Remembering the dance

This is from my personal journal.  It’s from late 2000.  Amazing how time passes…  See/hear this for appropriate mood music.

We stand in a circle speaking in tones both hushed and abrupt, shouting over the pounding music to whisper friendly secrets to one another.  Who is that guy?  Are they together?  Who did she arrive with?  Is that shirt for real?

My friends and I enjoy the party.  Some of us single, perhaps we feel disassociated by the couples dancing about, yet many of them are dear friends with whom we enjoy ineffable camaraderie.  Others of us are happily engaged in one form of affair or another, whether it be married, dating, stalking, or the simplicity of a purely physical relationship founded upon flesh itself.

Despite my seeming aloneness, nothing can be further from the truth.  I love these people.  Being here now with them satisfies my very carnal need to be with someone.  I feel their love, their affection, and I bathe in it.  Nevertheless I feel a beckoning, a voice from within asking why I do not enjoy the company of a significant other in the midst of such diverse coupling.

As we are apt to do under most circumstances, vast amounts of lascivious ogling is joined with biting commentary.  We identify other singles in our midst, laugh about why they might be single, and give nary a thought to the loneliness which we all feel but keep hidden.  My arm aches from the memory of bodies now past which it once embraced.  My lips yearn to meet the lips of another.  Fear clenches my heart that I might once again sleep alone.

I do not long for a lover.  I do not long for a relationship.  I merely crave the feel of another’s body pressed against mine, even if only momentarily, so that I might relish the togetherness.  My soul calls out in hope that there is another soul listening for that very summons.

The song changes to yet another techno dance beat.  The writhing bodies contort and brush against one another.  The heat brings sweat to my brow as it stirs my longing.  As I scan the party and offer insights to my friends, my sight falls upon a young man sitting across the room.  Did I notice him when I arrived?  I believe I did, and I believe I allowed my eyes to linger on him for just a moment longer than would be deemed inconspicuous.

He is an attractive man, yet my impression is that he is just barely a man.  Knowing I am more than a decade removed from high school means that anyone younger than 30 is barely a man.  I suspect he is in his early twenties, cleanly groomed in that GQ way, a touch of stubble to indicate maturity and a stylish ensemble to denote taste.

Of college age and boyish looks, he meets my gaze time and again.  I am embarrassed my fascination with his allure is no longer secret, and a few of my friends comment to that effect.  I ignore their polite shoves as they speak to me words of encouragement (go talk to him, go say hello, ask him to dance, and the like).

I am not here looking for a date.  Despite the truth in that, I can’t refuse the draw of his image sitting in the chair alone, occasionally speaking to the odd passers by, laughing briefly with someone I assume to be a friend, and sipping a drink with such intention so as to allow his eyes to fall upon me over the glass rim.  I recognize in him something akin to what I myself am feeling.  Is that a touch of loneliness?

When the music slows, I leave my friends and cross the room, maneuvering between people while never taking my eyes off him.  I am drawn closer, unable to stop my own forward motion.  Couples join into single bodies as they sway to the slow and mesmerizing sounds coming from the speakers.  This song, whatever it might be, sparks within me the need to feel, to be with someone, to sway together like so many reeds blown by the wind.

His embarrassment becomes obvious as he realizes my destination.  He glances away, looks into his glass, lets his eyes dance in this direction then the other.  I know by all of this that he hopes for the same as I.

Standing before him, I reach out my hand and offer the physical invitation that remains unspoken.  He in turn reaches out and takes my hand, and then he comes to me without hesitation and follows me into the dancing mass.  We speak not a single word to each other, yet we join together not as strangers who shared brief smiles and glances across a crowded room.

We move closer, holding each other firmly and affectionately, our bodies becoming one as the melody filling the air overwhelms our senses.  His body against mine, I can feel his trembling.  His face brushes against mine as he embraces me and I him.  The soft touch of his hair against my face enraptures me to understanding: there is tremendous loneliness inside, hence the shaking firmness in his hold on me.

Despite his need and mine, despite this moment that we share, we never speak.  There really isn’t anything that needs to be said.  As we sway together and our embrace strengthens, I feel the connection made betwixt us and allow my mind to slumber in its warmth.  This that we share now needs not be more complicated than it is.

When the song ends, our lips meet briefly before he returns to his world and I to mine.  Surrounded by my friends again, I feel safe while a part of me aches for one more dance.  We glance again at each other as our respective friends envelope us.  Only moments later, I lose sight of him.  The party lasts for hours more, but my needs are satiated to the degree I will allow.  I need nothing more.  Our arms wrapped around each other, our faces passing lightly against each other, our lips meeting only in passing but with sufficient hunger and desire to speak volumes to our hearts, we both enjoyed meeting the needs of the other.  A slow dance of strangers defined by shared passion and solitude.

After these subsequent years, even to this day I will occasionally relive those moments.  I close my eyes and hear the music surround me.  I breathe deeply and enjoy the scent of him, of his hair against my face and his shirt upon which my head rests.  My arms feel his memory, they wrap around his body, and his warmth once again cloaks me.  I recognize his loneliness and the satisfaction of joining it with my own.  I miss what we shared, yet it was perfect in its brevity and anonymity.

How is it one can know love and its loss in a single dance?  How is it that the almost lover we knew once can be so important these decades removed?  Never will I comprehend those answers but always will I know their undeniable truth: I lived a lifetime then, and my life will always be measured by remembering the dance.

9 thoughts on “Remembering the dance”

  1. Well described Jason. I’m with TGIQ. You conjure the episode so clearly that it allows us to be present. And while it feels a little voyeuristic, as you’ve posted it here you must be OK with that. I enjoyed reading it.

    It’s a conundrum isn’t it? I too am posting things on the ‘Artlog’ I’d never expected to share. I guess there’s a line beyond which one wouldn’t cross, but I’m not as yet quite sure where that is.

  2. Thanks to each of you for your kind remarks. I’m not sure why this memory rested so sharply in my mind the other day, but sharing it here helped at least in some small way to dull the blade.

    And you’re quite right, Clive: there are times when I question whether something is too personal to share. That’s especially true when considering that I focus mostly on nature and photography. But this is an extension of my offline journal, and I think it’s wise to imbue it from time to time with something other than what’s expected–the 80/20 rule if you will. It’s a glimpse at the man behind the curtain.

  3. I agree. It’s good to get a glimpse behind the curtain, especially so because you clearly live your life holistically and everything that we all admire about you as a writer, photographer and ecologist is informed by what you are as a person. Keep the posts coming Jason. I found ‘Remembering the Dance’ to be a moving recollection.

  4. Part of me is saying ‘oh why didn’t you pursue it, speak again, see him again…’ while another part knows that the magic of it was perhaps in its fleetingness, the encounter was perfect because it was so self-contained, and he remains a perfect memory and mystery!

    Sensual, but delicate, it didn’t make me feel like a voyeur.

    1. Thank you, Lucy. And you hit the nail on the head: this is one of those events that I wish could have been different and that I wouldn’t want to change for the world.

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