Tuesday, November 17, 2009


“Come on, please. This is a good one.”

Couples fox-trot in a kaleidoscope of bright colours, of bare shoulders, of black or white dinner jackets, and sparkling jewellery.

“I don’t dance.”

His words fall like pieces of wet felt, a tiny, insignificant smack on the terracotta floor.


The music swirls in the supple waves of her hair, tickles her shoulders, goes down to her ankles, lionesses in the tall grasses, quivering with the anticipation of the rush. In her mind, she is away already. Only her soul struggles with the chill threatening to close again the fragile breach that the music opened in her prison’s walls.

“What’s the point?” he says.

How exasperating the act of pounding against opaque walls of inertia, of indolence, of plain ill will. A hopeless sea, crashing against an immutable shore, never destined to erode it.

“What’s the point of breathing?”

“Life, that’s the point of breathing.” Annoyed.

Oxygen taken to the cells by the blood. Carbon dioxide coming out. An exchange. Nothing poetic about it.

“Music is oxygen for your soul. Dance carries it.”

“Cut it out.” His voice is like a brick. “Not for me. I don’t have any use for such nonsense. Besides, we’ve discussed this before. I do not dance.”

Anger bubbles inside her.

“I can’t believe it. We didn’t even dance at our wedding.”

She notices him then, the way a mariner glimpses a lighthouse in the darkest of storms. Her heart stops, then flutters. A handsome young stranger, watching her. Surely willing to dance. She can see it in his serious eyes, in his rueful hint of a smile. How easy it could be. How impossible. Take his hand, lean into it, feel its warmth, its tender guidance. She dares another glance. He is right there, watching her quietly, the tiniest frown darkening his brow, the tiniest smile narrowing his eyes. What would she do if he came to her? Asked her to dance? Took her in his arms? She looks down at the sparkling silver, at the immaculate tablecloth.

“You’re crazy. Would you stop mentioning that stupid thing?”

The knot of regret and frustration is swelling up in her throat, menacing to reach the lakes of her eyes, to overflow them.

“But it’s true,” she says. “It ruined everything. I should’ve realised then…”

The stranger is still watching her, his gaze almost soothing. She desperately longs to be cradled in his arms.

“You’re overreacting, as always.”

“Why the hell are we even here?” Too pale a comfort found in a coarse word, when she would really like to scream.

You wanted to come. Finish your food now. We should go. This noise gives me a headache.”

No, she cannot leave now. She needs to prolong the illusion if only for another moment. She can’t possibly discard there, like a dirty napkin, this dream of absolute happiness. She needs to float for a while longer in the cocoon of that stranger’s regard, to feel… She wants to…

“Hurry up! We paid the nanny till eleven.”

She stands up mechanically, her legs suddenly leaden, the swirl inside her nauseating. She knows it’ll swallow her soul. Again.

As they walk out, she doesn’t look at him, the handsome stranger, for she knows that if she does, and if he's still watching her, she might, she will do something desperate, and she’s afraid to shatter this perfect dream.

Not yet. One day. Next time. Next time.


Aniket said...

This gave me chills.

I don't do dance either. A few steps of Rumba at best. That's it.

But then if a girl asked me to, I'll sure give it a try! :)

The inner conflict was so efficiently portrayed. Hope she breaks free or he see's through her desires.

PS: At least, I'll sing "I won't dance, don't ask me..." for her as a last resort. Everybody loves some Frank. :)

Karen said...

You capture her longing and bitter regret so well, it's like a bile in the throat. I was going to say that I hope she finds the courage to leave, and then I thought of the Nanny, which of course, means a child or children. How complicated things become. Forced to weigh, to choose. I'm so sorry for her. For him? In fairness, she knew he didn't dance...

the walking man said...

There is only the display of her desire and no hint of what her old man does offer to replace the dance. yet beyond that there is no guarantee of a next time. Carpe Diem.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hindsight is 20 20, I guess.

Vesper said...

Aniket, good! :-) And thank you…
Even if you don’t dance, you seem like such a sweet guy that I’m sure your girl won’t even notice… :-) Besides, the dancing in this little piece could be anything else…

Thank you, Karen. I much appreciate your analysis of this. Yes, life sometimes seems complicated. People change, or just reveal their true selves. Love or infatuation can make one ignore, willingly or unwillingly, flaws or incongruities that could develop into chasms. Leaving doesn’t necessarily set you free. These are a few thoughts I tried to explore in here, in a limited amount of words.

Mark, do I detect in your comment a degree of discontent? :-) Good…
In the past I had a tendency to judge people by the way I would do things. Not anymore. I think everybody has his own motivations, his own understanding of reality. Maybe he doesn’t offer anything. Maybe “dance” is just a generic name. Maybe it’s too late. Nobody’s perfect. There is no perfect pattern. And yes, Carpe Diem, but what if you’re afraid of risking your illusions?

Charles, thanks for reading this. Hindsight, yes... foresight would be better... :-)

Michelle Johnson said...

such inner struggle at play here and the expectations of newness (a fresh start of sorts) left behind before they could begin. a child at home certainly would have complicated the matter further if something had developed between them. as far as dancing goes. i'm not a great dancer but i can shake it almost anywhere as long as the music is good. hope all is well. have a great day.

Sarah Hina said...

The stranger is all potential. He is shadows flickering on the walls of her mind. What an invitation, yet what a potential lie, as well.

There are dark and tumultuous currents in this piece, Vesper, which I truly appreciated. The war inside of her is mostly muted, yet still rages on.

What a wonderful glimpse into this woman's heart and mind.

Fireblossom said...

Oh Vesper. Leave it to you to write this very short piece about something as simple as a woman wanting to dance, and have it express so much thwarted longing, and suggest such a story that might lie beneath and beyind what you've written here.

I'll confess a bad habit of mine to you here. I check the length of a prose piece before I start (I do it with books, too), and I think, will this be worth the investment of time? Well, Vesper, yours ALWAYS are. By the second paragraph, I am always hooked, and by the end I wish it were much longer. I want to know what happens to her!

How many women can relate to this short piece of yours? Many many many, I would wager. I loved this.

Fireblossom said...

"beyond", I meant, not "beyind" One day I shall larn to type!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Arghhhhh.... Blogger ate my comment!!!

I really enjoyed this flash fiction. I really love it! It put me in the mind of F.Scott Fitzgerald's work...upper crust of society, dancing, jewels, rich surroundings, character discontent.

I feel sorry for her, but at the same time, she chose and continues to choose a life of excess in everything - except for love and passion - again, much like a Fitzgerald character.

The paragraph where she notices "him" is palpable. So very well done. The voice here is so strong. I love the technical quality, too. Ranks as one of my favorite Vesper stories.

Rick said...

Here are the things that I loved about this piece Vesper- that I was not at all conscious of it as a story, that I was that man watching that woman and wanting to dance with her, that I was that man trapped in decisions that isolated me from her affection, and that I truly knew that woman. She was that woman I walked away from and always regretted it, she was that woman I took away to Montreal and Mexico and always regretted it. So in your story, I spent a short, poignant moment again with people I have known and with you, too. A delightful way to spend an evening.

Miladysa said...

Like Rick I know the people in this story. I was the woman.

You made me *live* this Vesper - I don't think I can pay a writer a greater compliment!

My favourite line?

"His words fall like pieces of wet felt, a tiny, insignificant smack on the terracotta floor."

laughingwolf said...

'regrets, i've had a few...'

song by paul anka, nudder one canuck boy :)

the walking man said...

Vesper...I personally have no illusions left to risk, no dreams left to dance with. One can not seize a desire. But one can wrangle reality and either conform to it or force change upon it.

I have come through the fire, not unscathed or un-scarred but still whole enough to make what i will from each day. though I have only one good eye left me it sees quite well as long as i have my glasses on.

Discontent...why yes absolutely and always. How else would I know that I am still alive?

Anonymous said...

This is so powerful. And so well written. Very direct, hard hitting language.

Maybe there wouldn't be such an impossible gulf between them if he weren't lying about why he doesn't dance. Lying to protect himself.

BernardL said...

I wonder how she defines desperate. The oldest mistake in marriage - marrying and thinking to change, eventually finding out in regret, as in nature a lion is still a lion.

Nevine said...

Ouch! Those raw and vulnerable feelings of a woman so exposed... her extreme need to belong and be loved and cherished so on the line, so compromised and challenged. It was painful to read, because her pain was so real. That was very well written, Vesper!


Stewart Sternberg said...

If people always got what they wanted then writers wouldn't have much to write about, would they? I think a piece like this is more about evoking a mood or an emotional phrase than anything else. I like this theme...it's the sort of thing that hits me a three in the morning, the sense that something is unfulfilled and that the sense is a sliver of what is passing me by.

Or maybe the intensity of the awareness is enough.

Mariana Soffer said...

Excellent narrative, I really enjoyed reading it, made my hole movie in my mind, by the way, I like the language that you use for each kind of text a lot.

Bernita said...

M'Dear - to put it simply, this is brilliant.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I identified with that bird in a gilded cage, only allowed to fly free for a moment, then snatched back into a prison of guilt.

But... sometimes people CAN change.

Vesper said...

EVERYONE, thank you immensely for reading this and for leaving your comments here. I’m very sorry for answering this late… :-(

Michelle, I find that most of us have to struggle inside a lot, even when we don’t realise it… Thank you for reading this. :-)

Sarah, thank you. That’s why she doesn’t do anything – she wants to keep unblemished the illusion of that potential…

Fireblossom, thank you for this high praise. I’m extremely happy that you didn’t give in to your “bad habit” the very first time you visited this place…:-)

Kaye, ah, this Blogger! Sorry about that! :-)
This put you in the mind of F.Scott Fitzgerald's work...wow! Thank you so much! I feel overwhelmed…

Rick, I don’t think a writer could want anything more than have her story become her reader’s in such a way that the imaginary dissolves into the real. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, my dear friend.

Miladysa, yes, no greater compliment… And, to this, just my humble thank you.

LW, ah, a few regrets… yes… :-)

Mark, you have “no dreams left to dance with”… oh, but I do, and I will cling to them… for a while longer, at least…

Jason, thank you so much! You bring an extremely interesting point here. Something to think a lot more about…

Bernard, love can hide many things… Routine, or cowardice can keep them there, just below the surface…

Nevine, it was painful to write… almost unwriteable… because I’m always in the skin of the character, I become the character… Thank you!

You’re right, Stewart. :-)
it's the sort of thing that hits me a three in the morning, the sense that something is unfulfilled and that the sense is a sliver of what is passing me by. - I’m glad you mentioned that because it’s something with which I can fully relate…

Thank you for stopping by! :-)

Mariana, thank you for your kind words. I’m very glad you enjoyed this.

My dear Bernita, thank you...

Sandra, it is this hope - among a few others - that keeps us going... Thank you!

Rick said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Vesper!

L.A. Mitchell said...

I hate that it's taken me so long to pop back over to read this. What a beautiful piece I could have savored earlier, but I wanted to wait for a quiet moment-a time worthy of your prose :)

Catvibe said...

Sadly, it is all too familiar, her reaction. Beautiful writing Vesper. I was really looking at how you wrote it as well as the story itself. I just love how you weave words.

Catvibe said...

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