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On a Lamp Post, in a Yellow Dress

February 9, 2017

‘And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.’

Friedrich Nietsche



One unremarkable Wednesday night, an unremarkable man and woman tucked a little girl carefully into bed. Her eyes were drooping but she begged for a story, something to sweep her off her feet, to a land of cloak, dagger, and adventure, where heroes wore capes and lovers fled to Paris to paint and play violins on cobblestone streets.


The woman, a plain brunette in a yellow summer dress, odd for the first week of February, began the only story she knew of a girl who signed up for a tango class. But before she even made it onto the dance floor her daughter had dozed off to sleep. The little girl’s dreams were more compelling than her mother’s daily story, whose ending she never reached.


She dreamt of the day she would go to Paris and her own adventure would begin. Background music would play as she bought flowers from the market on the Ile de la Cité, follow her across the bridge to the rive gauche, down the street, into the boulangerie, and wait outside as she bought her baguette and two torsades au chocolat for the day. Then, she half dreamt, half wished as she turned the corner into the jardin public, the remarkable, the spectacular would find her, like in an American movie.


She would not be her father, who wore the same tired pair of Oxford shoes each day, their once deep brown now a lighter, honey caramel from walking in the sun and rain. Her father who, for twenty years, passed the same string of lamp posts along the same street, to a bookshop where he sold stories to strangers of more compelling places and lives.


She would not be her mother, who taught different diabetics how to use the same insulin pump day after day. Whose favorite yellow dress had also, surely, seen brighter, crisper days.


Her life would not be a watered down repetition of the same Wednesday night. Hers would be remarkable one day, a movie, a musical on opening night.


The man turned the light off while the woman kissed the sunburnt, sleeping nose. They tiptoed out of the bedroom and down the stairs, he in front, she behind, his hand reaching back for hers automatically so that she would not fall.


She reheated the spaghetti in the microwave while he pulled out two forks. They ate from the same plate, her legs strewn across his lap, as they chatted quietly on the couch. An eye on the clock, they then washed the dish together, and the two forks. She scrubbed, he rinsed, they dried their hands and slipped on two beige and nondescript trench coats. He took the keys from the old shortbread cookie tin box, the blue one on the dresser by the door. She picked up the canvas tote bag and they stepped out of the house at seven forty-seven pm.


For thirteen minutes they walked beneath the string of lamp posts, holding hands, not on the sidewalk, but in the middle of the street, stopping from time to time to dance. Yes they danced, that unremarkable pair, in the middle of the street, he in his honey caramel Oxfords, she in her faded yellow dress. There was a song playing that no one else could hear in those two people’s heads, the one they had first heard on a long ago Wednesday night, in a beginners’ tango class.


They practiced their steps for thirteen whole minutes, all the way to class. At the last lamp post he swung her and her dress around and dipped them both one final time. They then entered a beige, nondescript building and climbed up the old wooden staircase. The stairs did not squeak once as they did; by now they knew where to step.


In the studio he took the coats they both slipped off while she put on sparkling yellow heels. They stepped onto the dance floor, the music began, and the unremarkable disappeared.


For an hour he did not sell books, she did not talk about insulin pumps. For an hour they were lovers in an alley of Buenos Aires, to the sound of a mournful violin. It would have been the climax of an American movie, her leg scissoring between his, his arm possessive, her look defiant, stealing kisses on the eighth beat.


‘You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.’
- Richard Linklater


The remarkable is created, not sought, in the misty details of the ordinary. Life is neither a musical nor a movie; the music does not play out loud.


The man and woman danced, in the studio, down the steps, up the string of lamp posts and the street back to their home. They danced all the way to the following Wednesday, wherever, whenever they could, to the tune no one could hear that was playing in their head. And they were thought to be insane.



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