Iowa Writes

RACHEL GOSCH
A Kiss Haunting: An Adventure on the Thames (part 2)


        Five minutes pass before I make a new discovery about myself: much to my own bemusement, I seem to be talented at conversing with drunken young men.  After being welcomed into a small circle of boys with wide, unfocused smiles, my opinion is sought enthusiastically upon a variety of issues that have never come up in our limited set of sober conversations.  I listen as a gentleman describes his mental awakening upon reading Orwell's 1984, and he asks me if I'm proud of him for reading.  Of course, I tell him that I am, and that he should keep reading, but his eyes widen in horror as he mishears me as saying that I've disappointed him.  I have to put a hand on his shoulder, stare into his eyes, and repeat calmly, "No, you should keep reading, that's very good!" to reassure his confidence.  I feel a twinge of guilt at my gut instinct to laugh; his relief is etched in the childish twist of his lips and the earnestness of his stare.  I let my hand fall back to my side.   
        Another boy describes his excursion to Russia next weekend, and excitedly chatters about his ambition to drink vast quantities of vodka without getting arrested, current geopolitics be damned.  He is sober enough to acknowledge the risk of imprisonment, but not quite able to stop snickering lightly between every few words.  I'm impressed by his sheer determination, but I find myself worried about him when he whips out his visa from his pocket to prove this upcoming trip isn't a fever dream on his part.  But I have to put that in second consideration to my other goals, I remind myself, so I shrug my shoulders slightly, letting my hair trace smoothly over my collar bones, and give him a sweet, amused smirk.  My muscles start tensing anxiously around my mouth.
        "Well, just be careful over there, ok?  Promise you'll come back."   
        His eyebrows fumble clumsily across his forehead.  "Why do you care?"
        I blink rapidly.  "Because. . . I'm worried about you?  I just want you to be careful?"  Was that how I was supposed to respond?  Was there an opening that I was supposed to jump through?  Are we talking about something else?  Where are we here, exactly?
        The grin he gives me is similar to that of a person seeing a beloved pet after an extended absence.  "Yeah, but I'll be fine, don't worry.  You always care about other people; why do you care so much about other people, Rachel?"
        I shrug again, this time not bothering to control where my hair ends up when I'm done moving.  "Well, we're friends, aren't we?"

        Five minutes pass before I make a new discovery about myself: much to my own bemusement, I seem to be talented at conversing with drunken young men.  After being welcomed into a small circle of boys with wide, unfocused smiles, my opinion is sought enthusiastically upon a variety of issues that have never come up in our limited set of sober conversations.  I listen as a gentleman describes his mental awakening upon reading Orwell's 1984, and he asks me if I'm proud of him for reading.  Of course, I tell him that I am, and that he should keep reading, but his eyes widen in horror as he mishears me as saying that I've disappointed him.  I have to put a hand on his shoulder, stare into his eyes, and repeat calmly, "No, you should keep reading, that's very good!" to reassure his confidence.  I feel a twinge of guilt at my gut instinct to laugh; his relief is etched in the childish twist of his lips and the earnestness of his stare.  I let my hand fall back to my side.   
        Another boy describes his excursion to Russia next weekend, and excitedly chatters about his ambition to drink vast quantities of vodka without getting arrested, current geopolitics be damned.  He is sober enough to acknowledge the risk of imprisonment, but not quite able to stop snickering lightly between every few words.  I'm impressed by his sheer determination, but I find myself worried about him when he whips out his visa from his pocket to prove this upcoming trip isn't a fever dream on his part.  But I have to put that in second consideration to my other goals, I remind myself, so I shrug my shoulders slightly, letting my hair trace smoothly over my collar bones, and give him a sweet, amused smirk.  My muscles start tensing anxiously around my mouth.
        "Well, just be careful over there, ok?  Promise you'll come back."   
        His eyebrows fumble clumsily across his forehead.  "Why do you care?"
        I blink rapidly.  "Because. . . I'm worried about you?  I just want you to be careful?"  Was that how I was supposed to respond?  Was there an opening that I was supposed to jump through?  Are we talking about something else?  Where are we here, exactly?
        The grin he gives me is similar to that of a person seeing a beloved pet after an extended absence.  "Yeah, but I'll be fine, don't worry.  You always care about other people; why do you care so much about other people, Rachel?"
        I shrug again, this time not bothering to control where my hair ends up when I'm done moving.  "Well, we're friends, aren't we?"
        He seems to agree with me on this point, leaving me with the opening to make a friendly, hasty exit after he starts going on once again about finding old Russian men to drink with on his trip.  I stride determinedly towards the door to the dance floor at the back of the bow, which is clearly marked by the multicolored lights flickering through the room's fogged windows.  When I step inside, I'm inundated by a heavy blanket of sweat in the air, the whirling disco lights, and the hollers of the dancers as they twist and slither and toss their continually loosening hair to the cool, controlled beats of "Billie Jean".  Strutting onto the dance floor, I too start shaking every limb that I can manage, clenching my arms to my sides and clumsily snapping my fingernails together as I wiggle towards the middle of the mass.
        After a few verses by myself, I am asked to dance by another boy who appears to be in dogged pursuit of cinching the title of ladykiller-in-chief.  With his purposefully undone shirt, immaculate grey dress pants, meticulously groomed beard, and completely wired blue eyes, I can't quite decide if he bears more resemblance to a modernized Frank Sinatra or a drug dealer who escaped from a Liam Neeson movie.  Either way, his arm is extended to me, with sleeves rolled up into elegant, even curves at his elbows, and every part of him seems charged with the necessity of showing action to everyone in our vicinity, and I place my hand in his, not demurely or shyly and definitely not coyly, just wanting to have the strange sensation of being in somebody's arms, and I feel my heart buzzing, not with innocent expectation, but with the suspicion that all of this is really—
        And he yanks me into a spin, throwing me across the floor like a top before sliding to my side and sambaing—actually sambaing, with quick half-steps on the balls of his feet and careful nods of his head in time with the song—so swiftly that before I can even understand what happened our fingers are locked in a tight, wet grasp and we're moving together in step and we're matching Michael Jackson's rhythmic cries to Billie Jean before I'm being spun away once again, but the boy's hand is extended perfectly, ready to bring me back to him but I can see that when I return he's going to send me dipping towards the ground and I grin with knowing ecstasy because I can see exactly what he's planning and I can't believe that he's taken time out of his life to learn how to literally knock ladies off their feet but tonight, I don't roll my eyes at the artifice, tonight I clasp that pulsing, sweaty palm and I twist towards his grip and as he catches me I arch my back with the raw intensity of a ballerina and fall as far as I possibly can, letting my hair graze the floor while my eyes trace the suddenly upturned world before me and all I can do is let my lips tremble with laughter that hangs in the stagnant sticky air around us.
        But with a quick flick of his forearms, I'm back on my feet, still chuckling lightly as the boy lets go of my hand.  "That was really good!"  He exclaims breathlessly as his palms lightly touch my shoulders.  He leans his head towards me and hurriedly grazes my cheek with his whiskers.  He's gone before I can say a word back to him, but I'm oddly at peace with this rapid abandonment for the moment.  I estimate it'll be about five minutes before the next girl ends up in his arms.
        The next song, filled with plodding bass beats that are seemingly causing my internal organs to vibrate, has started blasting through the speakers.  Anticipating the headache-inducing auto-tuned singing that's sure to follow, I start sliding through the mass with the intention of escaping onto the back bow of the boat.  The passage is more difficult than I anticipated; it feels like every person on board has been summoned to block my way for the next ten feet, as if solitude has been outlawed on this floor.  My head begins to throb, the sight of lights makes me wince, and I'm now aware that every inch of me is unbelievably sticky with self-produced moisture, making me turn my head in disgust—
        And as I look at the delirious crowd, a girl in a white dress is being paraded around by my former dance partner.  There is confusion and humor written across her face as he struts ahead and extends an arm that will be used to send her flying over the wooden floor.
        There isn't much else to do but elbow my way through the outliers of the human barrier and continue on my way.
***

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


RACHEL GOSCH

Rachel Gosch is an intern at The Iowa Review.  She is currently pursuing degrees in English/ Creative Writing and French at the University of Iowa.

A Kiss Haunting: An Adventure on the Thames will be presented on the Daily Palette in three parts.  part 1 was published yesterday.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 3!

This page was first displayed
on January 22, 2015

Find us on Facebook