By Sidney Stevens
Sandy pulls her silver hair into a ponytail. It may not be butter blonde anymore, but it still swings with the same buoyancy as when she was 21. She tugs on her skinny bermuda jean shorts and tight, tie-dyed T-shirt embossed with an elephant cavorting on the beach that reads “dancing in the sand.” She slips on white Nike knock-offs with cushioned soles and ankle support and views herself from side to side in the full-length mirror.
Slim as ever—youthful first impression if you don’t focus on her sun-wrinkled face that carries most of its seventy-one years, or the beginnings of a shoulder hunch, or her knobby knees, one of which slants increasingly inward causing her to lean slightly to the right. Sandy successfully evades the entirety of her mirrored reflection, seeing only what sustains her.
She grabs a water bottle and heads for the pavilion in the park, seven blocks from her row house apartment on Townsend Street in the center of town. She’s still crazy about dancing, infusing her body with music and unleashing its kinetic energy into sound waves. That’s never changed in fifty years since she first surrendered to the corporeal rapture of an all-out, all-night rock-concert boogie. Friends, jobs, and dreams have come and gone, but dancing remains as essential as air and food.
Rich is already swaying to the bluesy beat on the dance pavement at the foot of the outdoor stage. Sandy’s hips begin undulating as she approaches, building to a vigorous grind, feet precision-choreographed to the 4/4 beat, arms swinging, shoulders and head bobbing. Lost in 1971, gorgeous, young, amplified in the spotlight cast by a sea of smoldering eyes.
Rich peels off his plaid cap, smooths back thinning salt-and-pepper hair, and slaps it back on. They swing close together, then swirl away and circle back, fully immersed in the sensual, pounding drumbeat, wailing guitars, and growling, feral vocals.
This is how they met seven years ago—careened into one another on this very spot.
”Match made in heaven,” he laughed and grabbed her hand.
They’ve danced together ever since. Sometimes they get it on at her place afterwards, a last dance of sorts. But less so these days. Rich is twelve years younger, and looks it, though not to Sandy. That part of him remains invisible.
Tonight Rich’s eyes wander to a woman dancing alone behind them. Sandy rarely notices what doesn’t nurture her reality. But this woman persists in her mind—like an aggravating needle prick—thick around the middle, chunky middle-aged calves, not as free and nimble as Sandy. No style, hair cropped, no grace, average ability to keep time.
Rich grazes the woman as he shimmies past, accidentally perhaps, and Sandy makes a sudden pirouette, ponytail a twirl. “Follow me!” she calls, beckoning him. They weave as one through bodies in motion, like two stars in a binary solar system locked in orbit. She forgets the lonely woman.
Next week, Rich is there before her as usual, but not alone. The lonely woman fingers a mouse-colored strand of hair, engrossed in his words. He leans closer, glancing briefly at Sandy, rocking to the sultry beat. The lonely woman rocks with him.
Sandy swiftly dissembles indifference, shoving down a ghastly, long-buried scream. She begins gyrating, limbs heavy and stiff, oscillating arms suddenly wrinkled like old leather, knees aching.
The lonely woman isn’t special—ordinary in fact, homely even—and yet she’s not dancing alone. Sandy’s thirteen again, ungainly, un-liked, unpopular. She’s seventy-one. She’s nothing at all. Why don’t they ever love her?
The beat builds, and Sandy squashes back tears, thrusting solo through the music, through grief, releasing what she’s seen, remembering only what’s needed to keep time, keep moving. An older man in a red baseball cap gazes intently from the side, foot tapping. A younger man in biker boots, helmet in hand, beholds her too from the audience on the lawn.
Sandy surrenders to their regard, erasing anguish in the pulsing rhythms, dipping, weaving, strutting, shaking, down and dirty, lost in motion, in the moment. She’s center stage again, all eyes feasting in admiration, in her command.
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Sidney Stevens is an author with an MA in journalism from the University of Michigan. Her short stories have appeared in several literary journals, including The Woven Tale Press, Hedge Apple, The Wild Word, Finding the Birds Literary Journal, Viscaria Magazine, OyeDrum and The Centifictionist. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Newsweek, The Dillydoun Review, New Works Review, Sure Woman, and Nature’s Healing Spirit, an anthology from Sowing Creek Press. In addition, she’s had hundreds of nonfiction articles published in print and online, and has also co-authored four books on natural health. Learn more at www.sidney-stevens.com.