Her shoes brush the smooth floors day and night. She sits out a few, but is always present, whirling between partners. The short blue satin dress with the low neckline she wore last evening may be a long red ball gown or white summer chiffon when you wake in the morning. By the time breakfast has ended, necklines may plunge, hemlines lengthen, or red may fade to pink, burn to orange, or even blacken. More often she wears the same dress for months and sometimes years at a time, and the slide between colors, shapes, and sheen is gradual, imperceptible. Each dance with her feels different in place, in time, in the amount of weight you give her as your partner, and in the extent to which you engage her. On occasion, you may catch a glimpse of the erect figure of Reality just beyond her shoulder leading a solemn waltz.
You may dance with her and admire high cheekbones and wide lips, long black curls and a shapely figure. Today, her dress flows with satin strips tied small at the waist. Soft blues and greens and browns give her a natural look, a forest fairy look, the look on the face of a nine year old, who swam in the river with your sister while your mother sat on the bank in the sun, watching happiness in the wings of dragonflies and the croaks of frogs. When the large Angus bull led the herd down to drink at the river, all crossed in the shallows, except him. He paused and then waded into the deepest part very near to you while the three of you watched transfixed, confused, delighted. He reached the depth at which his feet could no longer touch and began to swim the awkward, jovial swim of an enormous bovine, nostrils snorting, whiskers glistening, until he reached the other side and climbed the bank. For no more reason than the fact that he could. You looked to your sister and then your mother and three of you laughed at the summer oddity under sycamore trees high and shady over clear water full of slippery rainbows of trout and you hear Memory laughing with you as you dip her gracefully to the floor at the end of a playful Foxtrot. You look to her rich hair trailing the floor, but by then her dress is an autumn yellow-red and her hair a graceful, blonde up-do.
The Goddess of Memory is not always so lovely to you. When you find her ugly you are still obligated to dance with her. She does not receive rejection well and she will pursue you until you relent. Sometimes her face grows harsh and glowering and her dress becomes a shapeless sack of filthy gray, her odor foul, her hair matted and pulled back from her sweaty throat so you can see the bruises on your mother’s neck and remember where they came from. Even though you close your eyes tight and tighter, you cannot leave the floor of your existence and you still feel the movement of the dance going on around you.
Her gift for you is that although she requires you accept the dance whether she is creamy-skinned with glowing red hair and green eyes, just as you must dance with her when she is gaunt and angry, vile and formless, you may choose the music of the dance. Just as she changes her appearance to you, you may pull a different melody from the air causing your lead to change and thus her follow to become something altogether new.
She asks that you stay close, properly connected throughout turns and passes. If not, she may spin uncontrollably by and become a blur, the flecks and pieces of specificity flying like glitter, or dirt depending, hither and yon. And while her dance awards moments of gold and flashes of Renoir, she may also bring forth disjointed and awkward steps and on occasion fall down completely. The most important thing is to never, ever lose her altogether. She knows of your tricks, your cognitive therapies, and your medications. She knows that sometimes you prefer the blur or disconnection when she presents a face from which you cannot bear to smell her breath. She will accompany you to the beverage table and join you for a glass of Dom Pérignon until she turns lovely again. When you stumble on the floor, the tightening you feel on your hand, the upward pull toward a balance regained, that also comes from her.
She does not lie to you, but depending upon her appearance you may lie about her in your embarrassment or disgust. She tends toward younger partners since with the elderly the connection often falters and the quickstep quickly falls apart. The quality of dance will depend much on you as a partner; but without her follow no lead exists.
She is a difficult goddess at times. She rules over hideous footwork and body jerking missteps, but her kingdom also keeps diamond and platinum spaces in time; the perfect développé, twinkle, cross body lead, or a floor sweeping dip, bodies close and eye to eye. Whether she wears a gray robe, or a golden gown, you will find in your connection, a receptive, yet unforgiving follow. The truth though, some will never learn. Some learn it and refuse it. Perhaps you will notice it one evening in the strength of her connection and the feel of perfection, when you raise your arm and she begins to turn gracefully. But then she looks back at you with that coy smile just before she goes around and you are lost in the face of the goddess and blind to the reality that Memory has been leading you all along.
Amanda Pauley began writing fiction as an English major at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and continued through a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at Hollins University. Her stories have appeared in the Press 53 Open Awards Anthologies, Cargoes, the Clinch Mountain Review, the Canyon Review, the West Trade Review, and The Masters Review Anthology III, 2014. She also has a forthcoming publication in the Canary.