The Last Dance with My Dad

Before he died, of AIDS, we went on vacation.

On the dance floor, it was different. The dance floor was a space for celebration, for exaltation, for escape. The men filling it were free to be themselves, free to flood their ailing bodies with endorphins, free to be together in a community that understood and adored one another. It was like a church where the d.j. was preacher, house beat was heartbeat, and God did not discriminate. I wanted to know what that felt like, but I was afraid. This was their turf; I was just a visitor. More liberated than at school, but still an outsider, and, because I had always lived in a state of hiding a huge part of my identity—my family story—I questioned my very self. I didn’t know how to move. …

That night I danced. In a throng of gay men, with Tom and Claire, with my dying dad by my side, as Laura Branigan sang “Gloria” and the ship rocked with the waves of a passing storm, I let myself go. I let joy spread through me, even as I feared this might be the last time my father and I ever shared a dance floor. (It was.) That night, we moved together. We felt and sang and danced together—the rhythm binding us, the crowd embracing us, the present moment the only truth there was.

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