The Art of Walking in Stilettoes
The music flowed through Natasha like adrenaline. She grinned, her teeth glowing under the bright neon beams. White lights played overhead, shining onto the dancefloor, turning it into a flashing chessboard of darkness and light. The club had really outdone themselves for New Year's. Dried-ice smoke oozed through the venue and a hired a DJ stood on the anterior stage, his electric blue Mohawk visible through the storm of artificial fog and blinding lights. Giant headphones in, eyes closed, the DJ bobbed to the sound of the music in such a way that Natasha almost felt the beat inside of her.
High heels clonked and dresses swished as dancers moved as one in a flurry of colours. Girls tossed their long hair, boys fist-pumped the air and bouncers weaved through the crowd like sly watchful panthers, mouths poised in an oppressive line.
With her eyeliner slightly smudged, Natasha danced her way over to a group of strangers; her body mingling with theirs in a gigantic wave of heat, none of them caring about what laid outside the club doors that led to reality. Her crop top sneaked up even higher, showing off pale flesh and a studded belly button ring as she waved her hands in the air, reaching high for something more. Spinning around, Natasha laughed along to lyrics she didn't know; her stilettoes thumping in sync with the beating heart of the club. That is, until she spotted him staring at her from across the room. The smile faltered from her face and she froze, her arms still poised above her head like a tepee charade.
She saw his shiny shoes first, then his vest, changing colour in the uneven lighting. He swept through the room, keeping his gaze above the other party contenders until he stood in front of her.
"What are you doing here?"
Bruce cocked his head. "WHAT?" he yelled over the blaring music.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"
"DANCING." He waved his hands awkwardly in the air.
"Bullshit. That's total bullshit."
He slid his reading glasses off his face with the kind of practiced nonchalance that even in his bowtie, he somehow looked effortlessly cooler than everyone around him.
"I WANTED TO TALK TO YOU ACTUALLY." He indicated to the bright green exit sign. "CAN WE TALK?"
Natasha stared at him, pursing her lips; her Napoleon Perdis lipstick still plum in colour.
"YOU WANT TO TALK? NOW?"
He nodded like a bobble-headed caricature.
Running a bejewelled hand through her tousled hair, Natasha looked around the room. On the dancefloor, girls shook their booties and boys grinded their trouser cladded hips. As the song slowed, flocks of dancers migrated to the bar, where barmaids, tired-eyed and pretty, turned on beer taps with a soft smile. Natasha turned and looked at Bruce. He stood in the sea of moving bodies like a rainbow fish amongst a school of krill. The strobe lights kept flickering and Bruce's face kept flashing in an array of blurry colours. The light gleamed from his glasses and several New Year's flyers swirled around them like they were trapped in a tornado of confetti. She took a step closer to Bruce, towering over him in her heels. "Let me guess," she said, leaning down so he could hear her better. "You gave up a night of medical scholarship to come and talk to me?"
He nodded again.
Natasha grabbed Bruce's hand and dragged him through the crowd, the dancefloor pulsing beneath their feet. She didn't know how they made it to the exit or how long it took, but suddenly they stood under the streetlamps and the night air was kissing their sweaty skin.
With her hands firmly planted on her hips, Natasha pressed her lips together and titled her head to the side, her hair brushing over the curved edge of her shoulder.
"Um, so what's up?"
Bruce's face split into a goofy grin.
"I wanted to say…Happy New Year."
Natasha blinked. "That's all?"
"Yeah, that's all."
It neared midnight and the streetlamps flickered brighter as they passed, casting a dim yellow glow across the concrete ground. Her red stilettoes made a crackling noise as the two friends walked down a wide alley and broke into the heart of the city with grey paths that stretched between the town and river. Black, greys, blues. Everything was a blurry mist to Natasha - like rain on a windscreen, a water-washed painting or a blind person without glasses. A tear froze on her unblemished cheek, slightly reddened with blush. She didn't wipe it away.
"Last year was pretty shit, uh?" said Bruce. He sat down on a nearby bench and Natasha sat down beside him, her short black skirt riding up her tone assassin thighs.
Even though her eyes were closed, Natasha knew Bruce was sitting on the edge of the bench with his hands resting on his knees. When at last, she opened her eyes, she saw him looking quietly at the night sky. She didn't know what he was thinking or feeling and didn't ask. With each passing year, she found that their silence became more and more contented and it was moments like these, moments when she understood that they didn't need to speak to make their friendship comfortable. She learnt long before she met him that words didn't always say everything.
They sat in silence for a long time, letting the humidity create sweat droplets on their skin. In minutes, they both looked like shiny wax figures and smelt atrociously like wet chickens. The gentle breeze dishevelled their hair and from where they sat, they saw that inside the club the New Year's party was in full swing. Laughing, music and the stampede of moving feet could clearly be heard, even from outside the dilapidated building.
Drumming her fingers in time with Crowded House's 'Don't Dream It's Over,' Natasha stared longingly at the nightclub. She wanted to return to the dancefloor. She wanted to be encompassed by billowing skirts and artificial smoke. She wanted to feel the music pulse through her body and intoxicate her as she twirled around, letting her eloquent movements lead her to someplace else.
A pair of shoes nudged her stilettoes. She looked at Bruce and arched a quizzical eyebrow.
"You wanna go back and dance?" he asked.
"Do you want to?"
"Yeah…unless you want to come back to my place and read over some PhDs?" He expected her to pull a face and was surprised when she didn't. Instead she looked at him with such softness in her features; her deep blue eyes rimmed with smudged blackness.
"Rain-check?" she said.
He blinked. "I hope that's a promise."
A soft smile spread across Bruce's lips.
"So, you do want to go and dance?" said Natasha, her voice laced with cynicism.
"Sure." Bruce stood up, ruffling his dress shirt slightly. He held out his hand. "Come on, we want to make a good night of it."
Under the cover of darkness, barely illuminated by the streetlamps, Natasha and Bruce galumphed out of the city centre and headed back towards the club. The sharp sound of Natasha's stilettoes tapping against the concrete became their new soundtrack.
"How do you walk in those things?" asked Bruce, staring at her shoes with an expression of pure bewilderment.
"Trust me," she replied, "there's an art to walking in stilettoes."
"What's the secret?"
She flashed him a smile. "Don't trip."
Natasha smirked and glanced at Bruce. He had always, in their years of friendship, been a white water river, flowing and changing, never the same but always constant. She loved him for that – for she had always been the admired waterfall – loud, beautiful and brazen, crashing onto the river below with apologetic brashness.
Bruce slid his glasses back onto his nose.
"You know, before we go back to this dance thing, I have to tell you that I can't dance. No rhythm at all."
She laughed and draped her arm through his, noticing that the numbers on his analog watch had been replaced with the solar system.
"Don't worry," she said to Bruce as they reached the club entrance. "I can't dance either."
He smiled at her. "Bullshit. That's total bullshit."