By Julia Butschkow
Translated from Danish by Peter Woltemade
I keep losing the guy’s name in the loud music, in the cascades of colored light, in the smell of the dancing sweaty bodies on the dance floor.
He has a red cap on backwards, with the bill pointing down toward his neck; the hair under it is very short and light-colored, platinum blond—it looks bleached.
His cheekbones are high, his cheeks sunken; it’s difficult for me to decide whether I find him attractive or repulsive. That changes constantly.
One moment he is handsome. The next he is ugly.
Around his neck gleams a heavy silver chain that seems too solid for his skinny body.
He buys expensive drinks for me, keeps saying my name.
Hands me full glasses, which I empty.
In between I thank him for the drinks and ask whether he would mind repeating his name.
The music is loud and hard. Electro house.
The guy laughs at my question but repeats his name.
Which I don’t quite get.
Nevertheless, I nod.
Andrea is dancing with a large man. Broad-shouldered and black. She looks small, fragile, next to the tall, muscular man.
She looks like she did when we were in school. Both on the inside and on the outside. I suppose this is true of me as well, actually. Andrea had a permanent; my hair was completely smooth. Of the girls in the class, she was the best in Danish, while I was the best in physics.
Now she is studying literature, and I am studying chemistry.
Our hairstyles have not changed very much since back then.
Every time I visit Andrea, I tell her that I cannot understand how she can stand to keep living in Jutland. She, on the other hand, cannot understand why I want to stay on Zealand. Nevertheless, we are just as close as we were in school. We take turns visiting each other in all the breaks between the semesters.
Andrea discovers that I am watching her; she laughs and waves to me from out on the dance floor. The black man she is dancing with turns his head and looks toward us; he smiles; his teeth are blue, almost luminescent, in the artificial light.
The guy with the red cap looks at me; he stares, tries to hold my gaze. He seldom blinks. When I look at him, it is his eyes that interest me most. His pupils are dilated; they extend nearly to the edges of his irises. It takes an effort to see that his eyes are not black but blue. It’s hard to tell whether his gaze frightens me or turns me on.
He stands up and moves his chair so it is next to mine. I can’t quite decide whether I think he’s sitting too close to me. I am generally having a little difficulty focusing. Perhaps it’s just the heat, the stuffy air in the club. There seems to be no feeling in my fingers and feet; the rest of my body seems almost weightless; I feel dizzy. The guy is still staring at me; he must be a few years younger than I am; perhaps he is under twenty; his skin is completely smooth; it looks thin, porous, it’s so light; it must be the combination of thinness and almost translucent lightness that makes me think of silk paper. He speaks a blend of Jutland dialect and slang without taking his eyes off me.
“It sure is trippy,” he says.
“What is trippy?” I ask.
“Or, like, spooky,” he says.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“That Thursday night,” he says.
I have never seen the guy before this evening, but I nod as though I understand what he means; perhaps he has talked about it earlier this evening, and if so I have no doubt not listened properly, so I continue to nod thoughtfully as I lift my glass and drink what is left in it.
While I drink, I consider asking him to explain what he means; there is nothing else to do anyway—I don’t feel like dancing, and the other guys in the club look boring.
The guy next to me seems appropriately strange; his odd demeanor fits my mood well this evening. He is unusual and stands out from the crowd on the dance floor.
That is what I need today, although it is certainly not going to end with sex.
The dance floor is starting to look blurry, but with every glass I empty it becomes more and more clear to me that I don’t feel like having sex with him. Nor is there anyone else in the club I feel like walking up to, dancing with, kissing—neither guys nor girls. I set my glass on the table and consider leaving. Thanking him for the drinks. Concluding the conversation. Standing up and getting Andrea’s keys. Getting my coat from the coat check. Taking a taxi to Andrea’s apartment.
But then the guy says something. Unexpectedly, suddenly:
“I mean, there was, like, blood everywhere.”
Some time passes, a few moments, before I ask:
He lifts his bottle and drinks what is left in it, sets the empty bottle on the table.
Wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He says that he has not slept in over twenty hours because the thought of falling asleep seems frightening after what he has experienced in the last few days.
He leans forward toward me and talks in a low, whispering voice.
As if he were afraid. But his body language does not seem uneasy when I look at him but rather threatening. He holds my gaze.