By Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
It’s 2012 and Cassie is dancing. It’s a Friday in spring at a place off South Street at a weekly party known as “alien sex club,” and Cassie is dancing. She is painted in pastels and primary colors from tattoos that swim like a school of carp over her body, and her hair is long and green. It swims, or swishes, or spins: whatever movement freshwater fish make is what the tail of her hair did and does. And it is a cool May night and MCA just died and Cassie asks me if I want to drink Brass Monkeys at a bar to celebrate his life and now it’s much later and Cassie is dancing.
I am not an elegant fish. My freckles are staccato notes from the poorly played piano tunes of a child and I can’t dance well with the weight of all this brass weighing me down. My legs are trees rooted into the sticky ground and my moves are the knee’s up of some workout video from the 70s; trying to get unhinged from the floor is how I use my body to communicate. The bodies are swim-schools bumping into one another. Their wet skin is exhilarating but repulsive like tearing into a filet and chomping on the pin bones. We’re all scaled monsters in the dark. The DJ plays the Beastie Boys for MCA and I don’t know whether to smile or cry, so I do both, and the whole while Cassie is dancing.
To break from the sweat, she asks if I want to go outside to smoke, her mouth close to my ear and it smells like beer and orange juice; and I always want to smoke because if I can’t be a golden carp I can be a dragon cloaked in breath like a very very drunk Uther Pendragon. We are drunk and MCA is still dead, and while outside smoking the mourning cloud of Camel Blue incense hangs around our heads. MCA is our Holy Ghost.
You need to move this somewhere else, is what the bouncer tells us as she and I create a cast of unlocked fog from our lungs too close to the entrance. It’s mist-raining, which is oddly beautiful and at the moment I grab her hand while we walk across the street like I used to when I was a little kid to make sure I stayed connected to a trusted someone but her hand slips out.
Across the street, we burrow in a doorway of a house and try to replicate the smolder of our earlier holy moment.
While we smoke, I think about the time I was 15 and finally got the courage to ask my parents if I could dye my hair. But I didn’t have the nerve to bleach it so the color never showed unless it was in the sunlight. I asked my friends to follow me into beams to cast red shimmers and grab a photo of hair that was burnt cotton candy.
And just a taste is better than nothing at all.
Cassie and I speak the secret language of too many drinks in the hyper way that is filled with confused chaotic joy. And love is a smoke halo in an evening of grieving like how sorrow pushes you together, and while I smile up into Cassie’s face just out of the corner of my eye, a dog is tap dancing behind the window.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are lion hounds who keep beasts at bay until their master returns, but in this purple-black night in the doorway of a stranger’s home the dog is masterless. Sloppy smiles are born from terrible ideas starting from the twinkle in the eyes of two troublemakers downing drinks while celebrating sorrow. And if you want to get a guard dog, you should be fucking sure that they’re actually going to guard.
I had never pet the spiny stripe of a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
While the pup wags his tail, Cassie and I huddle out of the rain and when I press my body closer to the door, the little latch gives way like when you have to pee super badly when you’re drunk but kind of can’t until you press your bladder. When locking the door, the dog’s master didn’t bother to completely shut the door.
So I completely open it.
The greenness of rabbits is a gorgeous girl silently bouncing on the soles of her feet from behind a rapidly closing door. It is 2012 and the Beastie Boys won’t ever be the same and I scarf my arms around a guard dog’s neck while it rumbles with a growl but doesn’t attack. Cassie shifts from foot to foot and yells in silence while I use one arm to fumble for a cigarette in my pocket and light it, a pastor and her lamb. Face too close to the canine but we’re still intertwined while the ribbons of smoke fill the foyer of the stranger’s home; there is so much blonde wood flooring the ground is a shining sea.
I teeth-bite the cigarette and squint around the smoke like a Spaghetti Western into the face of a person I love probably more than anyone. Watch her through the curtain of my almost closed eyelashes while she shifts with nerves.
It’s a May night about to eve into morning and the dog and I both pulse with movement while looking at our sweet girl as she reels with motion. Somewhere upstairs a light switches on but outside the magic mirror of the door, Cassie is dancing.
Copyright Cannarella 2020