I was your dancing partner, you were my muse. We skate across the kitchen floor with our bare feet. The coldness of the tile numbs the pain just a little, but not enough. I move clumsily, you forward, me forward, you back, me back, and we giggle at how little I know, but how little we care.
You repeat the words in a patient rhythm ‘back, forward, side, side. I lead mum.” We take our time; focus on our feet and for a moment I have it, you lead, I follow. We are in tune, my body eases into the rhythm. My heart is full as I follow you around the kitchen, back, forward, side, side.
“We’ve got it” I squeal but my words throw you off and I feel your size ten feet clumsily stamp on my own. And now we have lost the flow, we have lost the magic. You get frustrated “Mum, you’re not doing it right, stop taking over.” My pride shows through in a transparent veil of reproval “are you telling me how to dance Steven, now you’re the expert are you?” And now we are lost in a typhoon of hurt and pride, and you no longer want to dance, I no longer want to laugh, and the moment is gone.
I close my eyes and try desperately to get it back, that moment in the kitchen when we danced. But now you are a blur of zig zag lines morphing into oceans past. I squeeze my eyes tighter, so tight it hurts. These were my last memories of you, and I cannot lose them. If I lose this moment, I lose you. It was the last time you were you, and I was me, when nothing else mattered but that moment in that room. When all the hurt and pain of the outside world was muted by our laughter, and denied by our dance. If only we had laughed louder, if only we had danced longer.
If only I had told you how wonderful you moved, how quickly I learnt, how special you were to me. If only I had stopped you before you left, and painted a picture in all the colours of the rainbow. If only I had told you what I have been telling myself over and over, it didn’t matter that you stepped on my toe, all that mattered is that we were here, now, laughing together. These moments are so few and so fleeting, who knows when we will get them again.
If only I had seen beyond those wide innocent eyes what you hid from me even when you were smiling. The tears you stored for those moments when you closed your bedroom door. If only the world was the beautiful place I had promised you it would be, if only you saw what I felt in the warmth of my beating heart when I held you in my arms. If only I had been slow to anger, if only I had followed you upstairs before you had time to ponder, before the lies had time to fester, before you had time to believe that the world was no place for you.
The memory floats in and out in my mind and I try desperately to grasp them but each time the scene is fleeting, slipping through my fingers like a gasp of air.
We dance, you step on my toe, it disappears, we return to the same place, the same kitchen floor, the same cold tiles on our bare feet, but we don’t care, not yet, not now. And each time I whisper what I wish I had said, but never said, and now it’s too late. I tell you “keep dancing, keep dancing, keep dancing.”