What young self didn’t know was that cool is a lid that screws down tight on the swelling delight of yes. From the edge of her ancient eye, older self notices women in the dark corners of the bar bouncing in their seats. Girls titter near a post trying not to sway — girls who are surely women but seem so far from their fullness.
The dude in an oversized plaid suit and orange ponytail hollers into a microphone while the bassist ducks his eyes under his fedora and yanks on steel strings. Two spaghetti-armed boys blow brass right through the back wall.
Older self stands and strips off her sweater. She steps toward the unnamed sister, the one in a cherry red tank top and spiked gray hair. She touches her arm and draws her onto the space in the center of the room. The worn Persian rug there is a far cry from a welcome mat, but carpet is no great challenge. Years earlier, she sent her young selves scurrying off to road-test every surface. Concrete, rooftop, mountaintop, pier. Boardroom, waiting room, snowfall, bed. Every floor is a dance floor when it’s time to dance.
It’s always time to dance.
She pops her hip and snaps her hand, beckoning to the one across the room who’s been having trouble sitting still. They are three now. Soon they are five. Soon nine.
Low ceilings press in on the battered cafe. Amateur pencil sketches hang crooked the walls. Light shifts and a gleam slices across the bowl of the saxophone. Soon it’s a glittering ballroom. Soon the pulse of the Cotton Club on a Saturday night.
The wall of dudes collectively holds confines itself to straight faces and non-committal postures until one man, pushing 70 easy, steps into and sheds 10 years. The young women form a ring of cool, turning their taut backs out for protection. The rest shimmy and grin knowing there is no outside and no in. Guarding one’s soft parts is a survival skill for certain, but the older ones have learned the taxonomy of danger. They can differentiate battlefield from playground now. It wasn’t always so clear.
Here, the belly is free to roll towards the snare’s smash and crack. That’s lightning for sure, but older self unfurls anyway inside the grounded body of her scars. She twists the lid loose and drinks the song’s bright rain. She is growing older still. Time is running out, so she runs out into it. She fills her bones until they spill over with dance.