She skimmed across the dance floor in white see-through pants and a crop top. My friends had disappeared. We danced, brought together by an unaccountable gravity. I offered her a drink and she came with me to the other part of the club, where drag queens lip-synch to old pop songs. We watched and chatted. We went back and danced until the lights came on. We went to an all-night diner. I made up story about being a graduate student, coloring the conversation with terms I half understood and probably mispronounced. She told me whatever she wanted me to believe about her. Her dad was a strict Vietnamese father, she said, and she lived in a shed in the backyard in order to have a little freedom. We drove up to the west hills near Council Crest. I had my hand down her pants when she asked me if I was Asian. We realized the sun was coming up when a runner went by the car and startled us. She told me to meet her later back at the club and I said “sure,” but I knew I would never show up.
This other time, I am at this club on the east side of Portland. I have no memory of how I ended up there, but I’m with friends. Little groups break off, tiny galaxies circling the dance floor. People vanish as the night goes on. Eventually we—my one remaining friend, the two women we sort of know, and me—are surrounded by strangers, pushing us closer together. My friend and I are far away from home, and I ask the women for a ride back. They suggest we drink wine at their house, which is close enough to home. Bottles are opened and in the confusion of bottles I drink out of an old one swimming with soggy cigarettes. It’s great fun. Everyone has a good laugh. We pair off. My friend passes out and there is an extra person. She, full of the kind of confidence that eludes me, comes into the bedroom and says, “So what are you guys up to?”
Just a few weeks ago, we wander together through downtown Los Angeles. It’s warm and she says we should hit another place before catching the Metro back. We hear cumbia thumping out of a place. We look at each other with the same “why not?” expression and go in. On the floor short, round, brown women turn past us. Beautiful wobbly tops become flesh. I remember that my mom was once a taxi dancer. Cumbias, merengues, rumbas. Mostly older people and the very serious dance, the rest of us watch. She asks me if we’re going to dance but it hasn’t even occurred to me. But soon we’re out there sweating and smiling through reggeaton, cumbia fusion, hip hop, and funk. Soaking in sweat and tipsy as fuck, we run to catch the last train, laughing, laughing, laughing.
“‘Oh don’t you dare look back. Keep your eyes on me.’/I said,‘You’re holding back.’/She said, ‘Shut up and dance with me!’” This phrasing is beautiful and true. Sometimes we forget that music can be danced to, that its pleasure can be an embodied experience, libidinal and erotic. Sometimes our best statements about music are gestures, so shut up and dance.