Amongst the masters in the zendo there is an inside joke: There is no inside joke.
- Go to homecoming. Stand still. Arms straight. Shoulder, ribs, spine flat. Gym wall. Sweat. Watch the others. Them. Watch them move. Yearn. But do not move. Do not move! Remember, the world might see you… you might do it wrong.
- Grow older. Go to prom. Hide in the crowd. Do not be noticed. Rock your body. Left. Right. Not too much. Not too much! Count the beat. One two. One two. Two. You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong! Leave early. Remember, the world is watching… they see what you’re doing.
- Grow older. Go to a party. Drink. Drink. Glance. Blue eyes. Shimmy closer. Shake your arms. High. Higher. You like big butts. You cannot lie. Bump her hips. Bump. Feel her bump. Bump. Can’t touch this. Touch her. Can’t touch this. Feel her touch. Drink. Laugh. Dance. Drink. Remember, who cares if the world is watching… you won’t remember tomorrow.
- Grow older. Go to a club. Glance. Brown eyes. Don’t think. Approach. Talk. Think. Stammer. Recover. Be confident. Confident. Take her hand. Lead her. Don’t think. Move her. Swing her. Spin her. Dip. Dive. Think. Think. Think… Think of future. Think of beat. Think of steps. And stumble. Stumble! Gah! Gah! Make excuse. Walk her home. Shake hands. Remember, the world is watching… and you cannot dance!
- Grow older. Wake up. Get in shower. Hear music. That song. The one you say you hate. Feel the water. On your lips. Lip-sync. Move your legs, your arms. Shake. Shake! Shimmy. Shimmy! Splash. Splash! Scream the words. Loud. LOUDER. LOUDER! Move your hips. Spin. Make the curtain sway. Slip. Fall. Cringe. Remember, no one is watching… no one need know.
- Grow older. Stand at the bus stop. See the wiry busker. Fedora on ground. Dollars in the felt. Guitar strumming. Fingers moving. Watch him bait the crowd. Dare the crowd. Smile. Watch your hands clap in time. Glance. Green eyes smiling, swaying. Listen to the music. Do not think. Green eyes. Do not notice your rythym. Green eyes. Do not notice your arms flowing, your legs kicking, your heart beating, your lungs screaming, your lips singing, your feet flying, the busker cheering, the horde howling. Green eyes. Do not contemplate your twists, your swings, your turns, your spins. Green eyes. Do not think as you put your hand out. Smile as she takes it. Dance. Dance. Remember, the world is watching… but she danced with you.
- Grow older. Go to church. Stand still. Arms straight. Shoulders, ribs, spine steady. Watch her walk. Slowly. See her smile. Green eyes down. Tears behind veil. Smile. Note her steps. One two. One two. One two. Tap fingers in time. Remember, the world is watching… and anything can be a dance.
- Grow older. Hear cries. Rub her back. Offer to get up. Your turn. Stumble to his room. Pick up boy. Rock. Rock. Wah. Wah. Itsy bitsy. Wah! Wah! Twinkle twinkle. WAH! WAH! Deep breath. Pause. And go: Twist. You like big butts. (He smiles.) Swing. You cannot lie. (He giggles.) Turn. Can’t touch this. (He murmurs.) Spin. Can’t touch … See her standing in the door. Laughing. Laugh with her. Don’t speak. Hold child between you. Dance. Dance. Remember, you made this world… this is your dance.
- Grow older. Watch together. See the bride and groom. First dance. Squeeze her hand. Lift your eyebrow. Look into the green. Don’t speak — conspire! Show your child how it’s done. Own the dance floor. Be at the bus stop. See the hat. Twist her. Swing her. Turn her. Spin her. Do not think. Dance. Dance. Hear the guests erupt. Only notice her. Remember, she is your world… you will dance with her forever.
- Grow older. Hold her hand. Beep. Beep. Squeeze it. Beep. Beep. Yearn to see green one more time. Beep. Beep. Know that you won’t. Beep. Beep. Feel your son’s hand on your shoulder. Beep. Beep. Try not to cry. No beep. No beep. Cry. Remember, the world dances… even when you don’t… even when she doesn’t.
- Stop growing. Stay home. Close curtains. Hear phone. Don’t answer. Hear knocks. Don’t open. No music. No music! Do not move. Do not move! Remember… no… don’t remember… don’t remember!
- Grow older. Hold the tiny hand. Compare young wrinkles to old. Feel her squeeze. Grasp. Look into her green eyes. Feel her father’s hand on your shoulder. Smile. Wish she was here. Wish she could see. But smile. Smile. Lift the child. Twist. Swing. Turn. Spin. Remember, the world has new dancers…dance!
- Grow older. Go to bus stop. Move slowly. Use the cane. Feel the sun. Watch the people. Watch them sway. Hear the music. Hear it. There is always music. HEAR IT! Sway. Like you did last year. Lean on cane. Twist. Swing. Turn. Spin. Smile. Remember: the world is dancing… you cannot do it wrong.
By A. B. Clarke