I left my daughter in the motel room reading her book.
Tired from driving, I walked down the street looking for a place to relax.
After a few blocks, I turned around the corner, then again changed direction, trying to remember the way back to the motel.
As I was crossing the street I noticed colourful lights in front of a small house, that appeared like a shop front. I walked in and saw a few middle-aged men standing around a high table, drinking and talking loudly. I walked to the bar and waited to be served. It seemed a while until the barmen returned with the goods.
‘Are you a local or just passing by?’ – I heard a voice behind me. The man in his late twenties told me that he was born in the town, then left to work in the big City, but a few years later returned to his home town where he married a girl, whom he’d known from his childhood.
Then he got distracted and I used the time to look around. There were three rooms linked together. Music was coming from the other room, where a group of not less than a dozen females of various ages were sitting at the long strip of joined tables.
Not far from me, a tiny lady was standing, staring in my direction. I nodded politely and she returned the smile. I didn’t have a dog, so I took my glass for a walk and arrived at her table, curious to examine her from a close distance.
‘Where are you from?’
I was not sure if she was interested in where I was born or where I lived.
‘From Melbourne,’ I said.
Her name was Abigale. She had recently returned from Western Samoa, where she was teaching English. Her lips were deeply reddened, her cheeks round, her nose twitching. There was even something under her eyes, to make them brighter. Her body was furnished with skinny arms, perfectly tanned to match the texture of her dark dress. As we spoke, more people arrived and the music became louder. The waiter came and filled up her glass. She was not drunk, just a little bit tiddly.
I introduced myself as Mio and she confirmed ‘Neil?’.
‘Seriously, what’s your name’?
‘Neil’ – I replied.
She found that interesting, so she started identifying numerous small things we might have in common. Her knee touched mine under the table and to my surprise she did not move it back. I wondered what might be going through her head. She put her hand on the table and moved it towards me. I was not sure how to respond, so I took her small finger between my two fingers, holding it like a pinch of salt. There was almost no reaction, except for the top of her finger that became warmer and softer. She slightly moved her body, but left the hand in the same place.
‘Touch me,’ she said.
There was a feeling of excitement. She stung me with the rhythm of her pulse. Some sort of contact was established. I stood motionless. The atmosphere was charged with expectation. I took a deep breath imagining that she did the same. Just as I counted to two, she exhaled. I counted again. Her hand was asleep. I became aware of the significance of analysing the cycles of our synchronised breathing. It appeared that when she was taking a breath I was releasing mine. I played the role of a number three, conscious of weakened muscles and reduced tension.
‘Touch me,’ her voice demanded.
A tingling sensation around my nose indicated the importance of surfing a wave of shameless feelings.
Practising subdued breathing and micro-ventilation, we drifted along a slowly disappearing sense of presence, following the rhythmic movements of our diaphragms.
My thoughts were bouncing off the floor. I had a nostalgic vision of the corner table. A passing waiter noticed that her glass was empty and came back with a large bottle. She paid no attention as her glass was filled up. Like a dervish dance escaping reality, like a gay circle condemning triviality.
A wave of energy sparked over her dark dress and my white shirt; like the moon and the sun, darkness and light, above or below, over and under. Like autumn and spring, like yang and yin.
This lasted about 48 minutes, or so I would like to think.
Her eyes moved in a slow motion and I no longer felt the pressure on the back of my neck. I heard her mumbling to herself that ‘being in love is a form of addiction’.
It was not easy to break away from single-mindedness. If we were in another era of a truly superior technology, I would place the lenses of the camera on her forehead to record a sequence of dark images taken under specific circumstances’.
She smiled and looked away. I wished I knew some funny jokes.
The music from the juke-box and flashing lights moved between us. The venue was converted to a dance club. She pulled her hand away to adjust her dress, then left the table and disappeared in the crowd.
I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I decided not to think, but my eyes were still looking around. I recognised the group of females from the other room, dancing on the antique floor. I managed to get a glimpse of Abigale standing beside a big man, destined to be a local. I walked towards them, but she failed to make an effort to recognise me, so I returned to the dance floor.
I left the venue, but half way down the street I changed my mind. When I returned, I saw the bouncer who explained that the club was closed and no-one was allowed in.
A cool breeze reminded me of how to find the way back to my motel room.
As I walked, my thoughts were gradually reinstated and my story was rewarded a sense of closure.