Mobsters don't dance. Not freely. They might powerfully lead a woman in a display of manly control. But they don't sway. They stand, firm.
He loves the feel of surfaces beneath his feet as he dances. He puts his headphones on and sneaks out of the hotel room. Tonight he will feel the sand give beneath his feet as he sambas up and down a deserted beach. Middle-aged, and overweight, he doesn't look the type to move this gracefully.
He's never been formally taught but he can mimic any move he's just seen and invent the right rhythm and movement to go with a song. He just feels music. Mostly with his feet. That's where it feels best. Once, he got to feel the crunch of shells beneath his feet while inventing a new version of tap dancing. It was the most gratifying feedback the universe ever fed his feet. It was like they'd grown teeth and could eat chips all night long without drying out or getting full or sick.
He waits until his wife's breathing slows. Her mouth flops open and she turns away from him, nuzzles into her pillow. Her breathing regular now, he moves slowly, listens for any changes. She does not stir, so he creeps quietly out the door, being sure to remember his key.
He steps into full moonlight and can't believe his fortune. He scoped out places earlier in the day while "shopping." He relocates the spot he'd chosen earlier. It is the private but unfenced and unmonitored beach of a slightly expensive hotel down the road from the cheap hotel where they are staying. He and his wife walked past several times and he checked the number of people in the lounge and restaurant each time: nearly empty. The clientele that had been present had been the quiet variety. Folks who traveled frequently but gently. They read books and came to relax. They were even tempered, cool headed accountants and government workers. They were "up late" at 11:00 but by now, certainly in bed. The sand on this beach was unlikely to be littered with trash or glass and would be soft and consistent. His body tingles in excitement at his fortune. This, is a vacation, he thinks.
He sits in an Adirondack chair, bends and unties his shoes, then pulls his socks off. He grips the sand with his toes, then tosses some. He practices a few throws. He can throw quite far with his feet. He searches through musical options until he comes to the perfect song. It is a high quality live recording so he can pretend he's really there.
He stands and begins his evening. He lets his emotions go, just moves. It is meditation for him. He is in the moment, in the movement. He doesn't give a damn about his belly or his mediocre job or his past. He sweats, forgets. He exhausts himself.
He sits back down in the chair and the tears come. He now wishes the moon were not quite so big. That clouds or some other cover would come to veil his regret. He thinks of his past and what he has seen and therefore been complicit in. Another person would tell the tale with him as the ex-gangster, but the truth is less glamorous.
He worked in a mafia front for a small outfit. It was a bakery and he was young. He was wide eyed but could keep his mouth shut. He was unassuming. So, it wasn't long before the guys talked openly in front of him. They stopped asking him to run an errand or take the trash out when the phone rang and just talked. It wasn't long either before he understood their lingo. He never much helped, but he got paid more than a 19 year old earns baking bread. He saw guys roughed up. Girls doped up. And more. So much more.
He wanted to leave, but fear paralyzed him and so he stayed. Years, he stayed, listening, seeing, damaging his soul. The low level bosses loved him. He made them feel manly. He was dopy and awkward and quiet. They got to be big and bad and powerful. He didn't challenge anything.
He was once in the back when they brought in one of the mid level bosses girls. She was pregnant but resisting the abortion her daddy was requiring of her. They strapped her down and a doctor came in and forcibly performed the procedure. She screamed and cried through all manner of drugs and gagging and he quietly said nothing. Did nothing.
He'd finally read a story about gang bangers and realized he was a socio economic step away from one himself and had to get out. He then began tuning out what was going on around him and planning his escape. He knew too much to simply be allowed to move on. He would have to leave. And carefully.
He began making mental lists of all the locations anyone mentioned. He wrote each one down when he got home in order to eliminate them as options. Chicago was obviously out. Trinidad, Colorado was also out (too many bosses retired there.) The list of podunk towns was surprisingly long.
Then he watched a movie about a cowboy and it made him yearn for mountains and rivers and horses. He saved every dime he could get a hold of. For a brief moment, he considered embezzling or out and out stealing but then thought that would be too big a risk. Instead, he saved for two years. He planned to save for three, but with what he saw, he just couldn't.
After his shift, he drove his car to the edge of town, traded it in, and drove through 2 tanks of gas before abandoning the car and taking the bus to Montana. He hitched the rest of the way to Belfry, MT. Population 223.
People think the mafia have someone everywhere. And sometimes it feels that way. But if you can blend well enough, there are places anyone can disappear. He had perfected the art of being quietly unassuming, so just like that, he was gone.
He looked at his music, selected something calming, quiet, peaceful. Then immediately turned it off. He threw his headphones on the ground and stood. He listened to the ocean instead. He swayed and let his arms float where they would and just let the waves carry his body away in motion. Let it take his regrets.
A voice interrupted his moment. "Nahman? I toud dat was yous. I nevah fuhget a face, Nahm." He didn't move now.