It’s the evening of what was the likely the shittiest day on record. Snow that had fallen the night before gave way to rain the next day. What was once a dusty white winter wonderland had melted into a slurry of melting snow and deathly slicks of ice. Rain came down in shards, sharp and gray, sleet moving in gales of wind. “I’ll go to the market,” someone tells me, “When God stops throwing Slurpies at me.”
The clouds have become sparse and disorganized, leaving a less dense layer of frozen white puffs over the city. I walk down Manhattan Avenue, water dripping off of awnings and into my eyes as I stare up at an airplane cutting through fog – a quick-moving series of lights and noise. I think about being on a plane a week from today, taking another midnight trip to Paris to walk around a city filled with gray.
Brooklyn feels pink and hazy and I walk alongside an empty park with empty trees until I arrive to the front a church. Taped to the outside is a piece of white computer paper, the number five and a dollar sign highlighted with enthusiastic lines. “While the Class is Free,” it reads, “Our Equipment is Not. Please Help Us Pay Our Billz.” I hear music through the typically churchy double doors, which when pulled open, lead into complete darkness, apparently the hazard of arriving late to an event titled “No Lights/ No Lycra.”
I make my way down a set of stairs I have so fortuitously not fallen down, opening another set of doors, washing myself in music playing loudly over struggling speakers. The room is dark save for a light in the corner projecting twitching spheres of green across the floor and the ceiling. Another universe.
There are about ten bodies moving in the darkened room, a cleared and cavernous space with pillars supporting the roof. Later, when the lights come on, the room is better exposed: a wall filled with the framed pictures of saints, stained glass windows covered in clear plastic to keep the draft out, a cross, a flag.
I place my jacket on something I’m pretty sure is a couch and take off my snow boots – bulky rubber things that can best be described as tires you can wear. I can’t find my friend who invited me but I don’t think it’s that type of event anyway. The people are still darkened shapes highlighted by green, twisting and throwing their arms up in the air to their heart’s content.
As my eyes adjust, the shapes become people, all dancing on their own and however they want. The group consists of people who are all too comfortable with their fancy footwork and those who are more reserved, shuffling back and forth on their feet like fourth graders at a dance filled peers they have crushes on. I dance in a corner next to stacks of metal folding chairs, feeling the dirt on the floor grind into my wool socks.
We dance to “Material Girl” and “Return of the Mack” and a Paula Abdul song from one of the first CDs I ever owned. There are awkward pauses in between songs as the dancer-slash-DJ ques up the next song. The people that were once moving now stand in silence; the room dead quiet save for the purr of a moving fan at the front of the room. It is not an exact science. This is where its charm lies.
The room begins to fill up with latecomers: bodies to distract from everyone’s own body. People become more energetic and lively in between songs, clapping after ones that everyone collectively busted good moves to. They play music that kids in Brooklyn wouldn’t be caught dead with on their iPod anymore but are all of the age that we hold some weird secret attachments to. Mariah Carey, Blink 182. High school. Youth. Simpler times.
I swing my arms and bend my legs and dance with the green dots on the floor and I am reminded of sleep away camp when I was a little girl. We rode horses and kissed boys and drank sweetened juice out of clear yellow cups. We had dances and I always wanted the boy named Sterling to be there. Even now, nearly twenty years later, sometimes I will smell a person who reminds me of him – this boy with a freckle above his lip and a baseball cap on, dancing closely to Inner Circle’s “Sweat” with the innocence of not understanding any of the lyrics.