“From a very early time, I understood that I only learn from things I don’t like. If you do things you like, you just do the same shit. You always fall in love with the wrong guy. Because there’s no change. It’s so easy to do things you like. But then, the thing is, when you’re afraid of something, face it, go for it. You become a better human being.”
What’s the cost?
“Ah, a big one. Lots of loneliness, my dear. If you’re a woman, it’s almost impossible to establish a relationship. You’re too much for everybody. It’s too much. The woman always has to play this role of being fragile and dependent. And if you’re not, they’re fascinated by you, but only for a little while. And then they want to change you and crush you. And then they leave. So, lots of lonely hotel rooms, my dear.”
– Performance artist Marina Abramović: ‘I was ready to die’
Last Sunday was flawless. I attended Pauline’s birthday, went to Pancakes & Jam with Alex, made new friends, saw old friends, explored a new place, danced for over ten hours, finally visited the new Duello, and found resolution with a particularly pernicious ex from several lifetimes ago. (#healing #grateful #morelikethatplease #feetlikeblisters).
Several lifetimes ago we used to be A Thing. Not so long ago that he wouldn’t be in here somewhere if I went looking, but long enough ago that I do not want to try. If I am going to cut this long story short, I shall only say that he placed the stars in the sky, then killed every one. To say it didn’t end well would be an understatement.
But, before that, oh! Before that, when things were good, we used to dance together.
We had a sword fighting school at our disposal, the second floor of an old brick building without any late night neighbors, all gleaming weapons and massive mirrors and beautiful wooden floors. So, of course, we used it as our living room. And when we danced, it was absolutely beautiful. We moved without parallel. We moved and it would take your breath away.
When we danced, we did it with naked blades.
The game was one of trust, the dance was one of acceptance and risk. We would light a thousand candles, until the salle was filled with glittering constellations of fire, lift our swords, and throw ourselves at each other’s weapons to the loud and salacious beat of whatever seemed sexiest. (He was very good at sexy).
The game was dangerous, but we never erred. The dance was trust incarnate. And we would always manage not to cut each other, though the blades were naked and sharp and the tips were bare. I started it one night when we had some people over, tossing him a sword as we danced, a dare, then a second one, but no matter how much I tried to impale myself, he would move it out of the way of my body every single time, often at the last second, as I would in turn. And we loved it. It became something we would do regularly, romance, a way to make-out in company, a way to break ourselves open, a way to dance ourselves clean.
It could have gone all sorts of wrong, but we never once had a mistake. It wasn’t a fight, understand, but a hard line practice of grace. The point was to throw ourselves at risk and let the other keep us safe. And we did. It worked. We never argued. We danced and we loved each other and we kept each other unmarked by our knives.
It was the sort of thing you might see in a film, but it was real. It was our life. If there is a narrative equivalent for being photogenic, we were that. We were ridiculously that. Swords, knives, the school. We lived part-time on a reproduction Chinese junk in False Creek. There were always flowers and books, back and forth. We were so lucky! He was tall and handsome and graceful, lissome and delicious with long blond hair to his shoulders, a clever mind, and two shining lengths of steel, we loved each other, we were brave, and I was utterly confident that he would not hurt me.
Idiot self, I think now, given what happened after, which I will say only was devastating and involved a stay in a hospital, some long distance phone calls, another woman, and eventually their child. (Though these days I hear he has two.) Let’s just say that, unlike his swords, his extrication was something he did not handle with grace. Did I say it was devastating? Perhaps I should say it again. Devastating. It was an absolute fumble.
This, however, nine years later, is the story of how we finally recovered.
The new salle is on the same city block, but better located. He’s done well. Ground floor, now, and much bigger, two shops smushed together with the walls torn down, with a large rotating sign stuck to the front of the building. ACADEMIE, it says as it spins, on a picture of a sword. There is a gift shop these days, ten foot by ten near the door.
The mirrors inside are similar, the floor the same, the walls are still brick, but the scale is impressive. The business moved several years ago, but this is the first time I have stepped inside. I have arrived because it is a partner dance night, something some friends of mine started years ago that I have neglected to attend, in part because of the location. My ex and I did not part well and this is his domain. I even gave up sword fighting when we split, the better to not cross paths.
But here I am and it is beautiful, the lights are dim and the space is filled with whirling bodies, dancing instead of fighting. Couples spinning to compelling music, electronica and remixes of old standards, the sort you might know all the words to while still enjoying something new.
I take off my bag, my hat, and my long coat and fold them together, leaving them with my shoes as a bundle on top of a hobby horse next to a small model of a medieval battle. I step past a pile of large pillows and scan the floor. And there he is. Hand extended, living proof of another life. The romance book cover hair is gone, but he is otherwise the same, cat-like and beautiful. “May I have the first dance?”
Something hangs in the balance until I say yes, but then it is as if a pane of glass has shattered. The moment breaks. I know what is about to happen. I take his hand, we step into the crowd, and time falls away. His body is both infinitely familiar and that of a stranger, but we can still dance.
He is still very good at being sexy. He talks about how beautiful it was when we used to dance, how he loved when we used to sit in the windows of the old salle, feet hanging out over the street. He’s missed me, he says. I’ve missed him, too. He is so, so sorry for the hurt he caused. I couldn’t be more relieved. The years drop away. The thorn is removed, the wound repaired. I am made better. We sing along to the music, eyes blurry from emotion, but never lose the step. He apologizes, we spin, and I am finally free. His hands on mine, our feet matching the beat, his words kiss my heart, and I am finally free.
I can’t help but laugh. This is absolute absurdity, but so perfect it might as well have been scripted. How else would we ever do this, unless we used literal knives? We move through the song and start into another. He lifts me in the air, my feet up, it’s not unlike flying. We talk, we sing. Our bodies glued to each other and the music. We dance ourselves clean.