Microchondria, printed by Harvard Book StoreNote: The following is a draft of a flash fiction piece that I submitted to Harvard Book Store‘s Short Shorts writing contest. Winners were published in early March 2010 in a book called “Microchondria” that the store printed with its own book-making machine.

I was not among the winners, which is fitting because this version doesn’t yet quite capture the moment, and, well, this is a bit more memoir than fiction.

Heat lightning

We sat down on the concrete church steps, this skinny dark vegan brunette and I, a block away from the Chinese takeout in Union Square. It was just after 1am, after tonight’s dance ended, and dark gray clouds began to surround the bright full moon, hanging just above the treeline.

I apologized for not finding a better spot to sit. I was improvising.

“Oh, no! This is great!” she said. I detected no sarcasm. She leaned my way and smiled.

“Yeah, it was really great,” I said, looking down at my crab rangoon and pork fried rice.

She looked up, her arms on her slender legs, and closed her eyes. I watched her.

“I still feel like I am floating,” she said, her eyes still closed and her smile reaching for her earlobes.

Sitting there, I was at a loss for words. But earlier that night, I didn’t let myself think. I let my body do the talking.

It had been only the third time I had danced with her, and tonight I had snatched her up. She was new to the local tango scene. But whereas most beginning followers feel like a refrigerator that you sort of have to heave and maneuver around the room, Megan was different.

When I first saw her, I was drawn to her stance, her confidence. When we first embraced, I was pleasantly aware of her form, her surprising lack of resistance to gently mold her body against mine, her taut torso awaiting instructions. She was attentive to my every lead, even with her face comfortably lodged between my head and shoulders. She was a dream.

I didn’t want to hog her. But I couldn’t resist. And luckily, her bright wide eyes glancing my direction tonight beckoned me toward her, and, with barely any small talk, we embraced.

I gave her some of my signature moves, and she politely moaned and giggled with delight at my volcadas, where I tip her forward in a sweeping motion as her free leg falls forward and her toes make an arc on the floor. My eyes canvassed the room, and when I found some clearance, I closed my eyes, still leading her in the line of dance, smelling Megan’s coarse, black hair. I pressed my right hand slightly more firmly upon her back. I opened my eyes and did a spin. Her cheeks smiled, rubbing against mine.

Other dancers find other partners during the periodic intermission coda. We stay locked together, our embrace loosened a bit, easing off each other. We go round and round the dance floor, all night, in our own world.

With the cool summer night air gently brushing away the sweat, we chat. I’m uneasy when my hands have nothing to do, no one to embrace, no one to cling to. Megan is comfortable in and out of the embrace, and she is still comfortable here with me now.

The clouds burst as if they were old camera flash bulbs. They are witnessing our connection, as sweet and short-lived as it will be.