the lady in the blue dress

Our team had won the football game and now the band was playing and hips were swaying and underage men and women were screaming Barry Wylie’s song back at him with equal parts vigor and slop. From my perch the bar swirled as if stirred, and with both hands I held on to the table to keep from falling. The room was hot and sweaty and crowded. Suddenly I was moving, dancing, sweating, laughing, grabbing the hips of a woman I’d never met and we were kissing, her tongue on the roof of my mouth, my tongue on her tongue, the stink of sour fruit on her neck, her hand on my neck, my hand on her ass. The band was roaring now, the saxophone tat-a-tat-tat-tatting high above the trombone and the bass guitar, Barry Wylie’s voice as deep as a Japanese drum, a hundred boots stomping on the hardwood, the air thick and heavy, the bar gone red. I wanted to get on stage, or at least next to it—close enough for that sax to really smack me in the face—so I took my lady’s hand, our fingers knotted tight, and danced my way through the lovers and the tanked and the elbows-locked fingersnappers, bumping bellies and booties until I could see the spit on Barry Wylie’s lip.

Ted Lee was there—of course Ted Lee was there—his tongue half-way down the throat of the lady in the blue dress, bending her back at a steep angle, looking like he was trying to eat her, her looking delicious enough to eat. They hadn’t even come up for air before the sax man all of a sudden stopped blowing and the wind in the place collapsed. Ted Lee shouted at Barry Wylie to get it going again, calling him Barry as if they’d known each other for years, and then he saw me and we exploded into each other, Lee hugging my lady, me hugging his, Lee flashing his big, white teeth and the rest of us roaring laughing at him, anxiously waiting for the music to start up again and for the lights to stay dim and the room to keep moving.

While Lee entertained us, the lady in the blue dress stood next to me. Her dress was made out of a silk that caught the light like fish scales, and when it stopped her legs kept running out of it. She wore three rings on her finger, one for every man who had ever proposed to her, and she held my arm to keep from falling. Earlier she had introduced herself as Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, pronouncing it in a British accent that had only gotten better after the first drink. She had a way about her that told me she needed to be with people in everything she did except when she went to the movies. When she went to watch her pictures she didn’t want anybody around.

At some point, as if it had never left, the music was back on, descending onto the dance floor like a Frisco fog. Ted Lee danced with his eyes closed, shaking his head at the ceiling. I was beside him, as I had always been, my heart pounding through my shirt with the current of uncertainty. The lady in the blue dress had her hips in mine. She grabbed my hands and pressed them into her thighs. We stayed this way for a full number, grinding meat into meat. Then she released me and stepped away, and I watched her sway by herself, the light glancing off that blue dress, her eyes closed, lips tight, the line above her eyebrow deepening as a bead of sweat followed the curve of her jaw; a shining beacon in a weary world.

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