She left with the cigarette smoke, evaporating slowly into the air until every aspect of her being had vanished. I woke up to the fresh indentations of the mattress, where the night before my fingers had spent exploring the hollow of her hips and the valley of her breasts. The perfume of cherry blossoms drowned my senses in its toxic scent, clouding my irises with visions of her laugh, the crescent of her smile. She was one of those people who refused to be forgotten. The fingerprints of our escapades swim in my memory long after she had faded.
* * *
November was always a dreary sort of month in D.C, not quite warm enough for summer’s blazing kisses or cold enough for winter’s festive spirit. Instead, the streets had succumbed to an eternal state of rain. I met her in the back-alley of a slew of laundromats and department stores, her lips flirting with the dying embers of her Marlboro. Immediately I knew that I wanted those lips dancing with my own.
“Hey, stranger.” I had never been one to start conversation with anyone, but something about the veil of fog that obscured her body in a hazy silhouette left me captivated. I liked a mystery.
She grinned sort of crookedly, as if she knew the supernatural effect she had on men. The lazy cloud of vapor spiraling from her mouth were her only words. She was never much of a talker.
Her voice can only be described as a combination of smoke and silence. Words, she whispered once, are so restricting. Under the Georgetown moon, she undressed me with her bedroom gaze, her tongue carving out the dip below my waist. Letting her lips explain to me what words could not.
* * *
She was a choreographer of desire, twirling her black ribbon of lust around my neck so that I had no choice but to breathe her. The dancer, as I would later call her, was an aspiring ballerina. She lived in a hole-in-the-wall apartment in the cavities of Southeast D.C, the bad part of town. Mothers often drove by, warning their children that if they screwed their education, this was where they’d end up.
The dancer’s only true lover was the passion of a slow adagio, pirouetting while her legs lifted in arabesque. But she also had an affair with the crack pipe. When the joint was pressed against her mouth, the amber of her eyes would ignite in a way that neither ballet nor I could ever give her.
* * *
I bought the dancer a townhouse near my own, a few blocks from the capitol. When she moved in, the ebony stars of her pupils burned aglow like flames of scolding mercury. A rough smile pulled at the corner of her lips, revealing a hidden dimple.
Thank you, she whispered breathlessly. I was too busy staring at the leather couch in the living room, dreaming of the ways my hands could roam across her chest, to notice the far-away mist in her eyes. She gazed out the window, into the blue expanse of sky. Not a speck of cloud could be seen for miles.
It’s perfect, the dancer sighed.
In late March, cherry blossom seeds swelled into full bloom. They floated like petals of sunrise in the breeze, swirling about my ankles wherever I went. The dancer loved them. She pranced with them on her tiptoes, leaping over cracks of sidewalk with rose-hued carpels stuck in her hair. For the first time, she laughed, and our eyes made sunsets.
* * *
The dancer began to make love with crystallized drugs more than she did with me. At that point, I was tired of chasing after her. It had been months, and I still felt as though she were a surreal illusion, nothing more than a mirage of lust and poor decisions.
“I pay for your f***ing house and tuition, and this is what I get in return?” I pointed at the cigar straddled between her fingers. The dancer rolled her eyes and mimicked my blotchy expression. “Get out,” I spat. I have never been a good person, never pretended to be charitable or nice to other people, but at least I wasn’t ungrateful. The dancer’s irises rippled with something I couldn’t quite make out. She blinked, as if to get rid of it, her mouth hardening into an unreadable expression. Her delicate hands tightened over her small suitcase, packed with the few belongings she had; no photo albums or sentiments to bring along, just the necessities. The dancer left that night, to where remains a mystery. The house key lingered in its drawer.
* * *
I think she wanted to disappear, just to prove that she could. The coroner said that it was a drug overdose, but even with the evidence I wasn’t quite sure. When the dancer left, the world became a dream, and I was trapped inside. It felt as though fate’s invisible hands controlled every fiber of my existence, and there was no way to escape its wrath.
I never sold her townhouse, but I never stepped foot in it either. Sometimes, I sat outside my porch steps and listened to the patter of rain as it descended onto branches of cherry blossoms. In early April, entire galaxies of thunderstorms swirled around back-alleys, illuminating hunched figures lighting cigars from their fingertips. The smoke would float upwards and disappear, and I’m starting to think that maybe drugs were the only thing that truly understood her. I’m starting to think that I never knew her at all. I never learned the dancer’s name. She never told me. A name establishes a degree of sentimentality, of attachment and belonging. It only makes sense then, that she never had one.