Last night around the fire someone suggested we draw on activities from our everyday lives for radical new dance moves. And so we danced a while this way until we grew tired or bored – such is the unfortunate fate of all rituals in history – until it no longer looked like we were dancing at all, but more like we were playing a frantic game of Pictionary in which each of us was performing together before an invisible audience.
There was the one guy who acted like he was cutting people’s hair while his feet were on fire; others pretended they were in the shower rubbing themselves down with imaginary soaps and oils, scratching their heads and armpits like monkeys. And so it was that trivial tasks like cooking and bathing were transformed into humorous mimicry. And so it was that we became a cult of mimes training in silent competition. Whatever it was that we were doing, I thought it wonderful to learn how each of us might dance when we thought the world was going to end.
As we began to run out of resources, we drew from events that were more and more dramatic or, in any case, out of the ordinary. Some brought out imaginary guns and machetes as if fighting their way through a rain forest. When I noticed you feigning the movements of a chef, pouring something – spices? sauce? paste? – over a hot skillet, I have to admit that I pretended to eat the soup or the curry or whatever it was that I thought you were cooking. Your friend followed my lead, before we both fell to the ground from spasms, a kind of competitive food poisoning.
At one point, I might have taken things too far, pretending to call 911. I was, in fact, re-enacting an actual call I had to make the day before. Eventually, the others started imitating this new ‘dance move’, each creating little emergency telephone calls with a mixture of excitement and alarm, until about an hour later, when most of us were dozing off to sleep, two policemen showed up on the farm with flashlights. Someone must have actually called 911 during our whimsical game, although none of us ever found out whether it was a coincidence or a neighbor’s punishment for our egregious pleasure.
You were the last one to see what was happening. The look on your face as you woke up beside the smoldering fire was a look – somewhere between utter confusion and drowsy exuberance – that seemed to capture the faces of the officers perfectly. It was the look of a hunted man caught dead in his tracks, a runner who lies down in the snow with aching lungs; it was the kind of look that a man might make when he can’t ever again be a man, and it is what I want my dance move to look like in the next world, whatever world comes next after this one gets tired or old.