because booze was the only key to unlock that portal, there was always undiscovered regret. Regular mortals walking around happily sipping their lemon water or mocha latte don’t get to play there. It is reserved for the enchantingly drunk. You can lie in bed not able to get out for one sip of liquid that your body so desperately needs and lie to yourself for hours, until the sun goes down even about the almosts but you won’t know until you get back on that dance floor and do it all over again.