November 4, 2008

Jenny screams out. She’s not in pain, she’s not overjoyed; she’s screaming for the sheer fact that we’re in a club surrounded by dozens of other people, most of whom are also screaming. There’s a freedom in that scream. A raw, unyielding fuck the man as she sheds her societal constraints. But isn’t it society that made her scream? Wasn’t it proof of a yearning to be part of the crowd, even though her eyeliner and messy hair say different? Or maybe they don’t say anything at all.

Without warning, she launches herself into the crowd. The electricity and the drums are like a drug, and she just wants one more hit. She tries to drag me with her, but as the press of bodies consumes her we get separated and I am once more on the outside looking in. I could join her. I could shove my way through the mass of tight pants and bad makeup and drink it in the way Jenny does. It’s like using a straw to siphon off youth. For the night, it doesn’t matter that we probably babysat some of these kids in high school. What matters it the pulse and the grind and the unending energy as the lights flash and the smoke creeps and the band screams, “Do it to me one more time / I love the way you throw me away.”

Long minutes later another beat starts, downing out the noise from the TV I’m trying to watch at the bar. I should be keeping an eye on Jenny, making sure she doesn’t do anything stupid. But tonight I don’t care. I just want to listen to the music and have a few drinks. I want the jives and the vibes to fill my veins the way they fill hers, but I want to enjoy it with as much privacy as I can muster – have my own temporary release without the display. I gaze rapt as the numbers flash and tally across the pint-sized screen. The bartender and I are the only two that seem even remotely interested in the final score. It gets closer and closer to the end and slowly the music of the next band’s finale drops away from me, leaving only the rhythm and excitement. There’s a queue waiting for beer, but Sam or Harry or Frank holds vigil with me, throwing up a dishtowel and a finger to anyone who intrudes.

Then, it’s over. Other people are screaming, though we can’t hear the noise over our own soundtrack. But the numbers clearly show in white on red and blue. My momentary companion goes back to dwindling his line of alcoholics-in-the-making. He slides me my favorite with a nod, his eyes smiling in appreciation of the little sticker on my lapel that proudly proclaims I took part in the process. I take a swig and slide off my stool looking for Jenny. It’s been a long night, and it’s time to go home.

Flash Fiction © 2008 Leigh Teale.
First appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of The Subterranean Quarterly.

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