The Dance of “Last Dance”

March 26, 2013 § 1 Comment


donna_summer_plumage_std-polaDana Tommasino, author of Last Dance”  in the March 2013 issue of Brevity, reflects on the origin of her essay and stories that seem to haunt you:

The story came to me in quirks and figments, over time.

The ladies, Flanders and Anna — known so briefly — sat with me for decades. Or, through them, a sense of a time did. They were bearers. I’d tried to write them before, had gotten only scraps, snippets.

Donna Summer’s death last year was all over my Twitter stream. I was taken by how much she moved people. Yet it also sparked my song-tinged memory, brought the ladies back, gave them, and the story, home.

And how much music, in general, scores my memory, my past.

My mother owned a hair salon in LA in the 60s. I grew up alongside her gay cohorts. There was the sheer beauty of these people making lives together in such isolation, with so much ranged against that possibility. They were, in their way, ghosted. I’ve felt a great gratefulness for them lately that I’ve poked around in, in recent writing.

Roles were more defined then, prescribed. Flanders & Anna, my age, were emblematic of a certain style of gayness to me, almost a throw-back to that time.

Growing up, I was neither femme nor butch. It intensified my — already outsider — oddness.

In gayliness there is a persistent story of well-meaning friends introducing you to someone you have no other thing in common with other than gayness. This story trades in that a bit. Only the random pairing was self-initiated.

I was not aiming for a gay story but a true one.

I would never want to be 20s again.

It started as sensation then I slowly added detail. The ghosts were there first. I wrote to fill in around them.

Although it becomes slightly surreal by the end, “Last Dance” is far more traditionally narrative than what I’ve been writing lately, as though it needed structure to hold its phantom/s.

Afterwards, I fretted the story wasn’t gracious enough, but what does that mean? In some way it was transcribed from the character of me twenty-five years ago. The voice of ‘me’ came to me. Am I her now?

It’s not like telling it cocooned it perfectly, or permanently, or even halted it.

It’s a haunted story. Yet not just by the obvious ghosts. It is me ghosted all the way through, trying to feel my selves against other (ghosts), and longing, as we all are in the story, for communion.

What story doesn’t have that?

Dana Tommasino is the chef/owner of Woodward’s Garden Restaurant in San Francisco, where she also curates and hosts readings. She has a master’s degree in literature from Mills College. Her work has also appeared in Narrative Magazine. She lives in San Francisco with her family and her crazed Norwich terrier, Chickpea

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