The Electra-Adjacent Ballroom

Cara Lang


Last night, I fell in love with a friend of my father’s. Except he didn’t know my father at all. Except he sort of resembled my father. Except he definitely was not my father.

He was a teacher. And I was a student. He was older, and I was younger. He was dark haired and self-assured, and I was an adolescent version of myself, yet with all the interior trappings of my current self.

At the time, this seemed to be an important distinction, but now, after a little thought, I think perhaps there is not much difference between then and now.

My body may have changed, but I still think I’m fat.

That night we all wore clothes that looked nice but constricted our breath: tight belts and stiff shoes, zippers and closures and clasps.

We were dancing in a gymnasium. The kind of high school dance class I’d never been to. The boys, the men, the males, they were instructed to bend their back knees and extend a hand out towards the room. The girls, the women, the females, we were instructed to accept an offer to dance. Tit for tat. The natural order of things. Offer and acceptance: the basis of our social contract.

I accepted some anonymous boy’s hand. He was rough and awkward, pushed me away with his arms and then took two steps back. I was relieved when the whistle blew until I looked around for an outstretched hand and it seemed that every offer had already been accepted. Then I became frantic, frozen in a mental frenzy until someone tapped at my waist. His hand turned me like a potter’s wheel and he caught me in perfect ballroom frame. Relaxed shoulders. Strong arms. Offer and acceptance.

You know how to dance, I said.

There are things one learns in a life, he replied.

And the dance was easy like white clouds in a clear blue sky. Like cotton candy whirling quickly in a circle, propelled by the hot air, caught by the conical cardboard roll. I was being spun like blue and pink sugar, a sweet treat made for the enjoyment of children at a fair.

Warning: Over-ingestion may cause cavities.

Plucked by thick fingers, I melted quickly against his stiff tongue, allowed myself to be eaten, to dissolve as innocently as softly spun sugar. Invisible.


Cara Lang lives and writes in close proximity to the sea on the West Coast of British Columbia. Her work seeks to understand polarity: always and never. A graduate of the MFA program at Goddard College, she currently works at Anvil Press. Call her anything but her real name. Twitter/Instagram: @Carabwrites


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