She was dancing when I noticed her. I could only see one of her eyes because the LEDs casted shadows onto her silhouette at sharp, mysterious angles — but she was definitely looking at me. Our staring contest lasted longer than it needed to and I was sober enough to recognize the social cue.
I reached for her hand and pulled her through a curtain of shadow into a beam of light. Her eyes were brilliant and brown, emphasized by how they remained so present on a backdrop of chaos.
To my left, the DJ rummaged through crates of vinyl. His middle and pointer fingers sprinted from record to record like his hands were racing to the back of the crate. I was performing a similar process in my head, sifting through crates of witty phrases and charming words to say.
“Hi!” I said.
When in doubt, I just say “hi”. Only 7% of human communication is made up of the actual words being said. It’s never about what you say, it’s about how you say it — and goddamn it, I love the word “hi”.
She smiled. Her body moved in ways I wish I understood — I wondered how it might feel to be so free. I mean, I can’t even witness thoughtless expression without creating my own mental commentary about it.
I wanted to tell her my name but I knew the syllables would be swatted away by the sweeping bass line of 70’s Disco. So I shut the fuck up and danced. I grooved in the only way I knew how: pretty awkwardly. I owned it, though. Dancing, like language, isn’t about what you’re doing — it’s about the way you’re doing it.
Only one word was exchanged and only two songs had passed but I felt like I’d known her for a lifetime. Longer than that, even — like I was actively recalling tiny memories from a past life in which she existed. The curvature of her face seemed more familiar than it should have and her scent was one that I had known but long forgotten. Or maybe I was just drunk, I don’t know.
I needed to speak to her — I’m better with words than I am with movement. I grabbed her hand and guided her from the dance floor toward the back door of the bar. There was a drunken brawl near the exit, so we stood patiently as the pandemonium passed us by.
We floated over the vodka-drenched floor and past the glowing exit sign. As the door slammed behind us, I realized her hand was still in mine. The warmth of her palm was a pleasant surprise.
“Ahh, this is better,” I said.
The night sky blanketed the parking lot with silence and calm. That vigorous, funky bass line — now a muffled groan — was replaced by the sound of my breathing and the engines of passing cars. And those erratic, colorful LEDs were exchanged for a lonely street lamp that painted the gravel an orange-ish hue.
As we wandered down the street, I introduced myself and did my best impression of a guy who knows what he’s doing. It seemed to be working — she kept smiling and telling me about herself. We laughed like we were celebrating our three-month anniversary or something.
The color of the sidewalk leisurely changed from red to blue to yellow as we strolled past antique shops and bookstores with glowing neon signs. Every now and then, I’d glance over her shoulder to stare into the reflection of the storefront windows, curious to see if we looked as cute as I felt like we were.
“You seem familiar to me,” I said.
“You do, too,” she said.
I’m not sure if I believe in past lives. But I believe in this life and that’s absurd enough. How could I claim that a past life is a ridiculous notion while I’m wandering around a perfect planet with a beautiful girl I don’t even know.
“Let’s go sit down for a bit,” I said.
Up ahead, a charming park invited us over. We sat down on one of the benches and she tucked her heels onto the edge. As she hugged her knees, our shoulders pressed against each other and we didn’t pull away.
We talked about the things we loved and the things we didn’t — about our friends and family and how we ended up where we did. Throughout our conversation, I kept glancing up to the night sky, assuming I’d see the stars. They were never there. Sometimes I forget that I really left home.
A looming silhouette approached to the left of us. He lugged a shopping cart behind him and it click-clacked in rhythm with the creases in the pavement. A briefcase dangled from his right hand — I didn’t think much of it. We were downtown and it wasn’t rare to encounter a homeless vagabond.
The shadowy figure kept tugging his cart closer until he halted in front of us, just outside the radius of the street lamp’s glow. He hunched down, delicately laying his briefcase onto the pavement and unlocking the hinges.
As the top of the briefcase sprung open, I realized it wasn’t a briefcase at all. Rather, it was an instrument case — one that was scuffed and dented like the bottom of a skateboard deck. He reached into it and then stood up straight — a violin in one hand and a bow in the other.
With three steps forward, he crossed through the veil of shadow and into the spotlight of the street lamp. The glow showcased an older man in his sixties, sporting a long grey beard and a green bucket hat. His face remained solemn as he positioned the violin beneath his chin.
I turned to her, admiring the hue of her eyes and assessing how she felt about the situation. She seemed okay. We didn’t say anything but somehow came to the unanimous decision of “let’s see how this plays out.”
He rested the bow onto the strings and tugged it downward like it was a delicate piece of thread that he longed not to break. A beautiful melody filled the park and reflected off the leaves — I swear I could feel it hitting my skin. I wondered if I had ever truly heard a violin prior to that moment.
“Shall we?” she said, untucking her knees and standing up from the bench.
She held out her palm as an invitation for me to join her for a dance. I laughed at how a moment so unpredictable could feel so inevitable. If the universe wants you to dance, I guess there’s no getting out of it.
I stood up and intertwined my left hand with her open palm and slid my right hand into the space between her unzipped coat and her waist. As we swayed with each other, she rested her head onto my shoulder. I glanced up to the night sky, assuming I’d see the stars. They weren’t there, but I didn’t mind.
*Tyler Keenan is a freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. www.anywaysimrambling.com.