from the journal of DESDEMONA

It has been a long time since I left the Highlands.

 

The Picts were still ruling then, a race fierce and wild. And the men – well, the world has never seen their like, nor will again, for brawn, for beauty; standing naked in in a tempest, rain-soaked, their blue-painted bodies glowing with an inner lightning. Some days, in Glasgow, for a moment, I will see piercing blue eyes...dark hair...the particular sweep of cheekbone towards temple that marked those ancient people, but the impression fades. In the end, it is always the men I regret.

 

You see, I was never famous. Those in my circumstances cannot be – or should not be. Better to be the puppet master than the puppet. I was often near those with fame, renown, and money. I stood on a stage with Little Egypt, in Chicago, when we first brought the dance to America, and scandalised the public with the danse du ventre as Sol Bloom called it, though it has other names. I was an official retainer to Cleopatra, an attendant to Anne of Austria, in the close inner circle of the Rat Pack, a good friend of Marilyn Monroe. Always in the shadows – but isn't that where we are meant to be, the baobhan sith? We are not fanged, like our more showoff European counterparts; and who would notice long nails on a woman? Long nails that cut with the silence of the razor, of the garrotte...so much more tasteful...so much more clean.

 

I have continued to perform the danse du ventre, everywhere I travel. No one suspects an itinerant performer, and its popularity has not waned over the years; it is the closest thing to magic in the human world, with its power to enchant, to seduce, and to charm. I have seen the harims of the desert, the pretty boys of the Far East, the blood-red sky of a Malay sunset, the monsters that lay waiting in the deep over the side of a ship bound for the Arctic. I have tasted the blood of thousands, perhaps millions, of the beautiful and bright; you could say that I am something of a gourmand. I have been the shadowy friend to the famous, I have been involved in revolution, I have marvelled at artists, I have been painted myself. I have come a long way from the pale fey woman who set forth from her mountains long ago; her mountains, which now are called the Highlands, her home, which now is called Scotland, and I am of an age so ancient I cannot recall my first days.

 

Tonight, I am home, for the first time in centuries. The lights of Glasgow remind me of Victorian London, golden and ancient, under the stars.

 

Tonight, I have a rendezvous. A handsome young man with piercing blue eyes. Tonight, I dance again.

 

As I have said, it is the young men I regret.

 

-Desdemona, on her arrival in Glasgow, 1975