I Dance People

by Jeroen van Honk

This one is particularly beautiful.

I spotted him outside the metro station. He was not the type I’d normally go for, but sometimes you have to try something different on purpose. It keeps you on your toes. He was one of the easier ones to master. I studied him for mere minutes. I sort of circled around the guy, the way I normally did. I would overtake him on the street and then pretend to forget something, about face, and walk in his direction. Or I would run around a block so that, from an alley, I could observe him from the side.

Most remarkable about this man was that he was so full of mirth. There was a spring in his step, but not in an annoying bubble-headed optimist way. It was more playful, a countenance suggesting that he considered life to be a joke. His blonde hair was voluminous, and stood up as an extension of his forehead. It bounced because of his springy step. This made him look quite cartoonesque to me. He wore baggy pants and a long sleeve Garfield shirt.

A loosely fitted garment was always more tricky because it obscured the intricacies of someone’s movements for me. This man, however, moved so straightforwardly that it was a done deal. He knew exactly where he was going and was absolutely faultless. He never tripped, never hesitated, never walked up against an oncoming pedestrian—or did that little sideways dance that people do, both going left, both going right, both not moving. This definitely made my job easier, because clumsy actions were the hardest to anticipate.

Once I learned him, I started shadowing, sidling up to him from a shop. From that point on we formed a single file. I mirrored his springy walk, the way his arms were slung lifelessly aside his body, the slight bobbing of his head. I had observed exactly how he responded to red lights, when he’d ignore them, and how he’d come to a stop if he didn’t. I so perfectly timed my movements that my feet would hit the ground at the same time as his, and that our breathing aligned, so as to ensure that he would not discover me by sound.

Then of course, people have this sixth sense that pertains to something behind them. They can feel someone stare at them, even from behind. This is one of the hardest things to counter, to master and control. It concerns making your every move effortless, instinctive, unconscious. The reason you feel that stare is because there is an actual tangible transfer happening, a bit of concentration that leaks, out of the eyes, into the back of the head of the target. Therefore, the trick is to be a complete natural, to really be the person in front of you, and not to try to be, and especially not to try to read. You should do that before the shadowing.

I call them dances. I dance a person. Once I learn the dance, I always remember it, so that I can still dance many people that I have long since lost track off. Some may have even died, which means I might be carrying with me something unique, a pattern of physical motion that everyone thinks has long since perished. This thought has a strange allure.

Once I’ve learned a dance, I get bored with the teacher quickly. Predicting someone’s every move sucks out all the excitement of a person. I need to actually break free with some force though. I need to shake off the dance with a shock, which is why, as we head underground to catch a metro, I push him off the stairs.

This one is particularly beautiful.

Jeroen van Honk is a 24-year-old writer from Leiden, The Netherlands. Last year he finished his BA in Linguistics and then took a year off to work and pursue his reading and writing. Next year he will do his MA in Book and Digital Media. His stories are often concerned with the increasing effect of technology and the diminishing role of spirituality in the modern world and how this affects all of us. His biggest influences at this point are probably Jose Luis Borges and Don DeLillo.