Comma

January 4, 2012
The synchronicity of his heartbeat matched the beat of the stereo system souped up from a downtown pawn shop pounding from behind the bushes. He always put the music in a discreet place so that it seemed his hands were snatching every pound, every synthesized roil, every verbal acrobatic trick out of thin air. He was, after all, a sort of illusionist: for a while, he could dance as though he was a whole person, as if he had already attained what his every waking moment was spent chasing after.
There was a good crowd tonight, he decided, as his brain worked five miles ahead of his actions to plot out every step. There was his ritualistic announcement taped onto the CD, his welcome and explanation, the placing of his tattered old fedora in front of him for the crumpled green fives and tens that always magically appeared somewhere in the heat of the act. The breeze ruffled spiky bleached hair after the hat was settled on the wet black earth and, quickly, he let his fervid green eyes scan the gathering students, drunken couples out on a late night date and wanting something to ease their boredom, and homeless people who were used to the act and could mouth the words of the pop song beginning to warm up in the stereo speakers, weaving itself off the tape and spiraling out into the night air. Then it was time.
Comma felt the low bass reverberate inside his chest, as if someone had implanted a ticking clock there and then wound it up tightly, letting it go at the essential moment. His footsteps began walking forward, eyes dropping from the morphing, faceless crowd, careful not to single anyone out lest he become distracted. This was the sacred beginning of the act, a sort of idolized expression of human movement. In this moment, transitioning from the awkwardly tall fellow standing in years-old clothes to a part of the night and the smells of the public amusement park outside the inner city, he was sacrificing something of himself to the god of the dance. Dionysian pleasure seized his limbs as he placed both hands, one on top of the other, against his forehead and then pushed himself forward to the low, heavy beat, arching his long body down, feeling as though he were in a rollercoaster seat, being thrown down at insane speeds. His feet gyrated forward, following his upper half in a mad dashing pursuit. Music crashed around his ears and he followed it, throwing both arms out and letting himself fall just far enough to provide the façade of a freefall, then twisting around on his haunches, letting the knees of his torn purple jeans just smudge the wet spring dirt of the park grounds, then climbing back up, yanked by an invisible string that conducted every movement, an eloquent but ferocious orchestration. Plaintive singing guffawed into the snappy, cold air, and the crowd was transfixed. Comma put both legs together, throwing himself backwards in a heavy jump, letting his body fold in on itself, then unrolling his limbs into a wide lunge with both arms crucified in the air for a split second before the rhythm took that position from him and dictated that he march in a wild version of keeping time with his feet, and the flesh of his body tightened with the clenching love of the dance. It followed no logical rules, but rather a rational progression from one stance to another, always moving, lead on by the music as a puppy by a chain. Cigarette smoke from lined, skeptical mouths hit his face and the calliope of the amusement park not a mile from the outlying park grounds full of grass, homeless people, and dirt tried to interfere with his pattern, but Comma was much too accustomed to the crazed beat of the music, too familiar with the soulful layers of the pop tunes, to hear anything but its unspoken commands, replying to every nonsensical lyric in the continual wave of hot music landing on his skin, drumming up a sweat. The ground beneath sneakers so worn they felt like pieces of felt around his feet began to transform itself as he chased the music, following its trail of bread crumbs from his mental woods, bursting into movement like a guru into enlightenment. His breath chugged from his lungs, exploding from thinning cheeks, and his spiked hair rumpled into the salt of his wetting forehead. He slid to the ground on his side, slapping the ground and sending himself flipping over onto his back, then pushing himself up so that every rib, facing the sleek night sky, felt as though it would crack as he walked upside down on his hands and feet, then jumped up to the music, following it into a frenzied flail, arms pumping in whatever direction he was told, legs pushing up and fighting to make his entire, lanky body streamlined to the beat. It ruled him into doing whatever it willed, let him forget the dollars being thrown into his open fedora, forced him to think about its procession from the stereo speakers behind the clustered bushes beside the park walkway. One song skipped into another, louder one, and there was no awkward space in between wherein he would have to face the people watching, or engage them in any sort of conversation. Dirt smeared across his knees as he dropped to them once more, then pushed himself up, flinging hands outward and jerking back as though pushing the gathered, eclectic crowd away from himself, then responding to the dirge-like bash of music in a flinging walk, sliding one leg in front of the other, purple denim sliding against itself in a sensual screech, listening to his breath heaving in the way it did to tell him that it was almost over, just as his muscles began protesting and slaughtering his insides, making him stop.
Then, all too soon, the music wore down. Comma finished the act and crossed both hands in a low bow, staggering to hear applause and whistles, then pulling himself into an exhausted stand, eyes blurred and dizzy, the restive urge in his bones appeased for the time being. His mind was drugged on the feral addiction to the dance, letting himself forget events he could have prevented, knowledge that evaded him, conversations he’d rather not have had. His precious mask came over him again and he fell back to stop the next, slower song, throwing an arm across his face to dry some of the wetness. His plain gray T-shirt clung to his skin like a needy child to its mother and his heart was digging in its heels, trying to catch up with his leaping breath. Comma felt a slight touch against his elbow and jumped backwards, feeling its cold sizzle against his hot hair follicles. A girl, no older than twenty one, stood beside him in fishnet stockings and a short red skirt. Comma ducked his eyes from hers, noting before he did that their color was bluer than he was used to staring back at him from a human face.
“I liked your stuff, man,” the girl said, her voice sultry and jaded from years of hardness on the streets, no doubt--every young person who was obviously not a student was born out of the street grime and carried baggage untold. “My name is Zooey, by the way.” The second part was juvenile, impulsive, and a bit shy.
“Thanks,” Comma murmured, unsure what he was thanking her for. He peeped down at the girl, letting his eyes drink hers for a minute, then returning her tiny, awkward smile before she left and walked away with the dwindling crowd, leaving Comma with his music still echoing in his ears and a sudden sweetness in his mouth.





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