Fiction Contest Runner-Up: Dancing Days


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so, you throw a five dollar bill into the hat that i'm holding out for you (thank you, sir), and then she's dancing, just for you, sliding up and down your lap, and turning around to give you a look at those two breasts, those perfect little wonders, those pasty-covered tetas, as she brings her body close enough to make you smell the peaches and cream lotion that's all up and down her perfect porcelain skin, making you think, oh yeah, that's right, virginia, there is a santa claus.


right here, between the old asian guy and the girl with the pigtails who clearly isn't happy that the dude sitting next to her on the r train is getting a lap dance from some redheaded slut, right here, under the banners for budweiser and bahamas, right here, as the announcer advises passengers to not give money to beggars on the train, to not hold train doors as this causes delays, to report a suspicious package and have a nice day, it's right here, my friend, that you know you are falling in love, falling hard.


you'll go crazy for her, that's for sure, straight bananas for this shit, and you'll want more, because she'll give you more. she'll give you everything you want, as long as you've got some dollars to drop into this top hat i'm holding out for you (how about it, sir? care for the deluxe treatment? just a few dollars more.)


then, all of sudden, you're guilt kicks in and now you can't stop thinking of that lovely brunette who's just now waking up on your futon bed in your studio efficiency apartment in astoria, turning over and slapping that snooze button on the alarm clock one more time. you know, that mfa student/part-time barista/girlfriend, the one who freed you from a lifetime of trolling bars like every other loser who wasted their childhood developing an extensive knowledge of every 1980s sitcom theme song instead of uh, i don't know, talking to people, the one who writes the most heartbreaking poems in the world and who once drunkenly told you a few weeks ago over a basket of fries and a sweaty pitcher of beer that she thinks she loves you. yeah, that girlfriend -- although, i wouldn't think of her right now, not while dear sweet red-headed nico here is buffing the business end of your khakis with her ass, bumping and grinding to the music playing from my boom box, giving you the best damn subway ride of your life.


so, instead, you look around, trying to focus on something, anything else, studying up on those 1-800-dial-a-divorce phone numbers, sizing up the easy visual instructions of how to escape a roaring fire on the train?but, those thoughts about your girlfriend come back, and you just can't shake them. it's got roots in you, brother, dug in deep like white people in harlem.


and just then, the song ends. i mean, hey, prince can only play his guitar for so long, y'know? so, she hops off your lap (thanks for the ride, she whispers in your ear, get it?) and goes back to doing some savory pole moves for the benefit of the new passengers, leaving the front of your pants looking like you just shoplifted the empire state building. you turn to me for me help, but, i'm already done with you. i'm moving down the car and starting up another lap-dance speech for a fresh crop of would-be buyers:


that's right, i tell the crowd, for the price of a bullshit cup of coffee, you can have lovely nico here gyrate up against your good parts. what do you say, any takers?


and, damn, if i ain't a little surprised to look back and see you digging in your pockets for another fiver. i can tell already, as you fish it out, that this one was meant to pay for your lunch today, wasn't it? i mean, you're the one that's on his way to that job interview, the first one in two months ? but, hey! you deserve a little appreciation!


so now you're calling me over, looking me in the eye, and i know what it means when you do that. you're seeing me with my top hat and my jeans and sneakers and boom box, and you see me with that lovely ms. nico, and you're thinking something about how this is one of those life-affirming new york moments or some shit, like i'm playing the role of the latino scratching to make a living on this cruel streets, just trying to outrun the shadow of some pathetic father figure slowly dying up in the bronx, some old timer still fiending for a needle to plug up his braille-looking arms, eyes with a million cataracts but still seeing all that ass he used to bang back in the day, dreaming of a little sabrosura, like it's 1975 again and his name's hector motherfucking lavoe.


yeah, you look at me, and you're playing out that little after-school special in your head, and then bang, you feel this connection, this kinship from one working man to another, so you raise up your hand with that five dollar bill, and as it drops into my top hat, you smile and say to me in some stupid-ass fake accent that yes, sir, you'll have another.


but, then, the train doors open, and you realize that this is your stop. now, you've gotta get off, but you haven't gotten off, you dig? you'd skip your stop, but then you'll be late for that interview and you'd be goddamned if you lose that because of a little lack of restraint. i mean, what would your parents back home in illinois say? what would that sweet thing back on the futon say? she sure as hell won't let you read any more of her poems, that's for sure, let alone have you sniffing around anywhere near her panties.


so you look over at nico, one last time, as she spins on that pole for a brand new audience, a new car full of commuters, her body glowing with sweat, a subway angel, you think, a beauty of the underworld, a mass transit nymph, la bellisima, all those platitudes, whatever-whatever, and then you're standing on the platform, outside, and the subway doors are closing, and the sound is hard and final like someone closing the palace gates on a lowly beggar in the dead of winter.


ka-chunk.


and she's dancing still, through the window of that closed door, and now she owns you, she owns your eyes as you watch her in that subway car, as the train leaves the station, and you stand on the platform, surrounded by people who don't give a shit that the love of your life is leaving you forever just as quickly as she arrived, carried off by cruel fate, moving at the speed of train. yeah, she owns you, my friend, owns your eyes, your nose, every inch of your skin, every thought in your head. she owns you, and you may as well just jump down and soul-kiss that third rail, because she's gone, disappeared down the long tunnel.


gone, baby, gone.


and, maybe you'll ace that job interview, and make a hell of a starting salary, making beaucoup money, as my abuelo used to say. maybe you'll get some stocks, some health insurance, get that toe-hold in this big scary city. yeah, maybe you'll get all that, and when you get home, you'll have wonderful miss mfa waiting to give you a big kiss and, probably, if she's not too tired from standing on her feet all day, a little of that special loving, too. yet, despite all that, despite today possibly being the first day of the rest of your life or something, you'll still write it down as a loss, because let's face it, pal, you should have stayed on that train.


too bad. oh, and, by the way? thanks for the five bucks.


sucker.





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