The room was dimly-lit and crowded. Tendrils of smoke curled towards the ceiling; vibrations from the beat spinning in the corner crawled through the walls. The people were masked and swaying. Sipping a drink, smoking a stick, a couple kissing against a pillar; some talking, some dancing; all lost in the beat and in the moment.
I didn’t know any of them. None of them knew me. We were masked people escaping the reality of our lives, of ourselves and converging in a nondescript location for a nondescript party.
Nobody asks for a name, for an ID. No one offers me a drink, but the bar stood by the door welcoming those who wanted it. Nobody questions me as I join the throng on the floor, swaying into their mix. I usually needed a drink to loosen up. But, that day, in that room, under that mask, I wasn’t me.
Somebody offers me a hand. I take it and he spins me around. I laugh as the Joker-masked person catches me with an arm and pulls me close. We dance the next beat together before he lets me go, I let him go and we become a mass of people again.
A dancing train was forming and I join the tail end of it matching my step to theirs. The sound of laughing makes a heady mixture with the disco beat. We stop being masked people and become our masks. The brown eyes of an Audrey Hepburn catch my eye and pull me out of the train and onto the bench.
I slip in beside her and she offers me her drink. I refuse. I don’t need alcohol tonight. I lean in close and whisper into her uncovered ear.
“Dance with me.”
I could hear her laughter. It was clear. It was tinkling. It was mesmerizing.
I place my hand on hers and thread our fingers together. I guide her to the dance floor through the crowd which had gone silent in my head. I slip my hands around her waist and pull her close. In that moment, only she and I existed. We start swaying to a beat in our head rather than the music shaking the walls. Her hands were around my neck; her face close to mine, brown eyes staring into black. I didn’t know who she was; she didn’t know who I was. But, right then, on that floor, she was mine and I was hers.
We dance until our feet hurt; as sweat runs down our backs; as lips meet lips, we dance under masks where she isn’t who she is, I’m not who I am. We dance into a night which had no place for the trappings of the day. We dance until music stops and we could hear our hearts pounding, breathing, trembling. A lingering touch, a lingering kiss…and we let go.
I make my way home just as dawn breaks through the night sky. I take my mask off, shed the sweaty clothes and crawl into my bed. For a second, I feel like a stranger in my own bed. Then, the light hits my window ending the night…my mask was off, my ID card was lazily spinning on my bedstead and I was me again.
Image Credit: Hide Behind a Mask II by Catliv (Deviant art)