Love Letter to My Farnow, From the Dancing Queen

Farnow, new and old. Martin, Tim and I.

The side of my face is pressed to yours.  I feel your beard against my cheek.  The bone of your right pelvis against my own.  Your leg gently, but firmly, straddling mine.

You dance tango.  But we are not dancing tango.

No matter, it is the sexiest dance I’ve ever had in my life.  I’m certain of it.

I have not danced like this in more years than I can count.

I am referring not only to the leg between mine.  Or the man, 10 years my junior, to whom it belongs.  But to the friends surrounding me.  My farnow, the Kiwi word roughly translated as “family of choice.”  Farnow I’ve known for 20 years.  Farnow I’ve known for just 20 minutes.

We are dancing to Patti LaBelle.  Donna Summer.  The Cure.  New Order.  All of us.  Like we did in Detroit.  In San Francisco.  When I was 20-something and it didn’t feel like “a thing” to stay up late to go dancing.

I am sweaty.  Low to the ground.  All hips and legs.  I feel vital.  Sexy.  Alive.

“You are in a very good place,” my friend Steven tells me.  He is right.  I am.

But not for the reasons you think.

This isn’t a story about sex.

Steven and I.  Old Farnow.
Steven and I. Old Farnow.

This is a story about recognizing another one of my teachers.  About the universe tapping me on the shoulder, inquiring exactly where I am with the old idea I tossed into Lake Michigan – along with stale bread. the ritual of tashlich – on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just a few weeks ago.

The day I muttered, “I let go of the idea that I am only good for sex.”  Over and over, like a mantra.  The notion being that I might be attractive to men for more reasons than this.

Prior to my marriage, I used my sexuality like a calling card.  A year outside of its dissolution, I’m not sure what is.  Or if I have one at all.

Earlier in the evening, we did a different sort of dance.  Flirty.  My ass to your ass.  My back to your chest.  Your leg between mine for the first time.

“Is this ok?” you ask.  Yes, I nod.  It is more than ok.  I cannot stop grinning.

And then…you are sitting on a stool, no longer dancing.  I am not quite sure what has happened.  I think it has something to do with the girl sitting next to you, but I am not certain.

I do not want to interfere with anyone’s real life.  I am on holiday.  This flirtation is fun.  But I do not want to hurt anyone.  So I leave it be.  I leave you be.  Mostly.

I dance with Steven and Tim.  Anja and Derek.  Anne-Marie and Tom.  Everyone but you.  I ask G-d to help me to be to be present to the people who are with me and not to worry about those who are not.

Later, when you are alone, I apologize for possibly getting you into trouble with a girl.  You insist I have not.  But that you are certain I am one to get into trouble.  You are teasing me.

I tell you it is incredibly sexy when you reach down between your legs to tap on the cajon – the box drum – which I saw you do the other night, playing music with my friend, Tim.

I notice you don’t drink.  Neither do I.  We talk about living life feeling everything.  “EVERYTHING,” you say slowly, emphatically, with a knowing smile.

We talk about G-d.  That yours is like Star Wars, “The Force.”  That mine is magic, poetry and serendipity.  The kind of stuff I couldn’t think up myself.

You ask me about my work.  My Judaism.  My writing.  We talk about your music, the religion of your upbringing, and our friendship with Tim.

I tell you I enjoyed dancing with you.  You smile and reply that you enjoyed talking with me.  I am flummoxed.  It is as if the universe is asking, “Remember your taslich mantra?  The one about being attractive for other reasons…Are you paying attention?”

Anne-Marie and I.  New Farnow.
Anne-Marie and I. New Farnow.

We dance that slow, sexy dance, and say goodbye.  I kiss either of your cheeks, feeling your beard against me again.  I ask if I will see you again on this trip.  “G-d willing.  Allah willing,” you say, and list a couple of other names for G-d, but I do not hear them.  I am touched by your response.

And you are gone.

I go back to the floor and join my farnow and dance until DJ Gerry can play no more.  I think about you whispering in my ear that I could surely tango.  That I am a good dancer, but I must know this already.

I do not see you again.  I am a little bit sad, but not at all surprised.  It isn’t necessary.  I have received your teaching.

I want to tell you this.  And that my meeting you is a wink from the universe – is G-d.  But I do not.  It seems too intimate.  Too much.

So I blog instead.  My sober artistry.  A kind of “love letter,” sans stamp.  Destination: Dublin, Ireland.  I sign it,

“Until ‘the force’ conspires for us to meet again.  In gratitude, Lesley.”

Have You? Do You?

Me and my cousin, Andrew.  He was my first crush.  He shows me what a good man is.  What love looks like.
Me and my cousin, Andrew. He was my first crush. He shows me what a good man is. What love looks like. He has also heard most of these stories.

Have you ever held onto a crush because it made you feel like you had something going on?  Even though you had nothing going on?  With him or her or anyone else?

Even though you haven’t spoken a word or had contact in quite some time?  Even though he knows he could have you if he just said the word…but doesn’t?

Have you ever latched on to a few kind words from an ex?  Allowed a simple sentence to set your mind reeling with possibilities?  Wondering what he is up to now?  Even though you haven’t seen one another in more than a decade.  And you aren’t even sure if he’s married or not?  Have you ever wanted to inquire with a mutual friend of his relationship status but decided against it only because you didn’t want to appear tacky?

Have you ever rifled through old journals looking for entries about your time with the above-mentioned ex because you are certain you wrote about it?  And when you found those few pages read them over and over again until the images were seared onto your retinas?

Have you ever lingered over every detail about a romance that happened nearly 20 years ago?  The one where you were 25 and he was 40 and you asked him, “What is 40 like?”  Where he made sure you didn’t die or kill yourself in a drunken frenzy – your first time overseas?  And then sang to you in the airport when you said goodbye, lamented over the things he didn’t do with you, knowing you would never see one another again.

Do you tell it with such vivid color all these years later that your girlfriend insists you to write about it?  But you don’t.

Have you ever felt closer to your crush after spending time with his friend?  And felt guilty about it even though you didn’t do anything wrong?

Have you ever slipped his name into conversation just to keep it alive? To keep him alive?

Do you ever wonder about the ones you call unfinished business?

Your first real love.  The first one you got naked with?

The one with good boundaries, who kept you at arm’s length because he was your professor and you were his student.  But sometimes you wonder if maybe…just maybe, it could have been different.

The one who slipped his hand down the back of your pants and guided you down the street by your crotch.  Made you praise God for dirty minds and dirty hands.

The one who wanted a partner when you wanted a parent.  You couldn’t see it then but you can now.  And sometimes you wonder what it would have been like if you met later?

Have you ever looked up your ex’s current on Facebook and wondered if you were thinner? Prettier? Better in bed?

Have you ever waxed nostalgic over others and wondered what the hell you were thinking?

Do you sometimes forget that you are making a choice every day?  Not to settle.  Not to post a dating profile online.  But to grieve.  To get your own house in order.  To trust in magic and serendipity and the divine rhythms of the universe.

Do you sometimes forget that you actually have said, “no”?  Not because the suitor wasn’t perfectly lovely, but because you didn’t have romantic feelings.  Because you wanted to honor the feelings you did have, wanted to honor yourself and honor him.  Because you remember what it is like to say “yes” when you really mean “no.”

Do you congratulate yourself when you remember?

And yet, choice or no choice, do you sometimes feel that strange sense of empty space – like a wall waiting for art?  You know nature abhors a vacuum because your friend Teresa told you so and she’s rarely wrong.   So you wonder when nature will come charging in.

Do you sometimes wonder if the universe remembers exactly how long it has been since you have had sex?  Does it sometimes make you cringe?  And other times fill you with a sense of esteem for discernment you had never previously known?

Do you sometimes know that God has done you favor because you otherwise might have stayed somewhere you shouldn’t have. Or gone somewhere you didn’t need to be?

Do you sometimes still have a little bit of crazy that tells you that you are better, worthier, more interesting and more attractive if you have a partner?

Do you sometimes look at someone new and think “maybe,” and know in the past you would have forced that “maybe” into a “yes?”  Made it fit, damn it.  Made him fit.  Like Cinderella’s shoe on a stepsister’s foot?  But for now you just say “maybe.”

Have you?  Do you?

Me too.