Diane Finlayson

No Cover

Standing Nude (Elvira) by Amedeo Modigliani

Every Sunday night Mike picks me up to go dancing. There is no cover at the bar on Sundays. He turns the bug-eyed Sprite out onto the road to Mankato and kicks it into fourth gear. The engine whines and he opens the throttle and upshifts again. The road signs blur past us in the dark. All around us people sleep the sleep of the untroubled, in their little houses with their little blankets snugged right up to their little chins. We can no more live like this than we can grow wings and fly to the moon. We must dance, even though we work Monday.

We drive under the night sky, roll through tiny towns. Streetlights twinkle orange in the summer heat. We slow down for a traffic light. Mike stops, even though there are no cars, because this is not our town, and we need to follow the rules. We can hear the buzz of crickets in the grass before he puts the car in gear and we are off again.

We arrive in Mankato by 10pm. The bone rattling thump of the bass beat thrums into me more and more deeply with every step we take toward the door. We walk right in to “It’s Raining Men.” I throw my arms up in the air and dance. I feel like a cat wiggling for a pounce, eyes big, nervous system at the ready.

Mike finds Dennis and Frank. I dance on my own in a sea of men, none of whom give a rat’s ass about me, which is fine, as I am here to dance, to be infused with a bass back beat and to forget everything about the ways up to this point life has failed me and I have failed life. Bottles of poppers pass from hand to hand and they do not skip me. I huff the stuff and my head and heart move into slow motion. The music recedes from my awareness before the swirling colors of the disco ball and the rhythm crash back against me in waves. I laugh and sway for a minute, bump into the tall brunette behind me. He gives me a look and then we are both back at it, dancing under the shards of light that shoot down from the dark ceiling. We forget everything but this moment, right here, right now. Nothing else exists. No other identities, no jobs, no families, nothing but this, just this.

At closing time Mike and I meet back at the elevator. He waves to Frank, who blows him a kiss and winks at me. We walk arm in arm, pack ourselves back into the car and begin our drive back, from this universe, his universe, to the universe of farmers and families. I feel like I have cotton stuffed in my ears. The air hangs humid and full of the smell of hay and cow shit, hay and pig shit, more hay. The sound of the engine lays just beyond the cotton. Mike smokes and the tobacco provides a welcome break from the smell of hay and shit. There is no use trying to talk over the roar of the engine.

We hit the city limits and he downshifts to the orderly speed of 20 miles per hour. It is almost one a.m. The light on Main Street turns red and he stops. This is their world and rules must be followed. He lights another cigarette and smiles at me, “Ah, the town of New Ulm, full of wide boulevards and narrow minds.” This always makes him chuckle. I love to see him smile.

He drops me at my door and says, “Be good. And if you can’t be good be careful.” He gives me a little wave, and a dazzling smile, as he pulls away. “See you next week.”

I unlock the door to the converted garage that I call home. Here, there are dishes in the sink, dirty ashtrays, and the sour smell of beer. I have five hours before I have to get up to go to sign on the AM day timer radio station and give the commodities reports. On the other side of the wall a little family is sleeping the sleep of the untroubled, with their little blankets snugged up under their little chins. The town is silent. The house is silent and I am aware of how alone I truly am here.


About the writer:
Diane Finlayson, an MFA candidate at Mississippi University for Women, has run yoga studios and cafes, taken people on tours of Europe and India, and has worked as an announcer/newscaster at various NPR stations. She currently works as department chair for Yoga Therapy at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

Image: Standing Nude (Elvira) by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). Oil on canvas. 39.3 x 25.5 inches. 1918. Public domain.