Wear red, play dead
The invite said: Wear red, play dead,
Put your head in a gilded cage.
Come as your favourite rock star.
Wear black, change your name,
Buy a dress made of safety pins.
Come as your favourite Disney character.
Come, even, as yourself.
She stared into the mirror, smoothing her face,
Angling her cheekbones in shades of naked dusk
Her hair curled out of its chignon, along her neck.
Would he be there?
Now, this time, after so long?
Would he recognise her?
Her lace-gloved hands fondled the glass stem of the wine glass.
Gently, she lifted it to her mouth.
The combination of lace, leather, thigh and bottle.
On six-inch heels she grew tall and bold.
As she stepped out of the car, her dress rode up her thighs.
Transformation was complete.
(poss cut) Ahead the lights ribboned across the garden
like snakes of desire,
Twinkling a path to the front garden.
You came! They air-kissed, she and host.
There was the taste of salt and sugar, crisps and wine.
Corks popped, gold foil curled among the trays of party food.
How have you been?
Where have you been?
Had it really been so long?
She drank, she danced, she answered questions and flirted.
The night ticked on. The new year was approaching,
And now she was spinning, flying ...
He found her there – on the soft white carpet, shoes kicked off,
Head under the table. A Mickey Mouse mask grinned next to a shoe.
Streamers draped across the table,
balloons lay plump and purple.
Where have you been?
Where, and not why.
It’s been such a long time.
I’ve missed you.
You’re so beautiful.
What was Nepal like?
Did you find yourself?
He’d found her instead in a suburban house
with an A-frame pitch.
His hand curled around her thigh,
the leather dress crinkled.
They leaned into each other,
she arched her neck against his face, the beard prickling through.
He wrapped his hand against her smooth, flat abdomen.
Again he said: I’ve missed you.
They heard the countdown in the distance
a faint sparkle of hope entered the room they stood in.
She leaned into him, whispering now as cheers filled the night air.
- First published in Cape etc magazine.