A dance to remember | AspenTimes.com

A dance to remember

We were polishing off a Friday night bottle of wine and a couple of cigars when two alluring women walked into the joint. My college roommate knew one of them, and they joined us as naturally as though it had been prearranged. I was introduced as an English lit major (the truth of the matter), which always reinforced my belief that I was an aspiring Ph.D. candidate and future English professor. The woman sitting across from me, Julie, impeccably dressed in black (always was), coldly replied that she was into Russian literature, laying the remark out there in a way that clearly implied she and I couldn’t possibly speak the same language.

It so happened that I was deep into a fall semester of Russian literary study, which in a strange coincidence of good fortune, afforded me the opportunity to assuage any fears she may have had about my ignorance of the finer things in life. We talked books and writers well into the night and forged the beginning of a subtle friendship that would bring us much pleasure, but confound us terribly, as well.

Early on, I invited her to an off-beat ballet class I was taking. She was a tall lady, about 5-feet-9-inches and 135 pounds to my 5-feet-10 inches and 165 pounds, so you can appreciate the fact that on some level, pairing us together in an off-hours, non-credit dance class might not have been the best coupling possible, but there were only four people in the group and that’s the way it worked out. The class, ironically, was taught by a former Russian ballerina, Ms. Mina Zenor, who had given up the glory of grueling stage performances for a college teaching position. So, just as literature had introduced us, Russian ballet brought us solidly together as I attempted to catch my friend Julie on her way down from a “tour en l’air” of impressive height. I kept her from hitting the floor, barely, but my body absorbed the full impact, sans finesse.

What previously had been a platonic relationship became physical that evening as she soothed away my sore muscles and gave release to the pent-up wanting. We soon were a “couple,” but under the radar, so to speak. We never pretended to love each other, never made any promises, or asked for exclusivity in the relationship, and at least for my part, never questioned it. We woke up together more weekend mornings than not, seemingly by happenstance rather than design, although we did occasionally plan dates. The sex was copious but curious and the hangovers brutal. It was as though we were doing what we thought our peers expected us to do, ostensibly giving ourselves up to decadence, while on some deeper level, we were saving the essence of our very private selves for the true love we hoped would eventually come our way. Maybe we were trying to be kind to each other, if nothing else.

After a week of spring break in Aspen, I returned to school with a lightness in my heart and thoughts of making wild, passionate love to my friend Julie. Early the next afternoon, before I’d even had a chance to call her, she pulled up out front in a silver Corvette, driven by a tall, disheveled, older man in a rumpled suit. It was over between us, I knew, without hearing a word, but there was a longing and a hesitation in our good-bye that defied reality.

As they flipped a U-turn and headed back up the street, I already missed her sweet smile and shy eyes, but my spirits were minutely lifted by the used car sticker plastered to the windshield and the thin, disappearing paint on the hood of the once flashy coach. With a wry smile, I hoped they’d at least make it until midnight.

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