The hula-hoop whirls around your hands, spinning across hips, shimmying down your legs. It dances impossibly close to the ground, the smooth circle of wood almost grazing the marble, before rising back up the undulating column of your caramel body. You smile as the bells around your ankles hum and laugh, smirking at the ache of muscles no longer sore, smirking at your strong hips, strong arms, strong stomach. Your feet sweep across the hot, dry square.
You candle, you flame, you make your own music. You, the tambourine. Wearily, you blink your eyes, your body not betraying your secret, the secret of sleepless nights whirling for her.
“I’ll come back,” she said, kissing you roughly on the mouth. “Just dance, and I will find you.”
So you dance. You leap, barely sleeping, afraid you will miss her. Every day she might be here, towed in her husband’s wake. Each time you see swaying, black clad domes with their kohl, endless kohl, you clench and gasp and hope it is her, bringing soft touches and rough kisses. You dance under the streetlamp where you first met.
Each time, mysterious appearance every few months. She comes without pattern, without warning, so you dare not leave the halo of the streetlamp, dare not return from a few tormented hours of sleep to a hasty note and the smell of sweet musk in the air.
Twice, you missed her. Twice, she came to you with bruises the color of figs staining her supple flesh. Twice, she has let you croon Pink Floyd and smoke pot under your street lamp.
She calls you her Lotus, a drug, addictive; you make her lose sense of time. You call her Sharazaad, her body holding a thousand stories of kisses and dark patches of hair and kohl, endless kohl.
And then, she is gone again, gone again to small steps and indifference and fingers greasy with oil. And then she is gone again, gone again and all she leaves you is her night-jasmine hair woven in the fibers of your pillow and her warm, musky scent. And then she is gone again, gone again and all she leaves you are henna vines curling over your breasts, which will vanish long before she reappears.
But you have been dancing in this orb of yellow light, dancing, and she has not returned. And although your cap grows heavy with the tinkle of euros, your heart does not peal. The bells around your ankles no longer make you smile. You do not smirk at muscles that feel no pain, because you no longer feel.
You have taken to walking around the edge of the circle of light, daring the darkness outside of the streetlamp to come in, to take over, to fill your lungs with kohl, endless kohl. You pace, nine steps calm, eight steps angry, unable to sleep for fear of missing her. Sometimes you dance to eat, sometimes you let men pump into you for a shower and a glass of wine, turning your head to the side and closing your eyes, wandering over her warm body. You store your earnings in a train station locker, in the lining of your jacket.
The hula-hoop whirls around your hands, spinning across hips, shimmying down your legs. It dances impossibly close to the ground, the smooth circle of wood almost grazing the marble, before rising back up the undulating column of your caramel body. But you do not smirk at your strong body, you mourn your heart hovering outside of your hard body.
She does not come.
The kohl, endless kohl outside of the streetlamp fades. The darkness flattens, instead of taunting remembrance of the secrets of the night. So you dance. You dance until the ankle beads rattle in tears, muscles screaming for her scent, blood smearing off your feet and onto the pavement, sweat tearing salt into chocolate wounds, concrete and glass and heat and eternity ripping through calluses. You constant tambourine, your rib cage shaking and rattling without a heart, bells and noise covering the skin pulled tight over inflexible rim.
No heart. She holds your heart. So you dance, your body’s rhythm beating blood through your veins, your arteries, dancing to survive, dancing to power your body. Only the beat of your feet, wandering, dancing, keep you alive.
Amelia Nierenberg, Age 17 Grade 12, The Fieldston School High School, Gold Key