All I remember is the heat and her dance.
Sometimes I remember that night as a trip to North Avenue Beach with my roommates to see a band at that spider-covered bar that looks like a boat. Other times I remember it as a few years earlier, when an old lover and I would sometimes walk along the water before hitting a bar and my place to get savage with liver and genital. The only consistent part of the memory is the heat of the night and the fat woman’s sway.
She was fat – no point heading to the thesaurus for a word that won’t hurt her feelings. She was fat and she smelled bad. Her body took up two seats of the No. 72 night bus; her odor took up the whole back half.
The roommates or the lover and I made chit about everything but smell before the bus pulled up to the little roundabout, letting us pour onto the beach. Stars above. Bag lady reek below.
She heffalumped out of the bus, pulling sack after sack behind her. We headed north for some reason, either for our pre-fuck constitutional or to kill time while waiting for the band to set up at the bar shaped like a boat.
North Avenue Beach at night is one of my favorite places. Cool, at least by comparison to that hot summer day in the year I can’t remember, and as lovely as a stage set. You want to run barefoot along the sand that might have needles and dive in the lake that’s probably not so hot for swimming. I’ve done both.
Eventually, the lover or roommates or maybe it was just me and I was meeting the roommates at the bar, we headed back south. We saw the bag lady off the bar’s starboard. She was peeling off her clothing under the little standing fountain where the daylight beach lets kids knock the sand off their feet. She had come to the beach to shower.
Layer after layer came off until we realized she was merely enormous instead of grotesque. As coat made way for jacket made way for shirts one, two, three, she eventually stood there under the night sky, mahogany belly piling out beneath fat breasts tamped back by a sari or sarong or just a floral bikini top that was all the bra she owned. She took the bus at night to the beach because that was the only place she could clean herself. She knew how she smelled.
The roommates or lover and I didn’t have any big revelation or even talk about the woman that much. We just kept going until we got to or were each others’ entertainment for the night. But I’m thinking about her now, that woman standing under a stream of water and the starry sky. She wanted to peel off the layers of filth and grime, wash them off under the cool night sky and finally, finally feel clean.
Sometimes I know how she feels.
Written in April 2012