spirits

“Spirits time has come.”

“What the fuck is she talking about?” Trish loudly whispers in my ear as I awkwardly twirl her out then back in towards me, careful (careful!) to keep my nervous groin a safe distance from her perspiring jean-suffocated gunt. Tuesday nights I am grudgingly showing up to this airless basement studio stuffed underneath a Laundromat and Chinese deli in midtown Queens to help my oversized and oversexed cousin meet a man.

Being that I am the only man foolish or stupid enough to have set foot in the twirling stamping flailing learn-to-dance hell, her search, needless to say, had been a spectacular failure. Of course being the only male I am also the most coveted of partners so I have to politely take turns with:

Mustachioed Barbara with the grade school hairpins and tattooed eyebrows; sweaty palm Lily with the bumpy thighs sausaged in faded pink sweatpants to which is attached a cell phone with the ‘Days of Our Lives” theme as the ring tone; Ice cold Deborah, librarian with sharp angles and wooden jaw, pointy feet jack-knifed into pristine white Reeboks; and finally talcum smelling Sister Freda who keeps her form and all her secrets shrouded under her floor grazing habit and winks at me when I consistently tread on the unraveling hem. I have said many a Hail Mary that I haven’t, with a particularly good stomp, left her cowering naked and fuzzy, black tent in tatters at my feet.

My cousin Trudy, who ends up with more lipstick smeared on her teeth then her humorless lips by the end of class, takes great pleasure in using her heft to lead me around the scuffed yellow parquet for the allotted two hours. One particularly vigorous twirl damn near lifts me out of my 10 year old wingtips. Shoes I keep for all manners of Weddings, Funerals and drunken work functions and have for the last while been nesting in a dusty gym bag in the hall closet of my walk up.

Our Instructor is Mona who once had a promising dance career and a hair color found in nature back in the 1800’s and now glides behind us placing her bony hands on smalls of backs and elbows to guide into place. Her face is a powdered mask of droop, and dried mascara droppings settle into the etched lines around her cloudy pupils. She has a different color leotard and matching chiffon tear away skirt for each class and keeps her frosted red hair shellacked to her scalp and pulled tightly back into a bun creating a DIY face and ear lift. Fond of intoning directions that have meaning only to wood sprites and fairies, tonight’s winner was ‘Spirits time has come.” This was uttered dreamily while she sidestepped behind Deborah and Sister Freda, scrawny hand clutched to her bony chest, face angled upwards.

The only holy (holey) item visible to my eyes were the four walls surrounding us; freckled with pinholes from flyers past and some still present; encouraging Dental Office posters of rainbows and forest streams calligraphied with inspirational prose, or advertisements for new and inventive ways of further demasculating yourself in the form of Modern dance, Twirling and Whirling 101, and Ballroom for the Flat of Foot and Crunched of Instep.

The scratchy taped recording of ‘Blue Danube’ we had been drawing inspiration from was suddenly silenced. A gentle finger had delicately hit ‘Stop’ on the Boom box rummaged from 1984 that was positioned by the Door, and all our heads whirled and feet stopped.

There she stood. An angel. Shit, had the spirits ever come.

“Who’s this trash?” Trudy snarled. I wanted to shove her really hard; position my hand right in the face of the puffy kitty cat dolefully staring out from her puffy sweatshirt and line her up right flush into the wall. I would kill this woman for this woman; this vision.

Back in grade school, on a dare from my brothers and assorted male cousins sipping pilfered beer, I’d actually taken Trudy down. Before she outweighed me and before Family picnics were to fake being sick to avoid, I’d kneeled on her, knees on shoulders while she struggled in vain. Shoving great handfuls of wet sand into her gaping mouth, I’d breathed so heavily I saw stars. A dry smack to the back of my head from an Uncle had stopped the festivities but the welt had been well worth it.

I’d only agreed to take this stupid class to appease my Mom, “She has nobody Henry, nobody!” and yes, a small part of me was here for the same reason she was. What if the girl I’d been looking for, what if she wanted to learn how to dance to? You know, the girl with the mind of a Mensa and the body of Sophia Loren; who loved Twilight Zone reruns and vintage film posters, whose perfect day started with Froot Loops and the New York Times Crossword and ended spooning & forking under my over-priced duvet. Who thought frogs were misunderstood and children unnecessary. But no, I had this gaggle of social oddities to clutch me and a new name “twinkle toes” at work for my efforts. Having the stingy heart of my Father I couldn’t not attend, what with having forked over sixty dollars of my paycheck and sure, the TIVO could handle shit for the six Tuesdays.

But now, oh what’s this? Had my intuition known this vision would appear on week four smack in the middle of a feverish waltz?

The overhead fluorescent lights, that had previously only captured lost flies and sallowed yellow the complexions of my dance partners, lit her up like a spotlight. It created an amber halo on her glossy crown of hair that tumbled down onto snow white shoulders. Her lovely figure was perfectly yet modestly set adrift in a red red dress that floated gently down to just above her beautiful angular kneecaps. Her tiny ankles flowed delicately into black patent leather pumps that made her calf muscles jump with each step as she walked forward to greet Mona.

Extending a shy smile and fragile hand she introduced herself with a chocolaty purr as the Devil. I swallowed hard and looked sharply at Trudy who was engrossed in her hangnails and trying to not be jealous. "What did she say her name was?” I whispered. Looking up from her devastated hands Trudy cut through me with “I believe it was, ‘not a hope in hell buddy’.” I stifled a deep blush and another quick shove and instead stuffed my hands deep into my khakis front pockets.

With a flourish of a turn Mona faced us all and clasped her hands together. Two short claps like we were children and like we weren’t already engrossed in the new addition. “Everybody? Everybody, please meet Helen, our new addition. Please make her feel at home, and please Henry, would you take her through this next dance?”

Helen, ok Helen. Right. Uh, Henry, oh fuck, that’s me.

I clear my throat and shoulder Trudy to the side to walk shakily over to Helen. Mona presses ‘play’ on the Boom box, Trudy shoots me a look on her way out the door to smoke now that she’s partner-less and I am now hip to hip with Her. Her hands are weightless and cool, her eyes staring deeply into mine are emeralds deep-set in lush eyelashes and flecked with gold. I see my children in those eyes. She smiles slowly and reveals row after row of straight white teeth. I am FUCKED.

We slowly step together and she’s good, letting me lead, and it’s a blur of eyes meeting and quick smiles and stepping in perfect unison and the gentle clean fragrance that wafts off of her and assaults my brain and before I can exhale and let loose with some witty repartee, the song is done and she’s let go and I’m drowning in need. What is wrong with me?

I feel a pinch in my groin and make a beeline for the door to the Communal Bathroom down the hall. Once inside, I lean to look at myself in the mirror, both hands gripping the edges of the sink and willing my heart to stop beating so fast. ‘Pull yourself together you fuck.” I repeat eight times, and then rinse my face with cold water. Stepping into the stall to piss, I hear the door open, then close, then lock. I freeze.

The ladies all know I’m in here and the arrangement is to wait till I’m done then they come in, godamnit who’s not complying? I turn on one heel silently and peer out the slit of the stall door. Heart hammering, I see it’s her. Helen. She has her back to me, doing what I was just doing, staring intently into the mirror. She glances behind her and I freeze like that will make me invisible. She smiles, (at me??) then turns back. I’m frozen still.

Am I supposed to come out all 80’s Cocaine Lothario and fuck her silly up against the wall? I’ve never been in action vertically and my underwear is the shitty holey Hanes I wear when everything else is dirty. Oh shit shit shit. These thoughts thunder through my head but stop dead at what happens next.

That hair I envisioned being wrapped around my cock is swiped off her head in one quick move. All the saliva in my mouth hides. On her bare scalp there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny bumps, (horns?) green and puckered and sharp. The wig falls to the floor as she rubs her mutant head and moans. I see her reflection, her tongue, oh dear fuck, it’s forked, darts out of her mouth and does a slow rotation around her lips.

She does a slow shake and something hits the floor. A long fibrous hairy muscle uncurls itself and the tip unfurls into the stall. I look down unblinking at the tip of the tail and see in great detail the throbbing tiny pustules lining every inch. She reacts as if she’s dropped her compact and gathers it up like the train on a wedding dress. Quickly folds and stuffs it back under her dress and smoothes it down.

right hand is involuntarily shaking and my bladder is thumping with the ballad of “You gotta empty me buddy and if I come seeping out onto the floor and she sees you, you is for sure getting tucked up under that dress with whatever that thing was and whatever else horrors lurk within.” (Sounds of violins being loudly sawed)

There’s a knock at the door. Both our heads whip to it. “I gotta piss Princess; let’s hurry it up, ‘k?” Trudy. I love that girl. I look back through the opening and she’s back. Helen. The wig is in place and a careful hand is outlining her lips in red gloss. She fluffs one side of the wig, closes her purse with a snap then leaves.

I exhale. Trudy waddles in and I open the door shakily. ‘What the fuck?” She squints then smiles laviciously. I grab her hand hard and pull her back through the door. “Hey, I gotta..” I cut her off. “Suck it up, we’re leaving.”

She complains all the way back to her Mother’s place. At the curb I sit there mute till she finally gets out muttering and slams the door hard the way I hate. I sit idling for a while. The wind picks up and shudders the car door and I almost scream.

I never go back to class. The shoes are donated to Charity. And despite much begging and pleading from all manners of Female relatives, then my Wife and then Daughter, I never dance again.

marvin ~ red right hand ~ back to blog