Inspired by re-reading Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”
Her name was also Rebecca, and after an initial round of introductions between our mutual friends, she insisted I venture out on the dance floor with her.
“I haven’t been dating him that long,” she told me, jerking her body gamely to the beats her boyfriend was creating from behind the DJ booth. “But I feel bad no one’s dancing.”
Rebecca was wearing a white sleeveless top with cutouts on the sides around her ribs that accentuated her waist. It looked terrific on her, I told her, wishing I had finished my first drink already so I wouldn’t care we were the only two people moving while everyone else stood around talking.
“All these girls keep telling me they love my top, and I told them it’s the only one I can wear without a bra!” she said.
I thought about the balconette I wore under my cherry-red dress I had thrown on and worn a million times. The dress was old but reliable and made my breasts look great. It was my back-up plan in fashion when I felt bored with everything else in my closet and knew I’d benefit from dim lighting later. I couldn’t remember the last time I had bought something just to wear out dancing, much less braless, and smiled to myself.
Rebecca wanted me to tell her all about the guy I had recently stopped seeing, who incidentally also liked to frequent the club where we were dancing. I tried to muster the anxiety she might expect me to feel about possibly running into him there, but realized I didn’t care. We had ended things as adults with different ideas in mind of what we wanted from each other. He was European and a chain smoker, meaning he was likely up on the rooftop, where you had to buy a ticket to enter and could enjoy cigarettes whenever you wanted. Not down on the first floor, where my friend and I were pregaming for free.
“Can my friend Becca come back here, too? She’s cool.”
“Sure,” he told us, waving us all in.
I stepped through a door into what I had originally thought was a restroom, but apparently was a space for storage. The thump of the latest DJ’s adventures in turntabling were shaking the walls covered in posters advertising shows. There was a fake rubber head in a jar of formaldehyde, a wall with every connector and wire imaginable to manage sound for different acts. A few stuffed animal monkeys had been intertwined around the pipes.
He began removing his jewelry, talking animatedly to my friend’s friends. His fitted grey jacket, the same color as his hair and beard, said “Daddy” on one side and “Spanks” on the other.
The ring he held out to us looked like a thick dab of metal frosting, messy, sculptural and comfortably covering his index finger. He wore several others that he took off so we could feel their weight. He had taught himself how to do metalsmithing. They were rough and beautiful at the same time.
“I made one for my seven-year-old nephew that looks like a shark,” he told us. “He loved it. I have to do what I can, otherwise my sister will contaminate him with boring.”
I realized we were all back there to check out his art, one of those moments that always makes me love D.C. and its afterhours creativity fiercely, even though we’re not New York.
He pointed to a large, multi-faceted stained glass heart with a chain on the top of it resting on the floor in a corner. It had been displayed at the club for Valentine’s Day. He had made several.
“They’re all broken hearts, with a split in the center,” he said.
I love classical music, and if the DJ is any good, live house music is another type of orchestra, but with drums, flashes of electric longing, instead of strings, violins. It’s lovely and otherworldly, as a symphony of sound should be. There are waves and crescendos, with beats kicking in at just the right moment.
Lee Burridge did not disappoint.
He was a maestro, amused with the movement he could conduct in us, what he could make us feel and do, by simply summoning a wave of drums to crash over us all.
Tonight, we were all patrons of possibility, letting him reinvent us over and over again, trusting him to take us along.
Listening to him, dancing solo, I was also moving in celebration of trusting myself.
I used to feel shy about dancing alone in a crowd, when I was younger and more concerned about what people thought. Tonight, I was dancing because I only needed and wanted two drinks over the past five hours; I liked being awake, aware and present. I was dancing because I was there for the music, not because I needed to be seen or wanted by someone else. I was dancing because I had made it to the wee hours of the morning after being a productive, successful adult all day, and could now lose myself in the discovery of the evening.