Chasing down the Dance
Last night, one of those moments of beauty which life delivers at the most unexpected moments, one of those moments of complete understanding between complete, disparate even, strangers... A seemingly undeserved moment of reprieve that has come during unrelenting medical antagonism and academic stress; during flatmate (who has not yet forgiven me for missing part of her birthday; but I have faith in her goodness) & boyfriend (who has forgiven me) alienation; during this time of starvation when I have no time nor resource to refuel my exhausted mind, when tango even ceases to give me peace as my body fades, when what I crave most is to sit quietly, even silently, with good friends across a table of good food and let their presence fill the cracks in my own. Despite my downfalls, last night, life fed me -
I went (a wrecked ship), last night, to the Blues Brothers show at the Royal with my boss, who apparently asked me along because a) I'm as close to Chicago as he's ever gotten, and b) he knew I would dance with abandon, which I of course did - for the entire 3 hours. This latter meant leaving our cramped seats in the center of the stalls & moving to the side aisle where we wouldn't block our (incredibly disgruntled) neighbors' view & where we could actually dance. Out there, I met a couple of guys who actually work with the show (one, a 15-year-old, has been traveling with the Bros. for 12 years & will be the "new Jake" when the current Jake retires - what amazing lives people live!) - when they learned I was from the Chicago area AND danced swing/blues, I was named a "soul brother" & duly included in their previously double side-act.
Out there, I also noticed a young man, sitting with his father on the edge of the row, right on our aisle, with Down syndrome. A young man whose unadulterated rapture with the show, the music, the lights captured me (esp. after the late-middle-aged British priggishness of our row - "You know you've given up your seats for good now!" they snapped at us as we excuse me'd and apologized our way over their knees between songs). It was so pure - the entirely unselfconscious smile on this man's upturned face - such happiness - suddenly everything else seemed so unimportant next to this.
But one thing. As the music got louder, more and more people stood to rock & clap to the rhythm - except this man. He sat, rooted in his seat, hands gripping its arms; he still smiled, but occasionally, I saw conflict flit across his eyes. It wasn't until I saw him see me that I understood: I tapped into some of my swing footwork, my black&white saddle soft-shoes flashing - and I saw his eyes follow my feet up the floor and down again, and then - sensing I'd caught him watching - he looked into my face, and he grinned - I could only grin back - I understood. I didn't stop dancing the rest of the night, and waited to meet his eye again and again to smile again and again at him -
Until he at last stood up from his seat. He started slowly. He stood. He let his arms drop at his sides at first, then swayed them back and forth a bit, his smile tightening in concentration. Then his brown eyes wandered over to me again. I started rocking back and forth to the music, clapping first on the left and then on the right - and he rocked with me, to the left and to the right. And suddenly we hit the rhythm together - left, clap; right, clap - and his grin came back, and mine. By the time they closed with "Everybody needs somebody to love," he didn't even need me anymore, only the music.
And when the curtain dropped and as he was leaving with his father, he stopped to shake my hand, but I felt so much more that I should be shaking his for reminding me again of that unadulterated joy in dance, that connection (so strange yet so perfect that a complete stranger standing several feet away from me should do this), and that peace that comes when you finally chase it down, all the way down to the end of the world which you find suddenly, unexpectedly, is at your innermost center...