Saturday, January 3, 2015

1001 Disco Nights

One Thousand and One Disco Nights

Part I

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man, no time to talk

Stayin’ Alive

That man. That man you see standing there. His eyes glittery with energy. Eyes darting round the room. He’s looking you see. Looking for a girl. One to dance with and bring a drink to, and later, when it’s time for her to leave, he’ll happen to be by the door. He’ll move in with a smile, she’ll respond with a glance of recognition. He’ll say something: separate her from her friends. Like culling an animal from the herd really. He’ll do it fast, before she has time to think. And before she has time to think––her brain is racing anyway––he’ll lightly touch the small of her back, and steer her in the direction of his car, which happens to be a Mercedes: Eggshell Blue. Inside the car––throbbing with surround sound–– they’ll laugh like they’ve known each other forever. Back at Her Place they’ll feast on crackers and grapes; they'll have sex like they’re going to be lovers forever. Dessert anyone? But it’s the first time, then the second, third, forth, maybe more, and then it’s over. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. The only forever is the forever of over. He’ll be gone when she wakes up.

Did he seduce her? Think again. Look a little more closely at the man. Because you see she knew he wasn’t really for her. Not a man that beautiful.  She marveled that he chose her. For that one moment, that one dance. It was all the more extraordinary because he was so courteous, so courtly. Making sure every step of the way that this was what she wanted. And it was. It was what she wanted. Back at her apartment, back in her bed, that place of ultimate security, he unleashed his incredible energy––an energy that she had sensed in his glittery eyes. As a lover he was more than generous. Adventurous, he found places in her that she didn’t know existed. Was it possible to experience so much pleasure and survive? The girl thought fleetingly of Semele, the mortal who asked to experience the embrace of her lover, Zeus, in his native form; he came to her then as a lightning bolt, and she was incinerated. The girl felt curiously like Semele. This sexual encounter was almost like being transformed by some elemental energy form. She felt forever changed, as though she had been born, lost her virginity and died all in one night. It was almost too much.

In the morning she thought about it. About what had happened. To her. Amazing! Every detail was vivid in her mind. She went over it again and again. Had never known it could be like this. Later, she interrogated her feelings, as women are wont to do. Was she in love? After one night? Was that really possible? It seemed so. She arranged to go back to the I-Beam that night with her friends. She thought about seeing him again. Were his eyes green or brown? Perhaps she had forgotten their color, but she had not forgotten their spark. Nor could she forget the pulse of the music, which seemed the same to her as his pulse. In her mind’s eye he moved, he shone, he flowed like quicksilver. What was his name?

Tonight she would keep her wits about her, would refuse that drink .She would get to know him. Unsure exactly what he looked like, she remembered so clearly his courtesy, his grace.

There was one thing about him, of course, that she remembered very clearly indeed, but this was something she wouldn’t mention to anyone. So long and splendid, in the beginning it had almost frightened her. She had never seen the like on a white man. Was there really going to be room for all that? But yes, there had been room for all that.

At the I-Beam that night, she looked forward to seeing him, now with incredible tenderness, as though she had known him since childhood, now with a kind of shivery excitement, so childishly expectant that she felt somewhat embarrassed by the surging momentum of her hope. But alas, after searching the dance floor for an hour or more, she had to admit to herself, and to the friends who accompanied her that night, that either he wasn’t there, or she couldn’t recognize him. Several times, she saw someone, fleetingly, from the side or the back, whom she thought resembled her fugitive lover. But on closer inspection, it always turned out that it was most definitely not he. Either the man she glimpsed turned out to have a beard, or blue eyes, a mustache, or a blond ponytail: some feature, indeed, that removed the individual entirely from consideration. She went on searching for another hour with no better success; then, suddenly, at the end of her rope, feeling somewhat abashed, even foolish, she told her friends that she wasn’t feeling well and headed home. She knew, somehow, that she would not see the man again.

So this is what they meant by a one-night stand! she thought.  Everyone was so befuddled with drink that, had they even wanted to, the individual members of the sundered couples gyrating on the dance floor could not be recognized with any certainty––not by anyone present at the I-Beam, certainly not by their passionate partners of the night before. And this is what they meant by great sex, she mused. At the time it had felt like a visitation, almost holy; but seeing her behavior now through the eyes of her friends, and worse, through the eyes of friendly acquaintances, she felt no small degree of consternation. What would people think of her, going off like that with someone she didn’t know? She knew what a rare thing she had felt and experienced, but might not people who didn’t know believe that she had been taken advantage of, used?

For while each girl that he slept with reacted to the glorious sex appreciatively, even ecstatically, at the time, by promptly falling in love, when they realized that this had been a one-night stand, moreover with a man that they could not readily identify, the female partners of the disco playboy reacted differently, each according to her character. Some secretly rejoiced at having had such a joyful experience. Some were openly proud of having been chosen. Others, though, felt that a promise, if not explicitly given, had nevertheless been implied by the gentleman’s courtesy, by the very fact of his attentions to them. A promise of what? you might well ask. For they couldn’t say exactly what had been promised. Yet their belief in a promise not honored inspired in them feelings of anger and humiliation––feelings best kept to themselves. Still others reacted with sadness at a paradise lost, or again, surprise and delight at the joyful discovery of a world heretofore unexpected, a world of pleasure that had just been opened up for them.

Yet however they reacted, these  One-Nighter girls, I confess that I envied them all. Even knowing what their eventual fate would be as they left the club on his arm: laughing, excited, flushed with alcohol and with an even headier brew of infatuation and romantic success, number thirty-four or number seventy-eight, I envied them because on a particular night he had chosen them, out of all the others in the happily pulsating, gloriously swirling colorband disco.

He had not chosen me. Night after night, he looked right through me. He felt no wish for me. Were I the only woman standing before him, looking upon him with trepidation, with desire, and so evidently loving him, and knowing and understanding him so much better than all the rest––still, he would not choose me. Rather he would walk to another part of the club.

And I had longed for him. Watching him night after night, a pillar of grace on the dance floor, a man with, seemingly, a secret source of energy: only human, to be sure, but connected somehow by the very root of his being to the life force, exemplifying its earthly thrust, reflecting too something quiet and elusive, ethereal, something of the divine, he spoke to my most secret, my innermost desires.    

What’s a girl to do? Perhaps as they say, discretion is the better part of valor; perhaps it would have been better had I continued to watch the parade. But I was heartsore and, with piety and passionate observance of the rituals, I directed my prayers to the Goddess. And perhaps , indeed, she would have gone on deflecting my prayers, but that I had the happy good fortune to free one of her acolytes, a female djinn that had been trapped in a beer bottle I retrieved one evening from a heap of debris in one of the club parking lots, having noticed how the bottle had an unearthly shimmer and shine. And though the djinn was out of sorts from having been trapped in the bottle so long––clearly an uncomfortable position for a spirit–– she was in the end obliged to grant me the traditional three wishes.

So I took my three tokens to the altar outside the City, and prayed to the Goddess once more. And when she awoke she saw the tokens, and thanking me for rescuing the acolyte, she heard my first two wishes and nodded agreement.

“I love the man who comes every night to the clubs,” I told her. “The one who–––“

“I know the one.”

“So I pray you, Goddess, grant me one thousand and one nights with the man. That is my first wish.”

“Granted. But if I am right, my girl, he has never yet chosen you of his own free will. So how shall we arrange it?”

“Great Goddess, I have considered that. For my second wish, I ask that you grant me the divine power of Seeming, that you enable me to change my appearance, to become one woman one night, another another. That I may become indeed a Mistress of Disguise––“

“I get the gist. Your second wish is granted. And your third wish?”

But I was no fool. I well knew how, in fairy tales, in every sort of lore, these wishes could often go awry. So I said: “I will tell you my third wish when the thousand and one nights have passed.”

“Clever girl,” said the Goddess. “Go then and enjoy your lover for one thousand and one nights. For, poor benighted mortal, he shall have his freedom curtailed, so that even as he imagines that he is sleeping with a thousand and one women, he will be every night with a woman who is one and the same.”

And so began one thousand and one nights of love and disco, one thousand and one nights of seduction to the never-ending tunes of the Bee Gees and their imitators. One thousand nights of disguise, of change and transformation, of appearance and reality, of illusion and deception––one thousand, and one.

                                              To be continued

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