Tuesday, September 20, 2016

i się uśmiechałem

The age of Enlightenment

Ivory tablets and pencil are slipped into a little necessaire carried by dancers. In the 19th century, the lady's dance card case opens like a fan. Picture a milky Watteau-esque silhouette removing an ivory butterfly from its "memento of friendship" case to note a dangerous liaison. Soon erased from the tablets, the name leaves only a snowy trace of a moment's gallantry. Beneath flickering chandeliers, love flirts with lightness, all things pass, all things wear out, except for dance. 

19th century

From Moscow to Paris all Europe is swept along by the same heady routs, as parquets are pummelled with and polished by waltzes, mazurkas, quadrilles, écossaises, polkas, and cotillions. Between war and peace, an eddying overflow of happiness, innocence, and spontaneity lifts Natasha off her feet and the wine of its charm makes Andrew dizzy. Like the moth waltzing about the flame- like the Princess of Cleves - the lady of the Camellias, Emma Bovary, Mahaut D' Orgel and Eugene Onegin and Tatyana meet their destiny in their dancing attire. In Tokyo, at the Rokumeikan ball in 1885, Pierre Loti reserves the Blue Danube waltz on the card of a mousme in Parisian attire, and suddenly the world seems smaller. 

20th century

I'm four. I have been doggedly trying to escape the law of gravity. Each morning I climb the top of the library and boldly throw myself off it, striving to fly as far as the bed. I flap my arms, warbling. The sounds I make are not words but the attempts (as I perceive them at the time) of a bird to remain airborne. The bed is far away and not once do I manage to fly all that way, but I never admit defeat. I want to fly, just a little bit. I believe I am utterly capable. They give me ballet lessons. At the end of the school year, I mess up the entire play because I choose to throw my tutu away and fly around the other tiny dancers instead of just bowing. The audience laughs, I take an un-tutued bow and yell " yay dad I did it ! "

I'm six. I still dream about flying all the time. In my sleep, I have done it so many times. I see myself cycling in a street, suddenly the bike builds momentum, the wheels get slightly off the ground, my feet go mad on the pedals, faster, faster, I'm up. Next thing I know the bike is gone and I'm over the town; the rooftops look like lego bricks, the cars look like Playmobil. I tell my mother all about the dream. She says dreaming you're flying is a happy dream, something great is coming to you. My father laughs at the description. We have a writer in the house, he says behind his newspaper. 

I'm sixteen. I go to parties. Everyone's favourite thing to do is head-banging. Mine is when everyone goes nuts and starts to jump around. Slow-dancing is great for kissers, fast is great for dreamers and crazy people. One day -I know it- I will dance all night, to all kinds of dances. I will be swept off my feet. I still want to fly. I love going to the local exhibition and stare at a Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. It's the closest I've been to an aircraft.  My classmates say I'll flunk for drawing dancers that look like freedom fighter planes and birds that look like dancers. My art class teacher gives me an A+. 

21st century

I'm twenty-six when I get on my first plane to D.C. I'm so ecstatic I feel like screaming, which I don't because it will scare people. Instead, I laugh as the wheels leave the ground and don't blink an eye for two hours to Amsterdam. I get back on for a six-hour flight to the States and still refuse to sleep. I remember when I was six on my bike and watched planes in the sky. I chased them till they disappeared. I remember when I was six on my bike and chased the sun behind the lines of trees. The day is still young and I'm chasing the sun  _ up here. 

I'm thirty-six when I dance all night to all kinds of dances. I am swept off my feet. I'm flying. The morning breaks, the sun is up, lays smiling next to me, the sun has an actual voice and an accent. The sun has a bird carved in his arm. Moments later I've taken out a paper and a pen, slip a number in one of the suitcase compartments. Without him noticing what I did, without me noticing he's taken out a card with a number on it. 



A note: 

I'm not on a plane right now. I'm not swept off my feet. But I when I get in the car as I press my foot on the pedal and speed builds up, I turn the volume to a song that comes up and dance on the seat.  I still refuse to admit defeat in my efforts to fly. I still chase the sun among tree branches. I smile up. My stories write themselves. Therefore, earlier today, when I began to write this memory play, I made no exception; I hadn't planned for a finishing paragraph. I don't think I will be using one, though. If I've learned anything from flying and dancing, it's that some stories keep writing themselves for a very long, long time 

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