“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless: Perhaps it’s because your heart beats more quickly here than elsewhere. ” Simone de Beauvoir
She waited on me in a bar near Wall Street, downtown New York. Just a week ago last Friday.
He danced for me in Central Park in uptown New York. A week ago last Saturday.
They both set my heart beating quickly with their perfect beauty.
I slept little in New York City.
One a.m. in a quiet Irish pub, she approached our table, flashed a discreet hint of cleavage as she bent to set down two cocktail napkins, smiled and said, “The kitchen closes in 15 minutes. What can I get you?”
She straightened up and tugged at her tight black dress that had ridden up in back when she bent over.
We ordered and she walked away, tugging once again at the dress that barely covered her rear and left acres of pale, bare legs exposed.
I turned to my companion and said, “I can’t imagine being that pretty.”
He said, “Georgia, you are.”
Isn’t that charming of him? Isn’t that just the way you want the men in your life to respond?
I hadn’t been fishing for a compliment. I had stated a truth. At this woman’s age, I had blonde hair that cascaded to my shoulders, endless legs, a narrow frame and pale skin. Just like her.
Except in her every bit of what I had been shifted to achieve the platonic ideal of those qualities. Her facial features were just a bit finer than mine ever were, her hair a bit lighter and fuller, her body was a touch rounder in some places, a smidgen narrower in others.
When she returned with our drinks I smiled my most ingratiating mature woman smile and said, “I can’t imagine being as pretty as you are.”
She paused a bit, looking suspicious, as if I was playing with her. Then she said, “What did you say?”
I repeated the smile and the phrase, “I can’t imagine being as pretty as you are.”
Assured that I meant exactly what I said, she beamed back. “My shift is just ending. What a perfect way for it to end. I haven’t heard anything this nice all day.”
My little present to her, woman to woman. Possibly even better than the tip my companion left when he paid our tab.
The next day we stood on a path in Central Park, transfixed by a performance of Danza Mexica Xitalli. I wish you could hear what we heard; the drums and flutes, the percussive rattling of the shells tied around the dancers ankles, the cries of their voices as they responded to the music.
I wish you could see what we saw; the long colorful plumes in their hair, the skulls atop their headdresses, the complex designs on their clothes.
Just like the pale blonde woman the night before, the man dancing directly in front of me set my heart beating more quickly. They could not have been less alike, he and she, yet they were both perfect in their beauty.
His features were chiselled, his beard and mustache precisely trimmed. Every muscle was taut under the sweat that glistened on his brown body. I compared his movements with those of the other dancers around him. Every stomp of his foot, every twist of his ankle, every lift of his leg was fuller and more controlled than anything else I saw on the green lawn of Central Park that day.
I saw Mikael Baryshnikov dance when he was in his prime. I have seen the platonic ideal of male movement, and recognized it when I saw it in a very different context, on this spring afternoon.
Oh yes, my heart beat more quickly last week in New York City, and I slept less.
What sets your heart to beating quickly? What chases sleep away?