Black, black, black. How can I see when it is all black? Where am I? My eyes are open but I cannot see. My fingers reach beside me. It is gritty, ropy, some kind of texture. The smell of must pervades the air. I was sleeping but there is no bed. I stretch my arm as far as I can reach. Smooth. Small indentations like a groove. Roll over. Breath in. Very musty. No ventilation. Slide along reaching with fingers. I can’t move far. I can’t sit. My head’s wet. Tastes like salt. Salt. Salt Lake. Ocean. Water.
My head throbs. Head’s wet. Arm’s dry. Try to remember. Dancing. Dancing. Cannot return to the table. Ted is looking very agitated.
Yes. We met the Czech cousins in Prague. They were able to get away during the week from their teaching jobs. We met their superior, the minister of Education for Slovakia. Joined them for dinner. Lots of slivovitz. Destination: After hours place.
Nightclub appeared closed. But after a wrap, wrap, wrap, it opened. We emerged into a large ballroom with a 12-piece orchestra, large dance floor and many clothed tables. Strange that no one other than our group was here. Ted can speak with his cousin, Elizabetha but not with her husband. Ted’s parents came to the US from Austria Hungary so his first language was a Slovakian dialect.
Twelve in our party; mostly men in dark suits. Only two other women besides Elizabetha and me. One very handsome, tall man asked me to dance, not in words but by gesture. It was a polka, whirling, whirling, whirling, legs up in the air polka. After 3 dances, I wanted to return to the table. My partner did not understand. I tried to release myself from his grasp but he held me in place. We started dancing again. Ted was looking extremely agitated. Shaking his finger saying, “No. No. No.”
My legs were aching. Trying to pull away. Handsome man transforming into sinister enemy. Unable to return to the safety of my husband’s presence. 4:45AM. Dizzying dancing. Endless dancing. Deliberate dancing.
At last we return to the table. Ted was sweating. A large trail of sweat was just about to reach the collar of his shirt. Reaching over to wipe it away, I was restrained. My quizzical expression went unanswered by Ted.
I was permitted to leave the table to use the restroom. A woman, also dressed in black, placed her hand in the small of my back pressing me in the direction intended. Down a long hallway I was propelled. Shoved.
Blackness. Nothingness. Silence. How long have I been here? A stripe of light. So cold. Crawling towards the stripe. Slight waft of air fingers my face. Where is Ted?
Sounds approaching. Approaching louder. Door thrust open. Brightness invades.
Elizabetha stoops down to help me up. “You must have fallen.” I nod. “Where is Ted?” Elizabetha replied, “He is in the taxi waiting for you.”
The large doors to the club were unlocked to let us out. The red orange rays of early dawn were just crossing the sidewalk. It was 6:15 in the morning.
Ted’s concerned look and index finger pressed against his mouth answered none of my (unspoken) questions. Silent cab ride to where? Prison? Torture? Execution? Escape? Where were we being taken? Taken somewhere to disappear? The cousins were no longer with us but we were not alone in the cab. We were being “protected” by an unknown dark suited man.
My heart’s beating faster. My throat’s dry. Eyes pressed closed. Ted’s hand on my arm. The cab slowed down. Then stopped. The doors released. My eyes opened. My head turned. Destination was our H O T E L . Not taken. Safe. A L I V E.