I’m not blaming Nancy. It’s tempting but I won’t do it. To blame her would be to poison the air between us and potentially to blow my cover. May no one’s cover be blown tonight. May the air we breathe remain fresh and ample.
I’m not going to dance with Nancy. It’s tempting, if for no other reason than to mirror someone comfortable letting go. I am learning to let go but to mirror Nancy dancing could lead someone to think I was mocking her. This is not the night to imitate a wild nature. I will never mock Nancy for her wildness. One may or may not fall in love with Nancy but one must never make fun of her when she puts forth one of her purest selves.
I will not play the blame game with Nancy but I will dance near her as her brother has instructed. Incorporating spin movies into my otherwise straightforward maneuvers allows my gaze to sweep the dance floor like a searchlight with no incentive to shine a light on any one dancer. Is this not nonchalance deconstructed? Does not everyone dance near everyone in intimate club settings? This club falls somewhere between intimate and overly spacious because it is less like a club in its architecture and more like a repurposed gymnasium.
I will not rest with Nancy after hours of vigorous dancing but I will rest nearby and close my eyes in gratitude for my own able-bodied-ness. I will not in the timespan of a breath reach the conclusion that a guy’s sister is bent on self-destruction, but I will look at her, take the mental snapshot I’ve promised, an image realistic and unromantic enough that she might not mind me having it, and walk out into the night. On my way home, I will resist contemplating Nancy in any other way than one contemplates the unknowable life of a person just being. I will inform her brother that sis is all right. ‘I saw her with my own eyes,’ I will tell him, ‘and she could hardly be in a safer environment.’ ‘She’s dancing as we speak in a crowd whose intimacy derives from everyone dancing by themselves and together. Tonight, Charley, everyone returns home blameless and well rested.’
One morning my father came out of his room naked. I don’t think he saw me there. He must not have if he would walk out in the nude. I’d never seen him without clothes before. I can’t remember seeing him without a shirt on except for times by a pool in Clearwater. On this day he stands in the middle of the kitchen with his back to me, wearing nothing at all, while I watch from the seat of the pantry. I can’t speak. I can’t take my eyes off him. I’ve thought about it a thousand times and as far as I’m concerned there’s no reason for me not to be home for his adventure. Who thinks of going naked without their son noticing? When he turns around, I swear he sees me. Whether he does or not, he leaves the kitchen for the living room, and I follow because I must see. He approaches the big window fronting the house like it’s a picture in a portrait gallery and, drawing the curtains back, keeps his watch of the rain for what feels like an eternity. When he eventually steps back from the window, I swear he’s looking at me. Our reflections fade in and out across the window before he can open the front door and step outside into what is now little more than a drizzle. Rain doesn’t mean our neighbors can’t watch us from their windows, but this doesn’t stop him. He stands in the front yard for as long as his schedule allows for. I have no way of timing this but it seems like yet another eternity. Once we’re tired of standing there, we go around back to look at our palm tree. We stare at the tree like we’ve never seen it before. Clouds pass over. The rain lets up and starts again. We return to the house through the mudroom. I follow him to his bedroom and watch as he towels off and starts dressing. He puts on his boxer shorts and his socks. He pulls on his V-neck tee shirt and a pair of pressed slacks. He steps into shiny black shoes going to the mirror to comb his hair back. Though I’m flanking him, he doesn’t say a word but tucks in his shirt, knots his cloth tie and, nuzzling the knot up snug with his collar, aligns the knot with the flap of his fly, his belt buckle, what I want to call his shirt’s placket. Buttoning brass buttons, he inspects his rows of ribbons, and once his inspection of these rows of ribbons is over, he buffs his silver bars with his cuffs and arranges his Campaign Ribbon and metal branch-of-insignia across the surface of what we call lapel—a coat’s most prominent feature. Fitting his hat on his head, angling this hat on his head, he gets into his long raincoat one arm at a time and, clapping his heels together, says, Son, I’ll be back at the regular hour. Keep an eye on things, can you? Sure Dad, I say, and following him outside, watch him slip into a car driven away by strangers.