“Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”
It was not fabled “love at first sight” that drew me to her. We were strangers, one to another, and on the day we were introduced, the skin of her palm warming my own, the handshake a split-second longer than civility required, no interior spark fell upon the tinder of my unsuspecting heart. Yes, there was now an awareness of one other’s existence, an exchange of names and casual pleasantries, but not a hint more.
The attraction did grow, over time, indeed, over long years, but so imperceptible was that growth that neither of us—I, at least—were aware of its mounting influence in our lives, and certainly not cognizant of the poison poised for release at the opportune time.
A variety of circumstances, both public and private, brought us into closer and closer contact. In professional get-togethers, she was there, a presence I found harder and harder to ignore. In gatherings with family and friends she was included as well, making eye-contact across the room, a flirtatious smile beginning to play upon her lips, an ‘accidental’ brush of our shoulders as we passed. I began to think of her at the most unlikely, and the most inappropriate, of times. It was all fun and games and inconsequential titillations -that was the lie I promulgated within, an innocent infatuation that harmed not a soul, and soon would dissipate. Such were the falsehoods fermenting within me, producing, over time, a wine so rich and strong that merely to sip it was impossible, and to gulp it until I drained the dregs, was blissful, funereal intoxication.
When night’s shadow veiled deeds otherwise left undone, when we were alone, and the radio played our favorite song, we crossed the room, touched, embraced, and began to sway, body to body, heart to heart, to the mesmerizing music. The universe narrowed to that single room—there were no other people, no others worlds, no other existences outside that chamber. We moved in sync to the song, every sense heightened, fears and reservations and pasts and futures and friends and family and gods and devils excluded from our revelry.
We didn’t see the flames or feel the heat or smell the smoke. All that was, was the dance. And when the fire spread from wall to wall, and engulfed even the ceiling, we knew it not. And when the floor beneath us glowed, and flames licked at our feet, we felt no pain. And even when our clothing ignited, and our bodies were ablaze, even then we thought only of the pleasure of melting into each other, the two becoming the one, ashes to ashes, lust to dust, our members but embers to be blown away in the winds that never cease their raging.
A parable of the kingdom of hell. Perceive, O my soul, how evil exerts its most destructive force when its progress is undetected, or ignored, or downplayed, by those dying a slow, smiling death.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the sinner says to the churches.
(The title of this piece is borrowed from a song by John Mayer.)