"Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire."
~ George Bernard Shaw
"You go first."
"No. You. You go first."
It's a dance, one they've been trying to master for years. The music plays, sometimes a sensuous tango and sometimes a sizzling salsa. But the dance never quite comes together. Neither is willing to make the first move.
The tension between them builds. There's always friction, lots of smoke but no fire. Close encounters cause sparks, and each jumps back, fearful of being burned.
They're just not very good at it, it seems. They're always out of step. She comes close as he retreats. He moves in, she pulls away. Each is at once drawn, and repelled.
They'll never get it right; they know that. But neither can they walk away. And so, they dance.
The figure concealed in the deep shadows of the landing at the top of the stairs stands motionless, waiting.
Heart pounding, he mentally runs through his plan over and over, hoping he'll
have the courage to follow through this time. It's like that old timey baseball
guy said... What was his name? Yogi Bear? Well, whatever, like he said, it's
déjà vu all over again. He's been here many times before, in just this place,
with just this plan. And each time, his courage deserts him. Tonight, he
mutters under his breath. Tonight, tonight, tonight. He repeats it in his mind
like a mantra.
"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"
Heart sinking, the woman steals a glance at her husband, then quickly looks
down at her hands twisting the purse strap in her lap. What she saw in the
flickering light from oncoming traffic in the few seconds she'd looked at Craig
is a sight all too familiar. He sits rigid, the knuckles of his hands white
from clenching the steering wheel. The rhythmic jerking of the muscle in his
right cheek tells her that his jaw is clenched just as tightly.
All night, she's been congratulating herself on making it through a party
without incident for a change. She hadn't wanted to go, dreading the usual
tension of trying to meet with his approval. To make matters worse, this party
was thrown by his boss to celebrate winning some big case. Now that she thinks
about it, though, maybe that's why Craig was on his best behavior. It had been
such a relief to have no berating comments, no icy stares, no scenes. She'd
even enjoyed herself. She closes her eyes for a moment, hoping it's not all
about to go to hell in a hand basket.
He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. His legs are going to
sleep, and he's tempted to sit down.
No. Not a good idea. They could come any minute. Be vigilant!
He does set his weapon down on the hall table next to him, though, and flexes
his cramped fingers.
Hang in. They'll be here soon.
Craig snorts. "Oh, please. I'm
not stupid, Rebecca, nor am I blind."
She doesn't answer, knowing that whatever has set him off, there is nothing she
can say that won't make it worse.
She thinks back over the past few hours, looking for something that could have brought this on. There's nothing. She thought he'd be pleased at how well the evening
went. Frank Griffin and his wife had seemed to like her, and she'd made a point
of circulating, chatting with Craig's fellow lawyers. All she can remember is
laughter and conviviality.
Rebecca glances at the speedometer, where the needle confirms that they are going much too fast. "I wish you would slow down before you kill us or someone else. I don't know what you're so upset about, Craig. Please. It's been such a
nice night. We had fun. Let's not ruin it."
His laugh is mirthless. "Fun. Yes, indeed. I'm sure you did have fun,
Rebecca." His voice drips with sarcasm and loathing. "Imagine how
much fun it was for me, watching you throw yourself at Frank all night, all
giggles and come-hither looks. For crissake, you were hanging all over him. You
looked like a cheap fucking whore."
He's really tired. Good thing he didn't give in to the urge to sit down. He'd
have been asleep by now for sure.
Headlights sweep across the darkened foyer downstairs, and the adrenalin rush
wakes him up good. They're here. He grabs his weapon and presses himself tight
against the wall.
Any minute now.
It's going to be a bad one, she knows. She's never seen him so angry. He's had
jealous outbursts before -- oh, boy, had he -- but he's never accused her of something like this.
"I was not 'hanging all over' Frank Griffin, as you so
elegantly put it. I was chatting with him, trying to be friendly. Which, if you
recall, you asked me to."
Craig pulls the car into the driveway, slams the gear shift lever into Park,
and turns to sneer at her.
"Friendly? Friendly? Oh, that went
w-a-a-a-y beyond friendly, Rebecca. When I asked you to be nice to him, I
didn't fucking mean hump his leg like a bitch in heat."
Rebecca sighs and opens the car door.
"Nice, Craig. Now let's drop it. You're just being paranoid."
She hasn't even made it to the front porch when Craig grabs her arm and spins
"Don't you dare talk to me like
She has no time brace herself when the back of his hand knocks her to the
ground. She lands hard, and feels the pea stone cut into her face. When she
puts her hand to her cheek, it comes away bloody.
Ever the gentleman, Craig leaves her there and storms onto the front porch.
There's a series of clicks as the key turns in the lock. He holds his breath,
waiting, and when the door swing open, he can hear crying from outside.
There he is. Now or never. Don't chicken out!
He steps to the stair rail, and raises his weapon. Taking careful aim, he lets
fly. He hears a yelp from below, and then sees his target go down.
Rebecca gets to her feet and walks to the front door, hand to her bloody cheek.
There are stone fragments still embedded in it. She can feel her eye swelling
shut and she's pretty sure she has a split lip.
This has got to stop, she thinks. Fourteen years is about thirteen years too long.
She enters the foyer just in time to see her husband crumple
to the tile floor, swearing.
Looking toward the tremulous voice, she sees Billy coming down the stairs in his pajamas,
clutching his slingshot, eyes wide.
Craig yells, "My eye, my eye! What the fuck?"
Her son starts to cry. With barely a glance at her husband, still
sitting on the floor clutching his left eye, Rebecca hurries to him.
"Mama!" His words come in a rush. "Mama, I'm sorry! I came home early from Mike's. Don't be mad. I had to. He
was gonna kill you. Look at your face! That's the worst yet. You're all beat up." Billy sobs. "And now he's gonna
Rebecca pulls the shaking boy close. "It's okay, honey. It'll be okay. I'm not mad. You go on up to your
room. I'll take care of Daddy."
When she hears Billy's bedroom door close, she turns to her husband, who is bellowing.
"Fuck! That damn kid nearly put my
eye out. See what comes of all your coddling, Rebecca? It's time I deal with him before you turn him into a fag." Rebecca looks at him with disgust. "For heaven's sake, Craig. You need..." She's interrupted by his angry voice. "What I need is to go to the hospital. Now!"
Rebecca listens to make sure Billy has stayed in his room,
then walks over to the table by the door and picks up the ugly bronze statue of
Justice that Craig loves so much.
"You bastard," she says as she brings the heavy statue crashing down
on Craig's head. "You're going to need more than that."
(Preface: OK, so here's the deal. I haven't written much of
anything for months. It's time to get back to it, but those muses up
there ↑ in the blog banner are being stubbornly
uncooperative. So, okay. Fine. Be that way. I'll go it alone, and use the stuff
floating around in my head. Maybe they'll get jealous and come out to play.)
Lately, I've been pondering the mystery of internet intimacy.
I've been hanging around the internet for about five years.
Oh, there was AOL before that, but that was different. Kind of flat and
one-directional. Today, thanks to blogging and Facebook (hard to believe that
Facebook is only 10 years old!), cyberspace is a community, more of a community
than the one outside my front door. I know this sounds crazy, in a delusional
sort of way, but the cyber-citizens who live in my online community, people from
around the world, many of whom I've never met (with a few exceptions)... Those people are my
friends. Not just the Facebook kind of friends, but real friends.
A couple of years ago, I invited a man I’d met online -- and
his wife, lest you think there was something wonky going on -- to come for a visit. When I told my daughter I’d done that, she was
“You’ve never met him? Are you insane? You’re gonna end up dead in your bed.”
“Not to worry,” I told her. “I know him. It’ll be fine.”
And it was. They came and spent several days. We had fun.
And I’m still among the living. Because you know what? I did know him.
I’ve met several other people from my internet community,
and lo! In person, they were exactly the people I’d come to know online and
think of as friends.
Somehow, the internet makes it possible to develop an
intimacy with total strangers. My dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship;
closeness, rapport, affection, confidence.” I would definitely apply those
terms to many of my online relationships. This intimacy is based on more than
just a casual relationship. Over time, you come to “know” people, to know about
their lives, their family, their likes and dislikes, what makes them laugh.
When you see their names pop up on Facebook, in a text or a blog comment, it
gives you the warm fuzzies.
So how does this
happen? Well, my current theory is based on the fact that I “met” many of my online friends
through writing. Some of that writing is like this post, a bit of a rambling
mind dump. But it also includes fiction, poetry, and most recently, some
scripts. I’m not sure why, but here’s what I think. People present something of
a public face when going about their day, just being themselves. But when they
write? Oh, my.
The words come from the core. They’re fed by the writer's heart, and his or her dreams and fantasies as well as the mind. And the writing carries echoes
of the past as well as the present. It’s like a window into the writer’s true self. And
the trust writers place in their readers when they expose themselves like that?
Well, that builds intimacy.
Anyway, that’s my
theory. Am I crazy, in a delusional sort of way? Maybe. But it’s a good thing.