The Silver Year: Chapter 18

Chapter​​ 18

Dancing Around​​ 

 

 

After less than three hours of sleep, the​​ horizon of consciousness​​ came at​​ the​​ sound of​​ light rain​​ drumming​​ on the​​ left​​ open​​ skylight, then the sight of​​ her​​ red hair​​ on the pillow​​ beside​​ him.​​ Whether​​ the color​​ was natural or not, he cared not. It was the most beautiful​​ red​​ in the world​​ because​​ he’d only seen it​​ in a​​ dream. But​​ his​​ raw​​ lips​​ and​​ aching​​ muscles​​ were a testament this red was in fact a real color of life and​​ the​​ dancing they made until​​ the​​ moon​​ met the first rays​​ of​​ sunlight. But​​ then​​ real​​ also​​ were​​ his​​ feelings​​ and the evening which defeated his supposedly superior powers of reasoning.

But no,​​ Walter​​ reminded himself,​​ your powers of reasoning are​​ under slept​​ and​​ heavily​​ intoxicated​​ by​​ dopamine​​ from all that dancing last night.​​ This feeling of a​​ jigsaw puzzle​​ falling into place will pass.

But then​​ the red hair​​ turned​​ around​​ and her still sleeping face made all the pieces fall right back.

For the next few minutes​​ all​​ he​​ could do​​ was​​ stare​​ this​​ puzzle​​ in the face, this puzzle he’d known for​​ less than​​ one evening, an evening he still couldn’t remember beginning only being dropped into​​ as​​ an entangled​​ electron coming into​​ being. He saw so much of himself mirrored in her,​​ like​​ two unknown hemispheres of the same earth that could​​ now​​ never be independent​​ of each other.​​ But​​ the reflection wasn’t​​ at all​​ what​​ he​​ was expecting.​​ He never thought love would be a tarot-card-reading hippie.​​ But somehow too, it made perfect sense.

Perfect sense?​​ None of this makes any sense.

“Whatta ya​​ looking at creep?”​​ Shiva​​ said with her eyes​​ still​​ seemingly​​ closed. She​​ then​​ opened them​​ and​​ began laughing, the​​ same​​ musical laugh that​​ had​​ sound-tracked his dream.​​ “Did you even sleep,” she asked​​ moving her head over to his pillow,​​ “or​​ were you afraid you’d wake up and lose me?”

“No,”​​ Walter​​ said​​ wrapping his arms around her,​​ “I slept and woke up​​ and you’re still here. So​​ I guess​​ last night wasn’t​​ a dream.​​ Unless dreams leave​​ love bites.” He showed her​​ the inside of his​​ bruised​​ lower lip.​​ She then peeled her lip and he saw hers looked the same. They both laughed.

“No​​ sir,” she said,​​ “only flesh and blood. But I guess I was​​ appraising​​ the​​ validity​​ of​​ yours​​ also.​​ It would’ve been lonely​​ this morning​​ with​​ only​​ a figment of my​​ subconscious​​ to warm me.”​​ She snuggled her​​ flesh and blood​​ even​​ closer to his​​ beneath the blankets.​​ “Bodies are much​​ warmer in the morning​​ than dreams.”​​ ​​ 

“But​​ whose​​ body’s going to keep you warm​​ after this dream ends?”

Shiva looked at​​ Walter confused.​​ “What do you mean by that?” she asked.

“Did​​ you forget I’m on a bus tour that leaves at​​ two​​ today?”​​ he said.

“Oh, no,” she said, but​​ looking as if she did.​​ “It... it​​ just felt so far away last night.​​ The​​ night​​ always seems like it can stretch forever​​ and it always catches you off guard when it doesn’t.”

“Almost​​ like a dream.”

“Yes,” she said​​ with a anxious smile, “especially​​ a dream​​ that​​ keeps you so busy dancing​​ you​​ forget about the time​​ . . . Uh, so what’s your next stop?”

“A small​​ German​​ town in the Rhineland called St. Goar,​​ then​​ Munich,​​ Tyrol​​ Austria, Venice, Switzerland,​​ and​​ Paris.”

“Sounds​​ like an amazing trip.​​ Anything planned?”

“Other than​​ visiting​​ some​​ famous headstones in Paris,​​ not much.​​ Contiki plans​​ everything​​ for you.”

“Let me guess...​​ Descartes​​ obviously.​​ Voltaire,​​ Jim Morrison​​ possibly?”

Walter smiled and shook his head.​​ “How well you’ve gotten to know me in our little time together,” he said.​​ “Also Proust, but that’s for someone else.”

“Well,​​ tell Jim I said hi.​​ His grave was the first place I​​ went​​ when​​ I went​​ to Paris for the first time.​​ I was madly in love with​​ him​​ as​​ a​​ teenager.​​ He​​ was my gateway to poetry.”

“Are you sure ‘hi’​​ is​​ all you want​​ to say​​ then?”

“No,​​ also​​ tell him this...”​​ Shiva​​ then​​ sealed​​ her lips​​ onto​​ Walter’s​​ and​​ their​​ torsos​​ imitated, arms and legs​​ knotting​​ around​​ one​​ another​​ as​​ if​​ trying to stem the​​ flow of​​ time​​ left together.​​ But the harder they pressed, the more time​​ had something to measure itself against​​ inside​​ their chests. Their hearts were ringing like​​ fire alarms.

“I’m sure​​ he​​ would​​ much rather hear​​ that​​ from you,” Walter’s heart​​ spoke​​ out loud​​ after the​​ kiss withdrew. “Let’s go to​​ Paris and tell​​ Jim​​ hi together.​​ Fuck my​​ bus​​ tour. With the exception of two people, I wasn’t a big fan anyway.”

Shiva​​ said nothing,​​ but​​ in​​ her eyes​​ was​​ a war of words.

“I’m sorry if that sounded crazy,”​​ he said.

“No...” she​​ replied, now unable to look him in the eye. Her body​​ also​​ loosened​​ its grip around​​ him.​​ “It sounds​​ wonderful,​​ but I’d hate for you to do that for me.”

“Well,​​ I​​ hate​​ the thought I’m going to have to say goodbye to you in less than six hours,”​​ his​​ heart​​ pressed on.​​ “I’m sorry again if I sound crazy,​​ but​​ how am I supposed to walk away from the person every sign in the universe is telling me​​ to​​ be​​ with, the only​​ person who’s managed to convince​​ me​​ the universe even​​ gives​​ signs?”

She​​ became even more uncomfortable, her body continuing to​​ unfasten​​ and separate.

Shut up Heart!​​ Walter’s rational mind​​ begged from the chair​​ it​​ was tied to inside​​ his head.​​ Shut up! You’re going to​​ spoil​​ love like​​ you always do by speaking too soon.

“I... I—”​​ he began

“Please don’t finish that,”​​ Shiva​​ said​​ cupping his mouth.​​ “But please don’t feel ashamed for wanting to say it.​​ Let’s just say,​​ signs​​ can​​ also​​ be traps in disguise . . .​​ Um...” she began breathing heavily,​​ “...there’s something I’ve been dancing around that I need to tell you.​​ Mags isn’t just my best friend and roommate, she’s... she’s​​ my girlfriend.”

He​​ shuttered and sharply turned​​ his head​​ away with his eyes closed​​ as if a​​ landmine had exploded.​​ He​​ should’ve known better than to​​ follow​​ his heart​​ into​​ no​​ man’s​​ land.​​ ​​ 

“W-Why... why​​ didn’t you tell me?”​​ Walter​​ asked​​ doing his best to cover his wounds.

 “Because I didn’t think I​​ would have to​​ when​​ I first met you,”​​ Shiva​​ said, her body​​ clinging​​ back to​​ his to calm​​ his​​ shaking.​​ “Mags and I have​​ always had an open relationship. But as of recent,​​ it’s been increasingly​​ open,​​ and​​ you’re not the first​​ stranger​​ I’ve taken to​​ La Lune Rouge​​ and spent the night ‘dancing’ with​​ after.​​ However,​​ it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me you’re​​ no ordinary stranger, and not just because of the signs.​​ Youre​​ the first​​ and only person​​ I’ve ever sung ‘Harvest Moon’ to​​ because I was​​ actually​​ saving it for my future husband or wife. But now my guinea pig​​ will​​ forever​​ have​​ it, along with the only tarot card I’ve ever given​​ away​​ from my mother’s deck, and I’m not exactly sure​​ why I’m​​ attaching​​ so much meaning to​​ you,​​ someone I’ve known for less than eight hours,​​ other than I’m under some strange spell​​ . . .​​ Or maybe it’s the signs convincing me.​​ Now that I think of it,​​ my horoscope​​ said​​ my love life was​​ going to be fucked this month​​ because my ruling planet Jupiter​​ is​​ moving into Gemini and the full moon lunar eclipse in​​ my sign​​ Sagittarius​​ would be the beginning of it,​​ the full moon you appeared on.​​ But​​ I never take horoscopes seriously, however,​​ the moon,​​ we’ve always shared a​​ special​​ connection. I just wish... I wish there was more time to think about it. While​​ I’m not exactly in a happy relationship,​​ Mags​​ still​​ has a lot of my heart and​​ I’m​​ not sure​​ abandoning her​​ right now​​ for​​ someone I’ve known less than eight hours—because if I leave with you​​ we both know that’s what​​ I’d be doing—is​​ the right answer either. But​​ then again,​​ it​​ is​​ now or never for you.

“No​​ it’s not,” Walter said.​​ “My tour ends in​​ Paris​​ in a week. Meet me there if​​ you decide​​ to follow the signs.​​ We are under some strange spell and it’s called​​ sleep deprivation​​ mixed with​​ toxic levels of dopamine.​​ Also, I did do a lot of drugs last night.​​ Let’s​​ wait until then to​​ see if​​ the signs​​ are speaking​​ as strongly.”

Shiva sighed.​​ “You’re right,”​​ she​​ said.​​ “Obviously we’re​​ not thinking straight, and maybe some of this is in our heads. However,​​ my heart feels differently.”

“Mine too, but hearts​​ are​​ idiots​​ we shouldn’t always trust.”

She let out a laugh.​​ “Yes, following my heart​​ to Europe​​ is what​​ got me into this mess to begin with.”

“But​​ it’s not a mess you have to stay with, and Paris isn’t you’re only option.​​ Why not​​ go​​ back home​​ to​​ San Francisco?”

“It’s...” she swallowed nervously. “It’s hard to explain.​​ Not​​ that I don’t want to go back, I just only have​​ so much​​ time left before I can never travel again, so it’s​​ now​​ or never.​​ Going back home means... it means the​​ beginning of the end​​ in a way​​ for me.​​ I know that doesn’t make sense​​ probably, but that’s the​​ best​​ way​​ I can put it. Also because I overstayed my​​ visa, I most likely won’t be able to return to Europe for a long time, possibly never if the authorities discover the illegal activities I was engaged in, and​​ it’s​​ a good chance they​​ will.”

“So what, you’re just going to stay in Europe until you get​​ caught​​ and deported?”​​ Walter asked.

“Basically.”

He​​ scoffed.​​ “Come on Shiva.​​ You’re twenty-two. What’s​​ so limiting in your life? What​​ else​​ are you dancing around?”

She smirked​​ and​​ sighed​​ weakly. “How well you’ve​​ also​​ gotten to know me in our little time together . . .​​ My mother and I’s secret,” she​​ said​​ at last.​​ “I don’t want to tell it, but from what the signs have been telling​​ me, I don’t​​ think​​ she’ll mind.​​ However, that doesn’t make it easy.” She​​ fanned​​ her eyes to dry them.

 “The​​ morning before my first day of first grade,” she​​ began after a deep breath,​​ I​​ went into her room to say goodbye and was the first to​​ discover her​​ after her​​ overdose.​​ Although it​​ was a suicide,​​ she’d been suffering with​​ Huntington’s disease​​ my entire life, but hadn’t been​​ diagnosed until​​ after​​ she was pregnant with me.​​ It​​ started​​ slowly,​​ but by the time I was four, she was basically a prisoner of her body. She couldn’t complete a sentence without stuttering or walk without falling. Then she started to sporadically forget who​​ I was, and eventually my father too, and it only got worse as time went on. There’s no cure, so we just had to watch helplessly as the disease robbed her of everything she loved about life: dancing, singing, her family, her freewill. So I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same in the same situation.”

Her​​ eyes began​​ glistening​​ again, but this time she couldn’t dry off the tears.​​ “Here’s something​​ you might find interesting,” she said.​​ “Did you know if your entire genome sequence​​ was stretched​​ around the world, the genetic mistake that caused my mother’s disease would only make up less than an inch? Just a few extra repeating lines of DNA makes the difference.​​ But did you also know an affected parent has a fifty percent chance of passing the disease​​ onto their child?”

“You’re​​ telling me…”​​ Walter​​ attempted to ask.

“Yes, she passed it onto me. I still have​​ an​​ estimated​​ seven years or so before my decline​​ should​​ begin,​​ but it can happen any time. Ultimately, however, whether by suicide or a slow regression from my body and mind, I’m not going to see anything close to a full life. But then I guess I should be asking myself if my life is already so compromised, then why should my heart be also? And​​ as the Ace of Cups says, ‘divine love always looks like certain madness in the beginning’ . . .​​ Fuck, it’s so much easier​​ looking​​ for guidance​​ from the universe than accepting it.​​ But how more direct can it be than someone with your​​ fucking​​ name on his​​ t-shirt?”

Speaking of​​ my​​ shirt...” Walter​​ cleared his throat nervously,​​ ...come to think of it,​​ there’s​​ also​​ something​​ I​​ danced around’​​ last night.”

A flash​​ of the banshee came over Shiva’s face.​​ “What?” she asked.

“My​​ friend, Dug.​​ I’m... I’m​​ 99.9 percent certain hes the owner of the label that ripped you off,​​ because indeed​​ he​​ was running a record label—or what on the surface appeared to be a record label, and​​ my​​ shirt came out of a box of band shirts he had. While I can’t say I saw​​ irrefutable​​ evidence of a cocaine operation,​​ he did have a lot of other boxes in the room with the box of band shirts he was very adamant about me not looking into. Also,​​ I did see him​​ do a​​ suspicious​​ amount​​ of​​ coke​​ for​​ the brief time I was with him.

“But the label​​ was in Paris,”​​ Shiva​​ said. “Not​​ here​​ in Amsterdam. That’s what doesn’t make sense.​​ The only reason I moved​​ to​​ Amsterdam was this was where I was told I was selling the most records.”

“Dug’s label​​ was in Paris, but​​ he​​ moved​​ it​​ to Amsterdam​​ because his girlfriend wanted to move here, however, she left him for someone else three months after arriving. Now that I think about​​ it,​​ he said his girlfriend was​​ a cabaret dancer . . . Mags​​ isn’t​​ Parisian, is she?”

“Yes.​​ When did Dug move​​ the label​​ here?”

“Two years ago.”

“And I met Mags two years ago.”

“This may sound offensive,” Walter said,​​ “but how​​ is​​ Mags’s ass compared to other asses?”​​ 

“Best​​ I’ve seen,​​ hands down.”

“Dug said the same. He also said​​ he fell in love with her because​​ she​​ was into things in bed no other girl was into.”

Shiva​​ began laughing.​​ “As a dominatrix,​​ Mags is​​ famous for her fisting​​ services.”​​ Walter gave​​ her​​ a coy look.​​ “I​​ said​​ as​​ a​​ dominatrix,” she replied to his eyes.​​ “Nobody wants to​​ be at​​ work​​ at​​ home​​ and that’s all​​ you need to know.”

“Does Mags​​ do any​​ painting?”​​ he asked.

“Not​​ that I’m aware of. Why?”

“Dug also said his girlfriend was an abstract painter who liked to mix vomit into the paint along with other bodily fluids​​ like blood and semen.”

“Where’s your shirt?”​​ Shiva​​ said​​ as if suddenly realizing something.

“Here.”​​ Walter​​ scooped​​ it up from the floor​​ and handed​​ it to her.​​ She​​ then spread​​ it​​ out over​​ the bed.

“Look closely,”​​ she​​ said, “I always knew there was​​ something about​​ this image​​ that made it seem of flesh and blood, because it is—or at least​​ some of it is. It’s​​ so obvious​​ looking at it​​ now.​​ His girlfriend​​ must’ve been the person who painted this​​ . . . Oh my God,”​​ she​​ put her hand to her face. “It​​ all​​ makes sense. But also, no​​ sense at all.”

“What does?”​​ he​​ asked.

They were then abruptly interrupted by a thunderous​​ pounding​​ at​​ the cabin door. From the door’s porthole on the other side of the boat they saw​​ a small​​ image of a​​ bald and​​ mustached man​​ poking an eye in on them.

“The deadbolt!” Shiva yelled​​ and​​ darted to the​​ door on the​​ other side of the boat​​ to​​ engage​​ it. The​​ man​​ in the porthole​​ then​​ exploded in presumably Dutch expletives.​​ Apparently he didn’t have a key.​​ 

Having followed her to the door, Walter saw​​ the​​ man​​ had​​ what​​ appeared​​ to be his family​​ behind him, a wife,​​ an adult son, and a young daughter.

“What’s going​​ on?”​​ Walter​​ asked. “I thought you said you knew the owner?”

“The​​ owner’s son​​ technically,” Shiva said.​​ “The tall guy in the blue shirt​​ out there.”

“He doesn’t look like a Deadhead.”

“He’s not. I made that up​​ last night, sorry.”

“How​​ do you know him​​ then?”

She sighed.​​ “Mostly biblically,​​ every couple of weeks​​ or so​​ in here.​​ But last week he​​ said​​ he​​ was going out of town for a week starting yesterday, or maybe it could’ve been today. I wasn’t the most sober. I also didn’t consider ‘going out of town’ meant on his boat.”

She​​ waved through the porthole at her handsome-looking beau, who​​ just stared back awkwardly.​​ The​​ father then​​ kicked the door a few times, turned to her beau, then sent him away.

“Well,​​ that bought us some time,” Shiva said. “If I translated correctly,​​ I think he has to go get​​ the key​​ for the deadbolt.​​ Let’s get​​ out of here​​ before he​​ does.”

“So...” Walter asked as they​​ clothed, “...anything else you’ve been ‘dancing around’ I should know?”

“Oh because hey Walter,​​ let me take you back to my occasional fuckboy’s boat would’ve been better? Yes, you met me at sort of​​ a shameful period in my life​​ and I’m sorry​​ if​​ I’m not so​​ ready to​​ share it​​ all​​ with​​ you right away.​​ But​​ regardless,​​ what you ‘danced around’​​ was​​ way​​ worse.​​ How could you​​ have​​ not told​​ me after you​​ learned​​ what that bastard did—what he took from me?​​ However, now I’m realizing he might have​​ not​​ been alone, but still.​​ It​​ just​​ makes me wonder if there’s anything else you’re protecting for him.”

“I wasn’t protecting him.​​ And no there’s not.​​ I didn’t tell you for the same reason you didn’t tell me about your girlfriend​​ right away;​​ I didn’t know last night would come to this. But I never planned on not telling you.​​ However,​​ now​​ I’m​​ wondering​​ what else you might be​​ ‘dancing around’​​ because you find it too​​ ‘shameful’ to tell me.​​ At least​​ I​​ actually​​ danced​​ around​​ the truth, you​​ just​​ flat out​​ lied.”

“Yeah,​​ but​​ a​​ white​​ lie hurts a​​ whole​​ lot less than​​ a​​ fatass​​ half-truth.”

“Yes, but you’ve also done your fair share of fatass half-truthing too.”​​ 

Shiva​​ scowled at him, then​​ looked​​ out the porthole. “Shit,” she said, “he’s already back​​ with the key.​​ We’re just going to have to make a run for it.”​​ They primed themselves​​ by​​ the door.​​ “Ready?”​​ she​​ asked.

Walter​​ shook his​​ head emphatically.​​ 

She​​ then​​ swung​​ the door​​ open​​ and​​ they charged forward, catching​​ her​​ beau​​ behind it​​ off-guard​​ and​​ knocking him​​ to the​​ ground. They​​ then​​ jumped​​ over his body to an applause​​ from​​ a​​ crowd​​ that​​ had gathered​​ on the bank​​ to watch​​ the spectacle. They​​ clapped​​ again​​ as​​ Walter outmaneuvered the​​ short but burly​​ father​​ on the slippery and wet boat deck​​ while​​ the​​ daughter and​​ wife watched in​​ horror.​​ 

Just as Walter’s feet made it to​​ the canal sidewalk,​​ the crowd​​ lit up​​ again​​ as the father​​ seized​​ Shiva by the arm​​ just as she was about to leap off​​ the boat deck.​​ She​​ began shaking​​ like a rodeo bull,​​ but​​ couldn’t free​​ herself.​​ She then slipped and​​ the father managed to grab the other arm and pinned them both behind her back.

Walter​​ leapt​​ back onto the deck and​​ circled in a standoff​​ with​​ him.​​ “I’m very sorry,”​​ he​​ said. “Please let her go and we’ll leave. I don’t want any trouble.”

Politie!​​ Politie!”​​ the father​​ shouted​​ back.

“What’s he saying?”​​ 

“Police!” Shiva​​ cried,​​ scowling​​ in agony and embarrassment.​​ “Walter,​​ do something!​​ I can’t get arrested.”​​ However,​​ just as she said that,​​ she​​ wrestled​​ an​​ arm away,​​ then​​ kicked​​ the father​​ squarely in the crotch.​​ “Run!” she screamed.

Adrenaline took the lead. Sprinting faster than he thought capable, Walter began​​ winding​​ through the streets, keeping Shiva’s flashing red mane in his peripheral​​ behind him.

“Run up that alleyway to the right!” he heard her shout.

He ducked into it and came upon a​​ small​​ and shady​​ garden​​ hub​​ in which​​ three smaller​​ alleyways​​ convened.​​ He went​​ into the left​​ one​​ and turned to wait for​​ her. After waiting a five second​​ eternity, he ran back out into the street. She wasn’t there.

“Shiva!” he​​ cried. But the quiet street gave no response. “Shiva!”​​ he cried again, but the same thing.

He then​​ tried​​ to backtrack his steps, but​​ two streets in,​​ he began to be unsure of his path. Two minutes​​ later his mind was in​​ a​​ terror.

“Shiv—” he cut himself off​​ just​​ as he​​ came upon the chirp​​ of a siren from around a corner.​​ 

He dipped into​​ a nearby​​ flower shop and​​ from behind its​​ window​​ saw​​ her​​ being​​ loaded​​ into a Volkswagen​​ police car. As he went​​ to the window, the car then pulled away.

Tears​​ began waterfalling helplessly as he ran​​ out​​ of​​ the flower shop and back​​ onto the street​​ in hyperventilation.​​ He​​ then​​ staggered back to the​​ garden​​ hub​​ and​​ crumpled onto​​ a​​ bench.

He’d lost her, and​​ neither​​ of them​​ had any contact information for each other.​​ Maybe love would forever be a no man’s land​​ for Walter.​​