Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Dance

The ballroom is spectacular.   The decorations are perfect.  The band plays music you love, that makes you feel happy and alive, it's the perfect accompaniment to the movements of the dancers as they ebb and flow around the room.  The tuxedos are crisp and pressed, the brightly colored ball gowns wave in time with the music.  Laughter fills the air.

Affliction has paired you with one specific partner, joined at the hip for all time.  You lead your partner 'round the floor as the dance goes on.  You insist on the lead, and all is as it should be.

Sometimes you stop for refreshments.  The punch in particular is quite favorable.  It's a sweet, effervescent blend of the freshest fruit juices and sparkling water.  Made just for the dance, it seems indistinguishable from the proverbial nectar of the gods.  Perhaps it is just that.

The floral arrangements arrayed about the room lend further splashes of color to the festivities.  Bright arrangements, picked just at their peak. Sometimes you swing by on a circuit of the room and catch the delicate scent of the mixed bouquet.

The sunlight streams from the windows, brightening the whole room, twinkling in the bubbly punch, drenching the flowers with life-giving rays.

Your hands, and your partners', are in the perfect waltz position.  Any ballroom dance coach would beam with pleasure as you floated by, as if carried by the spring breeze.  One hand raised to the side, one hand on a waist, 'round the floor you go.  Barely do your feet touch the floor.

Sometimes your partner whispers, "Oh can't I lead for a bit?  You must be tired from all this dancing.  Let me lead."

A smile.  "No, I'm fine", you respond pleasantly. 

And the dance goes on. 

Then, later, a moment of distraction.  A smile and a nod to someone across the room.  A yawn.  A blink.  Suddenly all is not as it was.  Your moment of inattention has allowed a change to take place.  Your hands have somehow reversed and now the hand that was raised is on a waist, and the waist hand is held high.  In an instant, your partner is leading.

You've been led before, and a feeling of dread starts to rise, for you know what comes next.

A transformation seems to come over the room.  A transformation that is strange, yet not a stranger.  Not for the first time, and perhaps not for the last, you wonder if it's real.  You can't be sure if, now that your partner is leading, everyone else sees what you see, hears what you hear.

It's much darker in the room now, as the sun seems to be filtered through some sort of haze.  The sparkle, the shine, the warmth, have all disappeared.  The punch sits in the bowl.  It's inexplicably flat, and completely tasteless.  The flowers, deprived of the sun, have wilted.  The bouquet of aroma has gone from the room.  The colors of the dresses seem to have faded.  They almost look dingy in the changed room.

The band, moments ago the best musicians one could hear, now sound discordant.  Off-key notes ring out and echo in your head.  The music is too loud, played poorly, and you aren't sure you recognize the song.  Still, you've heard it all before.

Now your partner whispers different things in your ear.  Disapproving things.  About how you don't measure up.  The disapproving tone seems to come from all sides, as if your fellow dancers were judging you, and finding you wanting.

You are really tired now, for the pace of the dance seems to have increased and your energy seems to have been drained.  If you could just could sit, rest, breathe deep, you'd be able to stand up refreshed and lead once again.  Your partner ensures the dancing never passes a chair.  Weariness creeps in.

A small part of your mind protests.  "Wait - this is all wrong.  Wasn't it really nice in here just a few moments ago?  How did this change?  This isn't right at all."

Your partner, as if hearing the same thoughts, speaks in reassuring tones, "Just let me lead."

The small part of your mind that had been objecting grows ever smaller.  Soon, you can't hear it anymore.  Of course the ballroom has always looked this way, rooms can't transform in an instant.  Must have been your imagination.

Sometimes, when the ballroom is at its blackest and the music at its most discordant, something else happens.  Your partner, taking advantage of the darkness, leans in very close to whisper softly.  Almost too softly to hear.  Something about hurting yourself.  But that couldn't be right, could it?  Then you hear it again, seemingly from another direction.  You are sure the words are coming from your partner but they seem to surround you.  What's worse, in your current state, the words seem to make sense. 

"Yes, yes, it would be better if I weren't here", your mind says all by itself.  How'd that happen?  How did your partner's ominous words get into your subconscious, laying waste to all you thought was true?   

"But it all seems so sensible", your mind chimes in, fuelled by the faint whispers of your partner and the growing chorus of negativity that's all around you now.  Your partner smiles cruelly and stokes the fire some more, supplying a non-stop stream of thoughts you know deep down to be wrong.  You know them to be wrong, but they are crashing over your soul now like waves.  It's difficult to remember where you are, the reason for the dance, or why leading was so important not that long ago.  It's kind of hard to breathe.  And what was that last thing you said?

You are really very tired now, and your partner continues to lead.  Round round you go, tired and beaten.

Then, a moment of distraction.  Your partner stops for a moment to sip the tasteless punch.  It's an opportunity.  You find the energy, somewhere, to take it.  You snap your hands back to the raised position, the other on a waist, and once again, you are leading.

The haze goes out of the room as the spring sunshine courses through the room.  You notice the beauty and deep colors of the flowers once again.  The bubbles in the punch sparkle in response to a wandering sunbeam.  The band, moments before hunched over their instruments and struggling to play, are suddenly the picture of musical perfection.  The darkness lifts.  You look around, unsure of reality for a moment, as the world returns to the way it was.

A fresh new energy courses through you.  Head high, back straight, you briefly wonder how, moments before, you could have been seriously considering the awful things running through your mind.  You're thankful that you came through it...again.  

After a time, you hear a voice, "Can't I lead?"

You know, as you've always known, that your partner must never be allowed to lead.

And the dance goes on.

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