“I’ll be there to pick you up in a few minutes!”
My mind drew a blank.
Pick me up for what?
Curious, I scrolled back through our various text messages and gasped. I have this wretched habit of blocking my own memory when I want to forget something. It’s a sort of psychological defense against scarring my brain from unwanted information, like that one time I accidentally walked into a men’s public restroom. This “brainwashing” tactic has kept my innocent little mind free from the cumbersome burdens of unsightly images, as well as foul memories I’d like to burn. However, unfortunately it also liberates my thoughts of futuristic events. Like today.
My cousin Taylor, upon hearing that I had never before been country dancing, decided that my life required instant rectification. She grabbed both my shoulders, stared me in the eyes with deep determination, and demanded that I go. Fearful of what might happen should I refuse, I swallowed hard and grunted a muffled acceptance. She gave a curt nod and let go.
That was a week ago. A whole seven days for my brain to crumple the memory into a thin wisp of the past and shove it out of sight of my attention span. She texted me about it to confirm of course, but those too had been wiped from the blonde essence of my mind.
I cursed to myself, and sprang into action, leaping off the couch where I sat. I stood there gaping, rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. I had never been dancing before and didn’t know the first thing about what to do. Should I wear yoga pants? Shorts? PJ’s? I figured the most appropriate thing would be to wear jeans, but the only pair I owned were a thousand years old and would rip at the slightest tug. A fleeting image of a large hole in my trousers made me flinch. I shuddered at the thought and shoved it to the garbage disposal in the back of my mind
Before I could take a step I heard a knock at my door. My cousin stood there beaming at me, her face the perfect picture of jubilation.
“Let’s go!” She wrapped her fingers around my wrist and jerked me out the door. She would have literally dragged me to her car had I not pleaded for mercy based on the fact that I wasn’t wearing shoes.
Ah. Shoes. That was the next problem. I bow to another terrible habit that bites me on occasion. I very much dislike spending money. I dislike it to such a degree that all of my purchases must have a dual purpose, if I can’t use the item for more than one thing, than I count it for naught and won’t buy the thing. Shoes, for example. I have only two pairs: one for exercise, and one for everything else. The ‘everything else’ shoes are simple black flats that just so happen to be a little bit too big for me. I bought them at the D.I, and didn’t care that the fit wasn’t perfect because the price was so agreeable. So I flop my days about in shoes that make me look a bit like a duck with overly large flippers.
Hurried, I slipped my feet into the worn flats and tossed open my closet, searching for anything that looked even slightly cowboy-like. A bright orange flannel shirt that someone pawned off on me caught my attention. Snatching it from it’s hanger I threw it over my head, forgetting that I still hadn’t removed the shirt I was already wearing. Frazzled, I ripped both off again and wriggled my arms through the flannel sleeves. It was way too big for me.
I laughed when I saw my reflection. To add to the general splendor of my appearance I wore paint stained yoga pants and a bright yellow flower clip locking my hair in a messy bun.
Whoa-ho! I look attractive!
My brain also speaks to me. It’s often quite sarcastic.
I giggled at the notion that anyone would dare ask me to dance when I looked such a spectacle, but decided that was a good thing because I didn’t know how to anyway. Snatching my purse from it’s hook, I fled the premises, already apprehensive for what the evening held in store.
The place itself was one large room simply decorated with nothing. Colorful lights flashed from the ceiling giving it an almost disco-like feel. Music blared from overhead speakers, pulsing the room itself into a rhythmic dance. Couples spun across the blank hardwood floor, spinning and twisting with sharp focused movements. The women plastered their faces with becoming makeup and wore brightly colored clothing that swished around them as they moved. Each man seemed confident in heeled boots and feathered hats. To my unpracticed eyes it looked like a bunch of flustered birds flapping through an ancient mystical feeding ritual.
Taylor bounced forward into the fray, pulling me along with her. I felt several pairs of eyes linger on me as I weaved through the throng. Hot blood rushed to my face, the red hue contrasting horrifically against the orange of my shirt. I hadn’t danced a step and already felt my forehead begin to perspire.
“This is my friend Sarah!” Taylor announced to a tall young woman holding the hand of a very muscular gentleman. “This is her first time.”
The two strangers made cooing noises at me, as if I were a baby taking my first steps. Several snide comments slipped to the tip of my tongue, but I bit them down, nodding a greeting instead. The couple were friends of Taylor’s and frequent visitors to this establishment. They decided that as the new foundling that I was, that they needed to demonstrate every dance move they had ever seen in their lives, including all the professional flips and moves that had died long ago from disuse. Though this was meant as a kind gesture, I felt utterly overwhelmed by the sudden flurry of seemingly capricious motions, and downright terrified that some guy might toss me over his head. I stepped away from the couple with a dazed expression, hoping to hide behind a garbage can, but Taylor caught me.
“Come dance with my friend!”
She pushed me into someone’s chest and I found myself tripping into the middle of the dance floor. I never did see the man’s face, I was far too preoccupied staring at his feet to figure out where I was supposed to step. I only looked up once to apologize to a neighboring man whom I accidentally elbowed in the ribs. Lucky for me we began dancing near the end of the song, so my embarrassment only lasted a minute.
Gratefully lumbering away from the man I stumbled to the side of the room where I crashed headlong into dark pillar. My forehead pulsed angrily, warning me against ever heading in that direction again. I rubbed at the tender wound and turned to see the skinniest man I’ve ever laid eyes on. He looked as though a taffy maker had way too much fun stretching out his limbs. His elbows were easily twice the width of the rest of his arm, and his frame seemed dwarfed in the baggy t-shirt he wore. When he held his hand out to me I didn’t know if he had seen me collide with the pillar and was trying to give me a low high-five, or if he was asking me to dance. Unsure, I gripped it in a handshake and introduced myself. He didn’t say a word but pulled me once again onto the dance floor. I bumbled on behind him, shouting warnings over the din that I had never danced before. Whether he didn’t hear me or chose not to respond I’ll never know, but he figured out what I was trying to communicate within seconds.
The song had barely begun and I had already stepped on his toes twice. He grimaced and tried to smile it off, but the pain in his eyes was evident. I attempted to apologize, but before I could do so he spun me away from him and lost grip on my fingers. I went spinning out of control and crashed between a neighboring couple, accidentally breaking them apart. I sputtered many sorrys while trying to find the skinny-little-man, and eventually found him craning his neck over the crowd in search of me. The next time he spun me he held a death grip on my fingers and jerked me out so hard that one of my shoes flew off my foot and hit an elderly gentleman on the side of his face. My heart plummeted into my stomach. Shaking my hands to break free from the skinny man’s grip, he thought I was getting over enthusiastic and shook his arms as well in a jovial jig, a wide grin breaking across his face.
“No,” I explained. “I have to go find my shoe!”
“What?” he mouthed, leaning in closer to hear me.
“MY SHOE IS IN AN OLD MAN’S FACE!!” I shouted, screaming into his ear with much more gusto than I intended. He reeled back and stared at me in confusion. Because he obviously wasn’t getting it, I just made a beeline for the old man, dragging my skinny partner with me.
The elderly dancer eyed me wearily as I made many apologetic gestures. He didn’t seem to be in a very forgiving mood, but I’m sure neither would I if a shoe smacked me upside the head. Frazzled, I kinked at the waist and bowed several curt bows, hoping the gesture would entice some kind of positive response, but that effort only granted me a very odd look.
More flustered now than ever, I shoved my foot back in my shoe and returned to the skinny guy who stood awkwardly nearby. By now the song had dwindled to it’s last few notes which apparently means all the men have to dip their partners. I had never been dipped before, and so my body snapped into Reflex Mode. As most little girls do, I began the first few years of my youth in a gymnasium studying gymnastics. Much like language and culture clings to children and soon becomes second nature, so did at least one of the gymnastic stretches: the backbend. It is a simple stretch that looks somewhat like a rainbow with the person’s hands and feet on the floor and their belly blanching towards the ceiling. Muscle memory rippled through my limbs as the skinny-little-man bent me towards the floor. My hands shot above my head and thrust to the ground, landing a perfectly placed backbend. Of course that wasn’t what I was supposed to do, and my partner certainly wasn’t expecting it. He stood over me with both arms wrapped awkwardly around my waist. Unfortunately, unlike muscle memory, flexibility doesn’t stay with a person, leaving me stuck in a back-bend in the middle of the floor with my partner tugging on me furiously to stand up. I couldn’t however, and he was far too feeble to do to the deed on his own. The other dancers had left the floor several minutes previously, leaving us to open view of everyone in attendance. I eventually figured out that if I buckled my knees I could sink to the floor, flop around to my belly, and from there crawl to a standing position. The whole ordeal left us both speechless, so we didn’t bother saying goodbye, and merely left the scene in opposite directions.
Taylor rushed to my side, her brow knit in concern. “Are you okay?”
I gave her a thumbs up and winked. “Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Maybe she didn’t sense my sarcasm, or perhaps she thought finding me another partner would solve all my problems. Whichever the case, I again found myself standing in front of a stranger, except this time I had at least met the guy briefly. He was the boyfriend of the tall friend Taylor had introduced me to when we first entered the room. He too had seen my little back-bend episode and decided that under his careful care I couldn’t possibly mess up. The man immediately jerked me into a lavish spin that required both my feet to leave the floor and spin around and around. I’m sure it was a darling technique that some make look graceful, but alas those blasted shoes; both went flying through the air in opposite directions, one hit a wall, and then other slid under several dancers in the middle of the room. Again my partner failed to notice and I had to scream above the music that I no longer had any footwear. I scrambled to find them, and eventually shoved them back on. I tried curling my toes in an effort to keep the silly things on, but that plan failed when a few spins later I again detached myself and snaked through the other dancers to find my shoes. I at last decided it wasn’t worth the effort and chucked them to the sidelines, mentally determining to go buy a new, more fitted pair.
Ryan, my partner, then decided that mere spinning wasn’t nearly as fun as doing flips. Before I could barter for my safety he wrapped his arm under my knees and flung my legs over my head. Naturally, practiced blackbelt that I am, I reacted by kicking out hard the moment my feet touched the ground. However, in the disoriented moment I kicked nothing but empty air and lost my balance. I would have landed flat on my bum, but Ryan still had hold of my arm enough to keep me suspended. Instead of ‘defending’ myself, as it were, I ended up clinging to his arm while my slippery socks skidded to and fro in search of my balance. When at last I found it again Ryan chuckled and said he wanted to try a more complicated move. I couldn’t believe the man. Had he not witnessed my utter lack of talent in the past few minutes? My stunned silence must have seemed to him the right time to act, so he picked me up and put me on his face. I kid you not. The man swung my legs to either side of his shoulders so that his head was oriented directly in front of my crotch. What I was supposed to do was swing one of my legs over to the same side as the other leg, and then maneuver that leg under his arm. Then I was supposed to grip his hand while he spun me around in a grand gesture. However, due to the fact that I never before heard, nor seen such a move, I reacted as any normal being would: I clung on for dear life. Clasping my feet together, I pinched his head more tightly between my legs and latched my hands in his hair, then let out a warrior cry of utter terror. The poor man. I can only imagine what thoughts must have pierced his mind when he found himself roaming wildly around a crowded dance floor with a girl sitting on his face. He attempted explaining what I was supposed to do, but between the loud music, his muffled voice, and my constant screaming, I heard not a word. He began plucking at my legs to disentangle them from his face. He got a good hold on one of them and arched it over his head. Although a great improvement to his circumstance, I felt the action did little to better mine. I then sat facing backwards over his shoulder like a parrot, only far less mystiq. I gripped his ears with my fingers and yelled all the more. Somehow he managed to snake his bicep between my legs so that my feet hooked above his shoulder. Then he started spinning. My grip on his ears broke free and I flew backwards towards the ground, my hands flailing above my head. What I was supposed to do at this point was grab his hand until the spinning stopped and then unclasp my legs and spin gracefully to the ground. What I did, however, wasn’t quite the same. Panicked, I clung to his arm with my feet hooked over his shoulder and my head pointed directly at the ground. I looked like a monkey clinging to its mother. Ryan wasn’t quite sure what to do with that, so he stopped spinning and tried to shake me off. There was no way I was about to let that happen, not with the ground so close to my face, so I hung on all the more. It wasn’t until then that I noticed a new song was playing. That meant that yet again the entire audience had observed my supreme dancing skills. I’m not sure how long I clung there, latched upside down to the arm of a perfect stranger, but to me it seemed an eternity. At last, however, he managed to untwist my feet so that they swung down to the safety of the floor.
Never again. I promised myself.
However, a few minutes later my next dancing victim pulled me onto the dance floor. I’m sure someone dared him to do it, but I didn’t bother to ask questions. Instead I poured all my energy and focus into following his every instruction. He was an older gentleman, perhaps a dance teacher of some sort, because he explained each move before he did it. Thank goodness the song wasn’t as fast paced as the others, and to my surprise I didn’t do all that wretched of a job! I only accidentally hit him in the face twice! I felt so proud of myself that by the end of the song I was near ecstatic with success, so when he dipped me I flung one foot out with enthusiastic vigor, only to feel it strike against something soft. Leaning up I saw to my horror a woman rubbing her backside. In my jubilation I had kicked her squarely in the bum. All my remaining pride seeped through the floorboards.
“I…am SO sorry! I’m so sorry!” I repeated over and over again, one hand covering my mouth, and the other stretched towards the woman in an apologetic gesture. The pulsing in my foot told me the accidental kick wasn’t just a gentle tap. The woman shook her head at me and limped away, one hand rubbing the tender spot.
After that I pretended my ankle was broken for the rest of the evening. Despite it all I enjoyed myself, in a weird, thoroughly awkward sort of way. I by no means have any desire to repeat any of my horrid mistakes, but, I did exit the building with quite the story to tell around the dinner table.