It’s been such a good day! Morgana, tired from a productive, fun day at work, still remembers to stay in regal countenance mode with her head held high and her shoulders back. She reflects on the benefits of trying just a little bit harder to look and feel better.
Instead of taking the elevator, she opens the door to the gray, gloomy stairway to tackle the six flights up to her apartment. As she schlepps up the stairs, her footsteps echo and bounce around her in the cavernous void. As exhaustion takes center stage in her mind, her mood begins to flag and a sense of foreboding seeps into her spirit.
Morgana fumbles with the key to open the door to her apartment. Uneasiness washes over her as she realizes at a very visceral level that Jack is not there and that she is alone, really alone. The emptiness feels so very big.
Out of habit, she heads to Jack’s room, and opens the door with a feeling of dread, knowing that she will still be shocked to see exactly what she expects to see: The room devoid of Jack and his hospital bed. The only thing that remains is a resounding sense of loss, together with small flecks of paper, bits of fuzz and hair and an errant paper clip or two suspended among the springy loops of the new Berber carpet. The tracks in the carpet made by the rolling hospital bed being pushed, pulled and cajoled out of the room bear silent witness hours later to Jack’s retreat to the even-further estranged margins of her life.
Almost reverentially, she slowly sinks to her knees and runs her fingers through the tracks on the carpet, as if trying to wrest from the carpet’s fibers the essence of Jack’s departure. She can almost feel the jostling of the bed’s dense rubber wheels kneading the carpet, the small vibrations waving through and rocking Jack’s almost-lifeless, debilitated body. She wonders what he was thinking, if anything, as he watched the ceilings and the tops of the door frames slide over him. She wonders if the morning light had kissed his pale face and warmed his heart, lending him the hope he knew he couldn’t keep. Her elbows dig into the carpet and she rests her head on her forearms. Big, hot tears of remorse spill onto her arms and hands. She stretches out her legs and, now flat on her stomach, surrenders her sobs directly onto the carpet’s tracks.
After half an hour or so, she gets up and feels not only light-headed but physically lighter. Back in her own room, she hangs up her blue outfit and puts on some floppy grey sweat pants and a grey hoodie. Not a good look, but who’s looking?
In the kitchen, she picks up and reads a note propped up against the wooden pine tree napkin holder.
“Dear Morgana, Jack’s doing just fine. We’ve got him downstairs, all set and ready to go. Just a reminder not to worry—he’s in good hands. See you tomorrow morning around 10:00AM. His new room number is 504. Get a good night’s sleep! As ever, Rocky.”
Everyone acts as though Morgana still loves Jack—even Morgana. She wishes she could stop loving him as he had stopped loving her so many years before. She actually thought for the longest time that she was so over him. Then he just had to have this stroke, he just had to become this helpless person who still has the power to stake a claim on her present, her future and her emotions. And she can tell no one how trapped she feels, how not in control of her life she is, sitting at this long, interminable red light forever, stuck in the local traffic of The Void, the resentment building inside her as she continues going nowhere, doing nothing—she can tell no one how she feels, except Jerinda. And Jerinda! Oh, God! What’s up with Jerinda? Oh, how she misses Jerinda, her emotional right arm! Where is she, other than somewhere in Switzerland? Is she dead? Is she alive? Well, maybe she can talk to Dr. Valenzuela…
“I know,” she thinks, “I’ll make tomato soup.”
Tomato soup is the one thing that always makes her feel better. She opens up a large can of crushed Italian tomatoes, and empties it into a pot, along with a can of water. She turns the stove on, and proceeds to throw in a few whole cloves of peeled garlic with about 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt and about ½ of a teaspoon of black pepper. Usually, she pours in a few tablespoons of olive oil, but thinks better of it considering the calories she’s now hell bent to avoid. Once she brings it to a boil, she whisks in a few shakes of curry powder, onion power, and a little lemon juice. She sets the timer for 30 minutes, covers the pot, and turns the burner’s temperature down to “simmer.” Her mother used to say, “When in doubt about how high to crank up the burner, just remember that ‘simmer’ always knows what you want, even if you don’t.”
Her cell phone’s harp sound alerts her to an incoming text. It’s from Gerri!
“Hi, Mom! Working late tonight, but just in case you need me, text me and I’ll call you. Otherwise, see you this weekend.”
Morgana smiles. That Gerri! How did she ever get such a great daughter? Just knowing that Gerri is always looking out for her is such a relief. Morgana does her best not to be a burden to her daughter, but the trust she has in Gerri never fails to fortify her wounded soul.
She taps out a quick message: “Hi, Sweetie! All’s well! Not to worry! I’m all set to visit Pop-Poo tomorrow at 10:00 AM. I don’t anticipate anything new to be happening, but I’ll give you a quick update then. Don’t work too hard!”
The soup was just what she needed. Two big bowls later, she soaks in a nice hot bath, clearing her mind of everything except that warmth that smooths the kinks out of her tensed-up muscles, gently untangling the knots of her emotions.
She eases herself into bed, swaddled in her lumberjack nightie, grateful for the toasty comfort of home, even if she is alone.
Her thoughts gravitate back to Jack. She exhales a long, pent-up sigh, and admits to herself for the umpteenth time that she no longer loves him, that it is only her guilt that is holding her hostage. But what does she have to feel guilty about? What does she owe him? Keeping up appearances for the kids’ sake as the dutiful, long-suffering wife? She’s already done that for way too many years now. The marriage is dead—it’s been dead for almost forever. His fault, her fault? At this point, who gives a rat’s ass?
She’s tired of thinking about it, but not too tired nor disillusioned to focus on something a little more indulgent. After all, she still has a life to live, doesn’t she? Some other voice in her head obviously agrees—she can almost hear it shouting, “Yes, you do have a life to live, goddammit, so stop futzing around and get to it, already!”
Hmmm….Maybe this would be a good time to transfer to Rain? Maybe?
A thrill wells up inside her, just like the feeling she used to get on a Friday afternoon, before she married Jack, when she would suddenly remember that the work week would soon be ending, and that she’d be out that evening, laughing hysterically with her tipsy girlfriends, roaming the city in search of adventure, magic and romance, decked out in party clothes, the languid night stretching out before them, beckoning them to partake of the pleasures that were hopefully lurking just around the next corner…
And just like that, she activates the transfer by concentrating on her password.
She awakens as Rain, just as she left her last time: In her cute little white chemise, her gorgeous hair splayed out all over the pillow.
This time, there is nobody sitting by her bed. She’s surprised to find that she’s on her own, but given that she already knows something about how to proceed, she is unperturbed. She gets up with deliberate, smooth movements, walks to the foot of the bed and looks in the mirror, just to reassure herself that she’s still Rain, that Rain is still perfectly stunning in her little white chemise. She twirls slowly in front of the mirror, and smiles coquettishly at her incredible reflection.
The image of her Mystery Man flashes in her mind’s eye and once again, a hot, steamy sensation works its way up her spine. A sense of joy steals upon her as she makes a beeline for the closet. The only thing hanging there is a black cocktail dress just made for dancing—an uneven hemline with a dramatic split that would free one’s right leg to pin down a passing love interest just as a black widow spider might nail down the object of her desires. She smiles at the absurdity of imagining herself as a black widow as she locates her lacy black panties and her matching push-up brassiere in the lingerie drawer of the dresser. She also finds a pair of black fishnet stockings. Ooo-la-la! A little kinky, she thinks, but why not? Kinky never made it into her first 47 years, but the next 47 aren’t spoken for yet, so…. She perches on the edge of the bed and guides the stockings over each foot and eases them slowly over her long, silky, shapely legs, wondering how they will stay up without something like a garter belt—not that she’s ever had one of those! Oh! She doesn’t even need one—the stockings stay up all by themselves, gently hugging her non-jiggling, firm thighs. Now, that’s a nice pair of stockings! Back to the mirror. Oh, my goodness, she thinks. What would my life have been like had I ever looked like this? She probably wouldn’t have settled for Jack, that’s for damn sure, but she’s sure not thinking of Jack right now, even if she were able to remember his name!
She slips the black dress over her head and wriggles into it as it slithers down her slim, smooth body, coming to rest at all the right places. She can only assume that this marvelous dress was made just for her. She slips on the shoes—a pair of strappy, black, open-toed dancing shoes with 3 inch heels! Oh my, she thinks, I wish I knew how to dance!
Back to the mirror. As Rain regards her image, she becomes impatient to leave the room, and see what the day has to offer. Before leaving, she wonders if she needs any makeup, then laughs at the thought! Ha! Makeup! Why bother improving something that has already surpassed “perfect”?
She heads straight to The Lounge, enjoying the sexy stride and the rhythm of her hips, this new posture and gait courtesy of her high heels. In her real life, she’d be concerned about a devastating fall, developing plantar fasciitis, and future bunions, but thankfully, no such problems will ever be an issue for Rain. She practices holding her head high with her shoulders back, restricting her arms to a slight swing, tilting her pelvis just so in order to walk like a model sashaying down a runway.
Opening the heavy, smoked glass doors, she finds herself in a crowd of people all learning the Tango! She quickly finds herself a place in line with the women who are wearing different colors and styles of dance dresses and high heeled shoes. Facing them is a line of men who are wearing suits of different colors and styles, but all with white shirts opened at the collar. The two lines watch each other through the dim light. Excitement crackles through the air like an electric current frantically seeking a lightning rod.
The first melancholic strains of accordion music send a collective shiver through the crowd as the women step forward in unison to meet the line of men. The two lines dissolve into pairs, each couple locked in an embrace which is at once formal and sensual. The man who is Rain’s partner leads her expertly through the Tango, and she is amazed at how she already seems to know the dance. Her mother from her real life had always told her that with the right partner, you could be a total klutz and no one would ever know that you had two left feet. Once again, her mother was right!
She and her partner do not speak. She notices at the beginning of the dance that although he is a pleasant-looking fellow, he does not seem particularly attractive to her. But now, as he holds her tightly, guiding her while her feet glide, tap, cross over and trace deft figure eights, their eyes lock into a closed-circuit communication that seems to generate a searing heat between them.
Rain suddenly remembers the time in her other life as a teenager when she once giggled from the sidelines as she watched a rather unattractive couple in a dance contest take the floor. They stood watching each other, and as the music started, they embraced and began a highly choreographed, torrid Tango. As the dance progressed, the tension between the two increased as their faces grimaced slightly, betraying an intense passion that transformed the pair into an instrument of the music itself. She found herself wishing that she were that woman, locked in the throes of this libidinous conversation spoken by rhythm ignited with desire. All of a sudden, the same man, who had seemed so unattractive before, now exuded an animal magnetism that left her stunned and incredulous. How could it be that a dance had this kind of power?
For how long does Rain dance the Tango? Who knows? All she knows is that they dance and dance for hours that she wishes would never end, and although she doesn’t laugh once, she has the best time she’s had in years. It is so extremely satisfying to dance with such passion and synchronicity! How she has never before experienced that particular joy, she does not know.
The music finally stops, and the couples split apart, as if an electromagnet has been abruptly shut off, instantly releasing everyone from an invisible bond. The whole chattering, excited crowd of dancers moves on to the Piano Lounge, where pizza is being served. Oh, pizza! How she loves pizza!
Rain finds herself a seat in one of the little circles of armchairs and sinks down into the soft cushions. Unbidden, the waiter brings her a glass of red wine—he must have remembered her preference from the last time!
“So what did you think of the Tango?” asks the red-haired beauty to her right, who also hands her a slice of pizza from the small round table in the center of the circle. Rain smiles and thanks her as she accepts the pizza.
“I loved it! I can’t believe that I learned it so easily! It must have been the partner I had. He just seemed to push me in all the right directions–but that doesn’t explain how I knew how to move my feet. I’ve never had dance lessons. What about you?”
While the red-haired beauty answers, Rain savors her first bite of pizza! It’s soooo good! In her real life, she would have scarfed it down in two minutes, but the pleasure she is taking from that first bite needs no intensification. She sips her wine with the same pleasure.
“No, me neither! I thought it was great! In my real life, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time! I’m really loving this! I wish I could stay here forever! By the way, my name is Graciela.”
Rain takes her hand and says, “My name is Rain. I feel the same way. How long have you been coming here?”
“I’ve got another ten visits and then that’s it.”
“I’ve only been here once before, so I guess I’ve got 29 more visits.”
“So you probably don’t know much about this place yet, do you?”
“What do you mean? How much more is there to know?”
“Oh, quite a bit. But I don’t want to spoil it for you! You’ll discover everything on your own. The more you discover, the harder it will be for you to give it up. Or not! Who knows?”
“Alright then, one question, Graciela….How do you think we learned to dance the Tango so fast?”
“Well, that’s easy—Have you ever heard of ‘machine learning?’ That’s what it’s all about! As you must know, we are like robots, right? We’re transhumans!”
“So this is all programmed?”
“Well, yes and no. This experience is not programmed—it’s real and we are really here in real time…but, you already knew how to dance the Tango before you tried it because someone else has already danced the Tango in your tenem—while you weren’t in it.”
“What?” Rain puts her pizza down in the middle of the table. It hasn’t occurred to her that anyone else would be inhabiting her tenem, at least not for the duration of her 31 visits! She feels the sting of being scammed, as if she’s just bought the Brooklyn Bridge from Peaches O’Day.
A light tap on the shoulder distracts Rain from Graciela’s unsettling revelation. She looks up and is instantly captivated by the mesmerizing gaze of her Mystery Man! He holds his hand out to her, and with as much grace as she can muster, she puts her hand in his, rises, and without so much as a backwards glance at Graciela, she allows herself to be led away from the Piano Lounge.
The two walk hand in hand in silence down the glass hallway which leads them to a large empty room with bare floors, which is dimly suffused with a magical twilight glowing through a wall of windows. As the door closes heavily behind them, he takes her in his arms, and they stare into each other’s eyes.
From only God knows where, beautiful Tango music permeates the room and Rain is swept off her feet by the sexiest man in the world. This would be a swoon, but not exactly—she is dancing in a trance from which she hopes to never emerge.
Video Credit: youtube, Tango Sexy Dance Santa Maria HD video HQ audio, by Gotan Project: “Santa Maria,” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3vsiiRK5GU)
Photo Credit: http://www.youtube.com: Dancers Mauro Caiazza and Daniela Kizyma