archives, you & me

I Keep Asking Strangers to Dance with Me.


We threw away God some years ago when we thought we had outgrown Him.

We are too clever to believe in these fairy tales constructed from the crumbling tenements of patriarchy. We don’t need to gather and worship when we can consume and devour. Addiction replaced devotion, and Divine became a drag queen. And we became smug thinking we had outwitted our forefathers.

And yet…

… human beings are self-shepherding creatures. We can’t help but gather and seek out others in our flock. Huddle closely during a storm, bleat endlessly into the silent dark night until we are rewarded with a response, however distant.

Just tell me I’m not alone in all of this. Even if it is just for a few snatched hours between night and dawn. With your touch and your voice, whisper to me of things that aren’t always of this world, and let me feel as though there is communion between our bodies and our minds.

Let me feel the God we thought we had killed.

And then leave. Please.

We can’t breathe each other’s mouths so deeply and then risk profaning the memory by going grocery shopping together. We can’t sleep so peacefully and lightly and then argue over petty things like whose turn it is to do the washing up, because that is to take this snatched moment and defile it with the filth of this assembled flock of humanity.

These are temporal moments, not an induction to domestic bliss.

There is always a flicker of something that catches our attention from the corner of our eye.

Something that makes us turn around, look again, a glint of gold that shimmers on something mundane and everyday. The way sunlight streams through a particular window after a rain shower and we turn and realize we’d never noticed how beautiful the room was.

Picking up a poem we’ve read a hundred times and noticing a string of words jumping out from the page as though they were written on that very day for our eyes alone.

It is like that sometime in our casual encounters. A hint of something to come, a promise that there will be something we have been waiting for in an encounter.

A promise revealed in the first touch that, after this hand has withdrawn from my skin and my lips are no longer swollen from the prolonged and loving assault on them, I will be different. To believe that the hands entwined in my hair, so that I can be violently pulled back towards the person inside me, mean me no harm is an act of faith in itself.

That these hands that silence me, slap me, blindfold me are different from the hands that punched me, raped me, pointed angry fingers at me is truly a reminder of how long I have been searching.

I submit fully to your touch. Not because I want to be dominated or because I secretly want to be submissive. I submit because I spend my waking hours and some of my sleep searching. At night, in these arms, I want to be found.

It was no accident that you found yourself lingering in my room. We had circled each other for hours; you’d drawn me close and held me like a lover long before you kissed me. Your eyes had caressed me the first time they met mine, and I could swear I felt your hands on me as I smiled at you from across the room.

There was something about my smile which made you look again, and after I crossed the room to you there was a silent Yes uttered in both our minds.  Yes, this.

“I want to dance,” I’d announced on the last night we found ourselves together in Brazil, and everyone at our table thought I’d meant forró.

But it’s this thing I do, you see, a clever ruse. I walk into strange men’s arms and let them wrap themselves around me and I am still, as we count the music and the dance in. I wait. How do these arms feel around me? Do I like his scent when I am this close? Does my head fit just so along the line where his arm meets his shoulder? How does it feel to be pressed so intimately against his thigh?

I walk into strangers’ arms every weekend to practice being in a man’s arms again. First I had to learn to resist the urge to shrug the arms off because it’s not easy to hold me. I am looking for any reason to step out of an embrace.

But you held on tight. You placed my hand on your heart and pulled me against you so I could feel the length of you reaching out to me, determined to make your way there, between my thighs, later when the music stops and you can remove my clothes.

And I watch you even though you think my attention is elsewhere. I watch how you make the driver laugh and how you draw him into easy conversation. I watch as you put your arm around a young, distressed man and lead him away from the noise so you can give him your full-fellow-human attention even though you know he is only looking for money.

I watch you watching me and I wonder how you will do it. When you will kiss me for the first time and convince me that the few short hours we have left of our night should be spent in each other’s arms.

In the end, you didn’t need to. I don’t shrug your arms off or turn my mouth away from your kiss. For the few short seconds that were needed for you to make your way from my hotel door to my bed, I simply closed my eyes and let you lead me in the dance.

And this dance belonged to you, and is one you know better than me. As I walk into strangers’ arms every week, so do you it seems. I dance, you fuck, we call it research and we tell each other that somehow we are getting closer to the answers we seek.

I submit fully to your touch. It is like I handed you notes beforehand and you’re following my Please do this list. And this is your dance and I am in your arms, and the smell and the feel and your touch are overwhelming. I will think that nothing can be the same again.

But life is like one of those kitschy snow globes that people like to collect. You can shake the absolute shit out of them and stare for hours, but eventually all the moving parts will settle and everything will be exactly as it was. You will shake it again and again, just to be sure.

But everything will be exactly as it was.

And everything is exactly as it was again. You are gone and I am gone, and that hotel room in Natal is over there. You forget your girlfriend’s birthday, hook up on Tinder and accept invitations to wild parties, and I know all of this because these are the greetings you send me from Lisbon. I write of trauma and violence and bad sex and even worse memories, and these are the words we send over the oceans between us.

And I keep asking strangers to dance with me.

And everything is exactly as it was.

Yet I can’t help but dance.


Rillos Soklea is an intrepid traveler, learner of languages, and speaker of her heart. Her favorite journey is the one which brings her closer to her truth. Currently residing in the most isolated capital city on earth, she is patiently awaiting life’s next adventure.


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