LAST DANCE • by Forest Ray

Before you go, you can revisit any day from your life, said Death.

Señora Damaris sat in her musty sofa. The TV chattered soft and mindless and the late afternoon light silhouetted a fly on the window curtain. Damaris exhaled a tired and rattling sigh. She closed her eyes and night fell and the lights of the Festival de Santa Lucia illuminated the darkness.

Come, Damaris, beckons Osvaldo, young again and trim, before surrendering his body to cheap beer and the dissatisfaction of delayed dreams.

Damaris floats from her chair and sways through the throng of dancers, her friends and neighbors. She passes the mayor, don Herberto, and his laughter rings like cymbals crashing together. He buys shots and shares his cigars, still believing that the road will be finished and the trucks will stop through and then the businessmen and then the tourists.

The music moves the dancers, a single throbbing body with a heart of brass and drums and Damaris just one cell beating in time. Cheeks puffed and eyes almost closed with effort, Chucho breathes passion into his trombone, an aorta connecting him to the crowd. Emilio stands at Chucho’s side, fingers firm and precise, hammering out melody on the buttons of his trumpet.

The band plays with joyful fury. The dancers sway and stomp their feet. Osvaldo’s hands are strong and not yet calloused and his eyes shine brighter than Damaris has seen them in so long, stars in the darkness, cold and clear and impossibly beautiful. The world spins the dancers or is it the other way round and Damaris laughs and sweats and spins.

Amidst the bright festival clothes, she glimpses Tía Juli, who laughs and drinks too much and cries, telling everyone how much she loves them. Lights burn, the crowd dances and fireworks deafen and dazzle. Father Danilo stands unsteadily and tries to give a solemn toast, but the lights and shouts and laughs and brass and drums overrule him and he smiles an uncertain smile, glass half raised and mumbles something to himself and his god and sits again, fading amongst his feasting neighbors.

Damaris breathes and the dance moves. She steps and the dance gyrates in time. She is the dance and come, Osvaldo says, are you ready?

Sí, amado, let’s go now.

Perhaps stars light the sky, but Damaris’s milky eyes cannot see them. Skin wrinkles, sounds fade and light dims. She passes from her sofa through a warped wooden doorway and into the night. Behind her, only yellowed drapes, a musty sofa, a crooked door. An old woman. The TV chatters soft and mindless.

Forest Ray lives with his wife in a Subaru Forester, traveling throughout the Americas. His stories are inspired by experiences on the road. He is currently based out of Chivay, Peru.

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