Thanks again to Chuck for his prompt – Mata Hari in the Silence
The delicate wind chime tinkles, no that’s not right, its more melodic than that. It, well it chimes, I’m far too worn out to come up with something witty.
The breeze bumps the crystals against each other, shards of light scatter every which way, falling across my hand, darting across chest. I’m transported back to a time when my life was exotic and exceptional, when diamonds adorned my body, music followed me, underscoring my every waking moment.
I mesmerised, I hypnotised and I entranced. My dancing cost people their lives, thousands of lives. It changed the world. Honestly.
You wouldn’t think it now, no one would. Most days I don’t even bother to think about it. But on days like today, when the Indian summer breeze sighs through my window in this soulless facility, I’m transported. I remember the wild times. In this place of clinical halls and silent rooms, of secrets kept and lives forgotten, I am seldom alone for very long. Conveniently, someone always interrupts my reminisces before they get to the really unpleasant parts. We elderly are ever lonely, but rarely alone.
Little of what I got in trouble for was anything like what people thought. We were just having fun, experimenting and reinventing seduction, and sharing secrets. We were playing.
It started in the club, as it always did. I had danced for so many men, and women. The jewels that stuck to my skin were no longer paste, but real. Gifts from admirers. Some I spent time with. The dance hypnotised both them and me. What they told me, when I danced for them, I never asked for, I didn’t care about, and I barely understood.
I had friends, so many friends, no one asked me to keep silent. Everyone knew I was all about sharing. I shared my dance, my body, my spirit, and other people’s secrets.
In a time of war secrets are important, but I was not in the business of secrets or silence. I was in the business of sparkling, of feathers and fans.
Do you know what the secret to love is? Like attracts like. I loved. And in return I was loved. And do you know what else? I loved being loved. It turns out love is self perpetuating.
But it doesn’t save all. If it did I wouldn’t have needed the help I did, I may have ended up in this same silence, thus is the curse of most elderly. But my path here would have kept my name, at the very least.
Mata Hari. I am Maria Hernandez.
Hah! The greatest dance I ever performed was falling before those bullets. Those lovely young riflemen, with shiny eyes and grabbing hands but, ultimately, shooting blanks.
Friends with secrets, cruise ship tickets, a home in South America, new rhythms, a new dance, old age in a foreign place.
How long does the exotic stay exotic? How long until it becomes part of you and normal? How long until you can truly forget the excitement, the world you helped to create? I’m old now, my hips don’t sway or hypnotise, they creak and ache.
But, unbidden, the secrets still come to me. As I age my past slips further away, but the allure of my exoticism remains.
I’ve never been silent. The world knows I don’t keep secrets, my very name is synonymous with betrayal. Perhaps my dance, the defining characteristic of myself, is actually silent. Is it possible that my allure has nothing to do with my movement and physicality, that they were simply tools to provide others with an excuse to share the secrets bursting within them?
I know my nurse is a lesbian, she has told no one else. I know the director of the facility has funnelled sickening amounts of money into his mistress’ home. The woman in the room next to me was the wife of the man that dropped a bomb in Japan.
I don’t care. I never have. I’ll tell anyone that asks.
You just have to ask me.