The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Dancing with Ghosts June 22, 2012

Filed under: Grief,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 10:51 am

The prompt this time was based on Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I ask everyone to write down this phrase: “Fifty ways to_______________________,” and in five or six minutes, to generate as many words or phrases that could complete that sentence. Then we read some of them around, and choose one as a starting place.

 Mine was, “Fifty ways to bury the dead.”    

 Here’s what I wrote:


Catherine arrives that night with a tube of frosty lilac lip balm, on the third floor walk up of an old building, holding a ticket to a Kylie Minogue concert. She promises that you’ll dance, smoke pot, and that you will feel beautiful, all for $50. All you have to do is order a cocktail and bat your false eyelashes.

Catherine is dead; she can’t physically go to the concert with you, so she clears the path and brings you the ticket, via a phone call from the friend who lives in the apartment, and the memory of her own tube of frosty orange lipstick on your ten-year-old lips, and the way you stared at yourself in her magnifying makeup mirror when no one else was around. Beautiful.

Catherine likes to dance—a lot—so she sends you and your friend off to the Bill Graham Auditorium, where at one point, Kylie sings you this question, “What’s the point of living if you don’t want to dance?” You ponder that question, your feet sliding over the music hall floor, the boys next to you in silver eye shadow, the men on stage with her wearing hot pants and peacock feather tails in burgundy.

Catherine likes to sing—old Ella Fitzgerald tunes—“It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”—and Kylie jokes around with her band and hits her high C, a cappella. Later, she hollers at you: “Sing with me!” and the entire place erupts into her lyrics: “It was love at first sight!” and “You’re too hot! Get me into the shade!”  You find yourself singing too, with Catherine, of course, as you marvel at Kylie’s four-inch gold thigh-high strappy sandal-boots. You laugh out loud when she uses two of the males dancers’ buns as bongo drums, and accidentally drops the microphone while vigorously spanking their firm bottoms.

Catherine knows you’re flying at the end of the concert, like the shirtless men on stage with Kylie who were wearing wings, suspended over the audience on invisible cables. You’re floating down the street, mercifully free of any past trauma or recent anxiety. All that exists is this very moment: the beautiful young men in the audience surrounding you, the friend who brought you here, the back-up dancers in their white bodysuits with the tiny holes carefully placed along every seam. The large screen and Kylies’ pretty face.

Catherine, of course, insists you go out dancing afterward, so you follow the conga line of men to Rebel Disco, just down the street from the music hall, and you push your way through the throng of sweaty, shirtless bodies to the dance floor, and stay there for hours, not stopping until your feet ache. Only then do you go home, and you sleep soundly, Diva dance music floating through your head. Weeks later, you still feel transported by the experience.

Catherine likes that. It’s just what she wanted.


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