Alexander’s party; five months since we’d last spoken . . . The lights
low, swirling, turning, Antonio whizzed Marguerite – youthful, coy,
something more there, possibly not good – around the center of the
room as Spanish guitar rippled in the background. In his arms she was
a child who grew plaintive, but revealed a hint of excitement when his
hand slapped hold of her hindquarters, hoisting her to one shoulder.
“Eeek!” She let out, and was returned safely to earth, never a chance
harm would’ve befallen her.
Antonio Perino: a visionary of sorts, though not with words so much as
style. Tonight was the first we’d met, Alexander proclaiming him a
fellow traveler, an appreciator of women, wine and song. He knew the
good old ways of the earth and sensuality too: dance, joyous partying,
drunken relaxation and hash afternoons. Antonio drove around a van
filled with Italian beer, somehow promoting it through an unknown
combination of street smarts, lackadaisical hustle and smooth-talking.
The man could dance alone or with a crowd or with a beautiful woman
and unspeaking, svelte, coax sensuality from her as he’d begun to do
with Marguerite. I watched in astonishment as she suddenly threw off
the cover of respectability and began to sashay and sway, hidden
beauty now fully evident.
Slumped down on the couch not far from me was Alexander, a great
pillar of strength, though smaller by far than the Italian or myself.
Once, he and I had run through streets inseparable like foolish young
Kerouackian seekers after truth. In those years we’d been two burning
beacons, instigators, wise beyond years, absurd beyond words, writing
melancholy tales, seducing, dashing headlong through the City, two
poets and drinkers of life’s bitter, sweet glass down to the dregs.
Then, well . . . something happened. Our unity dissolved and each man
struggled alone once more, no unconscious sense of teamwork and trust
where once the thoughts of those things had not been necessary. It was
cold times now. But despite the distance, the wall between us, once
more we found ourselves marching through the same battlefields, though
each with independence of perspective gained from years of struggling
alone, without friends capable of entirely understanding, and with
families and romances deteriorated and broken and gone. For Alexander
it came down to this: he now saw he was mortal and this drove him
through torments of an indescribable nature. He was a man getting wet
in the rain in a different way than he had gotten wet in that same
rain before, and this crossed and befuddled him.
We sank deeper into the old second-hand couch. Alexander spoke with
verve and wisdom now of Saturn shifting, realigning in the
astrological realm. In the dimly-lit dance floor scene unfolding before
us, I felt those stars and heavens at work. To my right, the French
Actress, Valerie, smoked thin cigarettes in a posture of complete
ease, yet seemed unable to forget entirely her beauty and performance.
A moment later she was up, dancing with the young French-American I
disliked. They were not lovers, yet he danced with her insistently, a
dragon guarding treasure – gold he can never spend. Valerie’s natural
performance evolved from dancing with him to mostly dancing by herself
in the midst of the half-empty floor, coquettishly mincing, swaying
with abrupt, dainty kicks. Her body was thin, lithe, strong but not
muscular. Something about it held a familiarity that I tried to
ignore. “She fits here in Brooklyn far more than in Manhattan,”
Alexander said. I agreed. We watched her, all in black, kick off
bright green leather heels to move with ever more impressive control
and feminine savvy over her own body.
Marguerite returned and sat between us with raised eyebrow. “Hallo,
boys – why you two looking so glum?” Instead of answering, I nodded
toward the floor. “I like her dancing style,” I said, turning in time
to see a graceful leap performed with the aid of the French-American’s
hand. “It’s hypnotic . . .” With another drink, Valerie’s resemblance
to Alexander’s former mistress grew stronger; hints of that strange
night of sexual abandon three years past became almost pungent in my
nostrils . . . I glanced over and Alexander caught my eye. Turning to
stare down at the stained suede of the couch with rapid heartbeats, I
swore to myself I had not known they were together when it happened.
Bio: Jack Kelley lives in Brooklyn.