Dancing in the Courtyard

by Max Poppit

Preface

A man finds unexpected hope when trying to piece together his shattered life.


The divorce was crippling and Eric was the shell of a man he used to be, unable to function when interacting with another human being, when trying to comprehend his bills, when walking to the curb to get his mail. He sat in his crappy little studio apartment and stared out the window there with its cheap, slinky blinds and watched the depressing, gray drizzle of rain fall onto the courtyard outside that separated the two segments of this community-one set of apartments on this side of the lawn, one on the other. Eric sat for hours, staring. And, finally, he wept.

Life went on. He walked to the main office on the 31st because, of course, rent was due on the 1st. Walking into the office there he passed someone on the way out-they nearly collided. Eric's head was lowered so he didn't initially notice her . . . but then there was something about this person he could sense was amazing even without seeing. Eric lifted his head. A woman was staring right back at him. She was a tall, beautiful blonde, strawberry locks cascading down her body to just below her waistline. Their eyes met. Eric had been thinking about his ex-wife up until that moment but that went by-by real quick.

"Hi Eric!" she said. She smiled. She was tall, 5 feet 8, and fixed Eric with a soft, friendly expression as if she had known him all his life but were now meeting for the first time in years.

"Hi," Eric said, speechless, astonished, stunned. The woman brushed by him, an unpretentious smile upon her face, and her presence that close to him took his breath away. Eric paid his rent and left stunned, so much so that he began shaking. He almost forgot where he was, nearly walked out onto the street into oncoming traffic, but then realized what he was doing and stumbled back to his apartment. And he wondered how the hell she knew his name.

Eventually he became accustomed to the facilities the apartment complex offered and decided to check out the laundry room. After doing two loads and on his way out the door with those nice little neatly-folded clothes, SHE walked in with a basket of her own laundry. Initially it appeared she was deep in thought but then she lifted her head and saw him.

"Hi Eric!" she said, and suddenly she was smiling.

"Hi!" Eric said back, stunned. This woman now appeared much more beautiful with this second look and Eric was sure he would faint on the spot. He was going to say more, to ask her name, to say anything except looking like a spooked deer in the headlights of an approaching hunter's Jeep. But he could not find the words. However, she stood there just the same, intrigued. She tilted her head, waiting as if wondering, "Yes? Something on your mind?" But Eric could say nothing. She laughed lightly, managing to pat him on the back as she stepped past him. And her touch was magical. Eric felt tingles course throughout his body and for the first time in months his thoughts were not of his ex-wife.

Two days later a storm pounded the region and Eric sat in his apartment staring out his living room window and into the grayness beyond. The courtyard below was empty, of course, because of the relentless torrent. But then . . .

There was movement to the right. And it was her. Coming from behind the far building she was dressed only in shorts and a T-shirt. And she was dancing. Eric watched, mesmerized. This beautiful, enthralling woman was to herself out there, stretching her arms as high up into the pouring rain as she could, tilting her head back, dancing in circles and kicking her legs and heels up as if in motion to some medieval baroque symphony, and Eric swore he could hear the music. It filled him with an immense feeling of enlightenment, astonishment, joy. As he continued to stare he felt his heart lurch in his chest, and finally the whirling dervish of a woman in the courtyard below turned her head and looked directly at him. Slowly, methodically, and with an amazing smile upon her face, she lifted her right hand and motioned to him with her index finger 'Come here'.

Eric's eyes widened, his expression wondering 'Are you talking to me?' And she laughed, stared at him as if she had been reading his thoughts.

Of course I meant you, you silly little man!

Immediately he ran out of his apartment to meet her in the middle of the courtyard below. She rushed to him and as the rain poured down around them in torrents she grabbed his hands, gently lifted them, then put one on her right shoulder and placed the other gently around her waist on the opposite side.

"Dance with me Eric," she said. Of course she led. And as they waltzed in the pounding rain, laughing and hugging one another, the stress of Eric's life-his divorce, his bills, all of that-lifted from his shoulders once and for all.

"Who are you?" Eric yelled to her through the thunderous, drenching rain, laughing and feeling his soul rejuvenated. "Thank you so much!"

She simply smiled and said, "You are most welcome."

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