Steve danced. Men don’t dance enough, he thought.
“Straight men don’t dance.” That’s what his father always said, proving the point from his chair at every formal affair the family attended. Only once when Steve was still a boy had he ever seen his father dance, and that was after Aunt Josephine pulled him from the main table at her wedding.
He fought and cursed, but the woman had 100 pounds on him and, as his big sister, she knew how to break him. His stubborn resistance to all things “wild” and “unconventional” was shattered with enough public pressure. The man stood awkwardly in the crowd at first, straightening his tie and smoothing his salted hair, then he looked at everyone’s feet and shuffled a distorted resemblance of their moves. He searched for rhythm and flailed his arms, and when Josephine gave him an encouraging thumbs up, he clapped his hands lightly with the beat.
It is well known there was no parking on the dance floor, so Steve had put on his red shoes early in the evening. Before the buffet line had started and before cocktails were served, Steve had already twisted, shouted, and performed what he imagined the watusi to be. When his father was forced into shaking his groove thang, Steve electric slid over to his side. A dangerous move, he thought, considering how sweaty I am, but he didn’t want his father dancing by himself.
When his father relaxed and got into the groove, Steve smiled so hard it hurt. He relished that moment when his father finally joined him in something he loved. For a moment, right before his father reverted to his usual look of disappointment, they connected in a joy outside of judgment and societal expectations. They were just a father and son enjoying life together. Then he pulled Steve back to their seats, reminding him that “straight men don’t dance, Steven.”
His cheeks flushed with the thought of that day, how embarrassed his father was, and how badly his father made Steve feel for being himself. He never danced in front of his father again, but he danced for him now. He couldn’t fly in for the funeral because of exams. His mother said it was okay, but Aunt Josephine knew there was more to it.
When the rest of the world decided Steve’s life was worthy of pride, his father made an effort to come around. There was even a rainbow on his profile at one point, though Steve suspected that was with Mom’s assistance. It counted for something, his father’s late acceptance, and Steve didn’t want to dwell on the years of reluctant tolerance, but the hurt would never go away.
Steve had loved his father and he was sure his father loved him. They were just different men from different times. They shared the same cutting nose and the same crooner eyes. Steve even adopted some of the man’s wardrobe that now cycled back into fashion. What he couldn’t let go was that look of failure, as if his father couldn’t help but imagine a different son. A son that played football and brought home beautiful young women. A son that he could be proud of without special flags and “wild, unconventional” parades. That look dulled over the years, but it lingered behind his striking blue-grey eyes.
“That’s okay, dad,” Steve whispered. We had that one moment, he thought. I guess that’s enough.
Steve danced. He cried and he danced until he was just too tired. Maybe I can fly in tomorrow.
I plan on doing some more flash fiction like this. Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading. Be sure to Subscribe and follow.