Light in the Shade by Erin Lyndal Martin

Editor Matty Byloos, Music, December 16th, 2015

"I lost count of how many people I kissed that night..."

goth kissing music essay erin lyndal martin


In New Orleans to lick my wounds after copious rejection slips for my first novel, I walked beside the Mississippi for the length of one banana daiquiri. I watched the fog rise and spill over the riverbank. It was my first trip back to the city since the hurricane, and while the devastation made me sad, there was still something amazing and healing and magical about the city. I was glad to be there.

I threw away my cup and walked down Decatur Street, attempting to either duck into a bar and write quietly, or to go sleep in my hotel. I walked past a club known for attracting young goths from all over and heard the opening lines of New Order’s “True Faith.” Even though I wasn’t dressed for goth dancing, I couldn’t turn it down.

As soon as I stepped into the club and got myself a rum and coke, I was taken back to high school. The watery bite of Bacardi from a plastic cup was straight out of my junior year. I sang along with the song, pictured myself cross-legged on my childhood bed. I remembered the first New Order cassette tape I owned and how I spent hours poring over the insert, taking in all of the liner notes. I lost myself in the music back then, and now I was finding myself there.

I started to dance, felt a little self-conscious at first because I was alone and not dressed to party. I took sips of my drink, letting the rum mingle with the daiquiri that iced its way through my body. Watching myself move in the flickering club lights that reflected in a mirror on the back wall, I was sexy. I watched my curves shimmer in the looking glass and became, for a moment, lost in my reflection.

Soon the dancing started to loosen up my body. I looked up at a beautiful, androgynous girl dancing near me. I danced closer to her, and she to me. When the song ended, she pulled me close and kissed me on the cheek as she turned to leave. I blushed in the darkened club.

The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” started playing next, and applause went up like a wisp of incense smoke. I remembered that song playing on the jukebox the last time I’d been in New Orleans, and how I sang along to it and caught the eye of a very sexy librarian who I took back to my hotel that night. He said I was “the most fuckable woman on the planet.”

As I looked around me, I realized that I was in the middle of a group of people who all had stories about “Just Like Heaven.” That was why we were there. I smiled, dancing harder, not being so afraid of my hips any more. The music turned me into the most fuckable woman on the planet again.

A girl in a shiny black leather sheath and high boots put her hands on my shoulders. “I’m Maggie,” she shouted into my ear over the music. I shouted back an introduction and we danced for the rest of the song. As the next song started, she leaned up and shouted, “So do you dig girls?” I said that I did and she asked if she could kiss me. She leaned over from the height of her enormous boots and kissed me with a mouth full of clove cigarettes and liquor. I kissed her hard, feeling the slickness of her dress under my hands.

As I stood there kissing Maggie, a boy with spiky hair and a leather collar approached us. Maggie tried to mouth his name to me, but I couldn’t make it out, so I just put my mouth on his instead. He didn’t taste like cloves or liquor. He tasted clean and friendly.

The night went on and the game of musical lips continued. A boy in a black beret kissed me hard and sucked on my earlobes. He repeatedly attempted what I assume was supposed to be an erotic spanking, but was actually just a rather awkward (and somewhat painful) thigh-slap.

I moved on to a girl in a peasant blouse and broomstick skirt, nuzzling her neck and stroking her hair. She turned her back to me so I could touch her breasts through the silk of her blouse while I kissed the back of her neck. I lost count of how many people I kissed that night. Maggie was the only one whose name I got; the others I remember by the tenderness of the kiss, the roughness of the beard stubble, or the scent of myrrh that clung to a collarbone.

I left the club alone without phone numbers. I’d had a night full of first kisses, and not once did I have to ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” Maybe if I’d talked to all the people I kissed, I wouldn’t have liked some of them. Maybe they wouldn’t have liked me. We didn’t have a chance to dislike each other because we were busy doing what we loved.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem once wrote that the kiss “is the sign that our souls are united and that we banish all remembrance of injury.” I doubt he was talking about drunken make-outs in a goth club in New Orleans, but I still resonated with the message. In this group of strangers, we kissed each other not by ferreting out who was gay or straight or bi or trans, but simply by the beautiful curiosity of wanting to taste each other. Our souls were united in aesthetics and art.

We all liked black, and we all knew the words to the Joy Division song the deejay played that night. And that was enough.

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If you enjoyed this piece, then you might also like “Boomer” by Erin Lyndal Martin, which can be read here.

Header image courtesy of Maria Louceiro. To view a gallery of her photography on NAILED, go here.

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Erin Lyndal MartinErin Lyndal Martin is a poet, fiction writer, and music journalist. More of her flash fiction can be read in Literary Orphans, Smokelong Quarterly, and Cease, Cows.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).