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He speeds down Broadway in a borrowed beat up Chevy, listening to the radio. Loud. A song called “If Ya Want My Luv” pumps out from one of those renegade rock and roll stations that breaks all the rules. The song aches, pounds in his head: “If you’re spending time with me, better keep it hassle free.” The pavement glows with a dull sheen, polished by the street lights that line the road. He makes a left turn on Iowa Avenue, pulls over and parks. He walks around the corner and goes into a club called Herman’s Hideaway.

Inside he sees shadows and sweat, the blur of smoke and alcohol, a hard pumping band on a tiny stage. The place is small, packed tight with people. Pairs of dancers litter the dance floor in front of the stage. He buys a beer at the bar and disappears, barely noticed, into the crowd. And watches. The guitar player strangles fast and hard–Hendrix style. A bit of a show-off but it doesn’t really matter. It’s loud enough, tough enough.

From nowhere a woman appears: black hair, black leather, wispy features, slender, rather small. She says, “Wanna dance?” and before he can answer she takes hold of one hand and leads him through the sweat and smoke to the dance floor. He puts his beer down on someone’s table and dances with this woman, lost somewhere amid the clutter. The band is playing Hendrix’s “You Got Me Floatin'” twisted and hard. He yells, “What’s your name?” into her ear. “It’s not important. Just dance,” she shouts back. So he dances.

And watches her dance. Watches her closely. She is wearing a studded leather jacket over layers of lace, sort of a maze of mystery. He looks at her face–so smooth and light in contrast to her dark hair and clothes. She smiles at him coyly. And he smiles back. Tomcat and tomboy on the dance floor, he thinks to himself. And he doesn’t even know her name….

Later, mysteries lingering, he leaves the club and drives home fast–a black streak on the boulevard. The renegade radio station is still playing the right noise: “I’m a little mixed up, but I’ll be all right if I can hear a loud guitar all night.” The city lights blur into iridescence and merge with the woman’s image in his mind. Studs and lace. Coy smiles and pangs of lust. A maze of mystery. He turns the radio up and floats, just floats home.

by Joe Beine, copyright 1987
originally published in The Blind Armadillo #7 (Summer 1987)

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