In co-operation with Coast FM and Indaily, Speakeasy had the opportunity to record and air a number of short stories from selected readers. I was lucky enough to record two. Curious about how it sounded? Have a listen!
I always feel like I’m famous when I’m at a nightclub. In the centre of the room, where the floor’s not holding you up so much as electrocuting you with the beat, you inhale the sweat and the alcohol and for some reason it smells like celebrity. And then those strobe lights start to flash like paparazzi cameras, and the people around you become a thousand slightly different photographs of themselves. Frame black frame black. Like you’re watching them on an old projector.
Up on the platform, the DJ manoeuvres the turn table with her eyes closed and her headphones in. I can feel the gaze of a bouncer on me, but I stay there until she slips off her headphones and then I yell to her. I don’t know what I yell, but it doesn’t end up mattering because she can’t hear me over the music. I yell again, and this time for some reason I ask her to come and dance.
This time she hears me. As the music holds its breath, she calls out a no thanks in a chandelier voice. I ask her why not and she shouts that I don’t sound familiar. Climbing up onto the platform, I finally see that the chandelier is not just in her voice but in her eyes. Not to mean that they sparkle. I mean that they’re glassy, empty—they stare straight through me. I watch her feel her way around the turn table. She must have it memorised, like a doorknob in the dark.
You’ve made everyone famous, I want to say. You’ve turned them into old movie stars. But the bouncer is eyeing me off and there’s the sense that I don’t have much time left. So I choose the most important thing, the come and dance, come and dance, the question that most people can be traced back to, from utterly crucial to reasonably important, to quite nice, to seems nice, to a stranger and some raw courage and the question of a lifetime. Your eyes are fear-coloured and you don’t know me, but will you dance?
There’s only the beat for a few seconds. The dancefloor like the set, the actors twisting for the cameras. Without her sight the girl looks like a vacant apartment, fingers running around the turn table, slightly slower now as she closes her eyes. Clenches them tight, like she’s in the kind of pain that haunts rather than hurts. I wait. Eventually she raises her hands to her headphones, slips them off, clicks a single button on the turntable. With an outstretched hand she says, okay.
And so I lift the chandelier girl down off her platform and I lead her into the maze, peeling back layers of people with fast hearts and unpredictable limbs. And so we dance in the very middle, the beat like an electric fence and my arms coiled tight around her. At some point I wonder what it’s like to dance to your own music and I pull back slightly to ask, but I realise then that her eyes are wet. In every flash of her, every strobe light photograph, the answer is the same.
By J. M. Miller