Dancing to the Jukebox Blues

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Words: Abbie Frew (She/Her)

I pick at the ugly scab sprawling over my right knee, wedging my finger in the little black cave; digging, digging, disassociating, from thinking. I try to patrol my peak-time thought traffic, diverting each clouded abstraction to the underside of my crescent-moon nail. I long to bury them in the fat slit and watch the crimson rush sweep over their little graves, like a tidal wave over broken seashells. 

My train of thought swings away from me, again.

I lose focus, dropping my gaze to the scattered pennies around my bare feet. Their slim, round edges are reflecting beams of glassy moonlight trespassing through the big window, burning like the heads of city street lights. As I press my back farther into the narrow side of our old jukebox, I remember buckling under his ridiculous attestations ‘its vintage!’, ‘undeniably perfect’ for the parties we never ended up hosting. Its electric warmth fuzzes away at the mesh panel of my dress, the uneven stitches starting to irritate my skin. The air is thicker, my throat is tighter. 

I know I am victim again to his stranger night. 

I walk to the window with my arms folded in front of me. The town is lit by warm oranges, cool blues, and the occasional splashes of yellow and green. It resembles a child’s play with watercolour paints, lacking any sort of rational explanation, yet masterful in design somehow. He used to tell me that the most beautiful things start from nothing. He’d say that mapping and scheming only serves to discover what is already known. He’d say that truth is found in flying above it all.

I need to block you out.

I bend down and grab a pocketful of coins to chuck into the machine, letting my fingers hop all over letters, numbers and flashy buttons. I can feel my vision subsiding, my thoughts reaching dead-ends and red lights. The machine screeches and flickers between neon colours, eventually spilling out an army of heavy black treble clefs and quavers that forces my body to the hardwood floor. I lie motionless as they float in circles around my head; they are women in black funeral dresses, they are men in thick black suits. The tune distorts and stretches to reach all the wrong piano keys. They dance around me gleefully.

I’m folding inwards. 

I remember how I pinned back fallen strands of hair after he swung me round to this tune. I’d be checking the walls for our perfect score, wiping at the little droplets of oil forming around my forehead, drifting away to think about my body’s offside angles under the yellow light we always forgot to replace. You were unafraid. When my attention floated away from you, when my eyes left our space to look inward, you would bring a soft hand to my cheek and remind me that my ghosts were gone. Is it this floor that taught me to stand on my tiptoes, the same one that pins my ankles down now? I can hear them tell me he’s hitting headlines while I’m hitting breaks. But I’m sick of going anywhere where we don’t live. I shut my eyes, moonlight burning away through the glass. 

I fed all my light, to him.

The music notes begin to mould into angrier question marks, the slender curve of their body making it a dizzier spell to follow. The pulsing dots press at my face to make sense of things. I’m that little blonde girl again, drowned out by bigger voices and taller bodies. I’m the straight-A bony-shouldered Nobody at the annual award ceremony. I’m the scissored bob, wine-stained madwoman, living the remainder of eternity inside her head. 

I’m no longer soft. No longer am I the woman he made me. That woman laughs at me now, her little waist cradled by his big arm and dancing her way up to the stars. 

But should I always be so haunted by the softness of our memories?

I remember the mornings; burnt toast, sliced peaches, refilling juice glasses, gentle head taps, his coat flapping ridiculously as he rushed out the door. I remember batting him away from my cooking, his hands on my hip bones, his dark eyes shifting all my excess weight. I remember clinging to our intimacy like a fly in a web, caged by this bigger, more artful thing. I remember what it felt like to finally know why all those creatives lost their heads so often, to know that craving for poetic madness. 

I’ll live here for the rest of my life. 

I’ll decorate the shelves with photographic histories, and write paper-note plaques for our wars, our infidelities, our eventual retreats to each other’s arms. I’ll curse you to the moon ten times each night and confess my love twenty. I’ll patch up this bleeding wound on my knee. I’ll fly above it all. I’ll throw all my coins in this old machine and dance my broken heart away, to the jukebox blues. 


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