a story by Stephanie Dethlefs

Your friends push you to dance with him, and so you do. The rhythmic pulsing of the club music moves the crowd on the floor like ocean waves, the bright blue shots you took from test tubes handed out by an exhausted waitress in miniature black clothing now numbing your limbs. He moves closer, hand on your waist, but dancing is your thing, and it doesn’t matter if he’s there or not. Each song bleeds into a new one and you forget where you are, the first night on a spring break trip to a desert town with girlfriends who now want to leave, except one, the only one as drunk as you, the only one also dancing with a boy whose face she can’t really see. The two of you sloppily protest that you have each other, you can find our way back to the condo you’ve rented. They go.

Photo by Maurício Mascaro from Pexels

You dance for another hour, closer to your partner with each song, kissing a little until the glaring lights come on, stripping you down to your sweaty hairline and smudged eyeliner. In this light he is not what you thought, looking more like a Picasso painting than a young Army soldier but he has promised you a ride home and so you follow him out the door clinging to your friend who will protect you, and you her, except that when you arrive in the parking lot you realize that the two young men you are walking with didn’t arrive in the same car, don’t actually know each other, and then you are alone with your soldier and his buddy slouched low in the backseat – “You remember him, right?” – but you can’t seem to recall having met him in the club and then you are on the road, streetlights blurring as he races through the town, your head resting on the cool window. It doesn’t occur to you what we see, cringing with the horrified anticipation usually reserved for scary movies, when everyone knows the monster is behind the door but the stupid girl (always a stupid girl!) opens it anyway; that he is going to keep driving straight out into the desert and…

You can’t really remember the way back to the condo, you think it’s this street but maybe that isn’t right, and he weaves his way through town – perhaps he shouldn’t be driving, but this hasn’t crossed your mind either – and his hand is on your thigh and suddenly you realize that you don’t know his name, but it’s too late now to remedy that social slip so you make up for it by putting your hand on his, fingers intertwined, and moving it half an inch up your thigh


while his buddy (you’d forgotten he was back there)


and tells you to


roll down your window. Warm desert air floods the car, and suddenly you know where you are, you sit up straight and with sober intention but slurred words you direct him left, then right, then right again, and there is the sign for the condo unit – here, pull over, you say, and you climb out of the car and your friend is climbing out of a car parked a few feet away and you adjust your skirt and you clasp her hand and run, laughing wildly.

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