Chapter 1. Elizabeth
I came to work this morning as ready as I would ever be to face the day: I got my 8 hours of sleep, woke-up before my alarm, managed a healthy breakfast which involved an honest-to-God piece of fruit (not the dried-up bits and pieces you'd find in a cereal), and had so much time left I caught an earlier bus and didn't even bother to listen to my MP3 player - I wanted to take in all the charms of the early morning. If I were one of those fitness-obsessed types, I would have squeezed in an early morning run (if I had the strength in my legs to carry me over long distances), or maybe even biked to work (if I had a bike to ride, and the legs to pedal the thing and myself over long distances).
"Morning Beth," said Janet, as I walked to my desk.
Janet's probably the only person nowadays who calls me Beth. Everyone else I know seems to prefer Liz for no real reason - I never introduce myself as Liz to anybody - but with 4 syllables to choose from, E-Liz-A-Beth, everybody's bound to pick one or the other. I even had an old school mate call me 'E' for a spell, but that was only during some phase where he addressed everybody by the first letter of their name.
Nobody's ever called me 'A' though. That'd just be weird.
"Morning Janet," I replied, a bit of my morning cheer seeping into those 2 small words.
"My, someone woke-up on the right side of bed this morning." said Janet somewhat accusingly, stopping her typing to look across at me over the tiny slab of metal that acts as a boundary to our conjoined desks. "Finally discovered caffeine? Or those magical B vitamins?"
"No. Just a nice long rest and a healthy breakfast." I said, sitting down and turning on my computer.
"Bah, natural remedies. Give me a syringe full of coffee any day and I'll show you all the wake-up call you'll ever need."
"We've been here before Janet. I'm never going to join the dark side and be another coffee junky."
"Pff, wait until you've had 3 kids, then you'll be begging for all the extravenous help you can get!"
We both laughed then. It was normal for us to bash heads and challenge wits and perspectives. Our little verbal playfights were just that - playful - and always ended with both of us laughing or smiling. I never seriously try to sway her to my point of view, and I don't think she does either, but over the years it felt like a little bit of her had become a part of me.
Being the ever-practical person, Janet liked to dress more casually and comfortably which I guess would have been quite normal anywhere else, but in our office environment surrounded by so many suits and ties, she actually stands out, which I always thought was funny given that you dress-up to stand-out. Or so I thought anyway. I used to be one of those people, wearing the power-suits, hair in a bun, and a skirt so tight it reduced my stride to granny steps. Today it's a shirt with a grey cardigan, nice black pants, and shoes that look like dress shoes but are so comfortable I could run in them. If, you know, I actually did running.
Janet returned to her blazing one-billion-words-per-minute typing, and by then my computer had brought itself out of its overnight slumber. I went through all my e-mails and messages that had accumulated since yesterday - ignoring general newsletters, replying in short sentences to simple queries, selecting 'yes' to upcoming meetings - and soon enough I found I had finished everything on my proverbial work plate.
I had only been at work an hour, and already I had nothing left to do.
"Hey Janet, have the customer come back to us with the estimates we gave them earlier this week?" I knew what the answer was going to be, but I was getting a bit desperate for work. Here I was in such a good mood, all energized and ready to face the day, and I had nothing to use that energy on.
"You should know the answer to that." replied Janet, not taking her eyes off her screen and not pausing from the flow of her super-human typing. "They said they needed a week, and at least a week they will take. It's like some law: any work will take as long as one says it will take - never less. I'm sure some psychologist has already named that rule after themselves somewhere."
"And no monthly reports to finish yet?" I asked, grasping at straws for any kind of task to do.
Janet faced me and looked at me funny, like someone had tattooed 'stupid' onto my forehead. "Beth, it's the middle of May. You really have nothing left to do?" she wondered, figuring-out from my line of questioning that I was short on work.
I breathed in and sighed heavily.
"Why don't you go check your Facebook? Isn't that what everyone else does when they're bored at work?"
"Geez Janet, what kind of managerial technique is that, encouraging employees to faff-about on company time and resources?"
"Hey I'm just here to foster a working environment," shrugged Janet, "and if there's no working to foster, then I'll make sure it's a comfortable environment. Besides, what do you think I'm doing?"
I stood-up and leaned over my desk to peer at her screen, and on it in a full browser window was the signature blue and white of her Facebook profile page.
"Seriously?!" I whispered loudly, wondering if I might get her in trouble by bringing attention to her screen. "What's with all the fast typing then?"
"For minutes at a stretch?"
"Really long comments and messages."
I sighed again and sat down heavily on my chair, making it bounce on its compressed-air spring. I spun around once on the chair while thinking about what I should do - anything but Facebook - and then stood up and decided I needed to make myself a drink - a non-caffeine one, much to Janet's chagrin. I took as long as I possibly could to mix some boiling water and a plain, nameless tea sachet, and after that I took a really long walk around the floor of my building, staring long and longingly out the windows and into the city.
I made it back to my desk, tea half-finished, and looked at the clock as I sat back down. 20 minutes used-up. Great, now I just had to repeat that another 12 times and I would make it to lunch. Whoopee.
A 'new mail' notification popped-up at the corner of my screen and I almost fell out of my chair as I tried to put down the cup of tea and reach for the mouse to select it with the same hand. It was from Daniel, a long-time friend of mine.
From: Daniel Hale
To: Elizabeth Sharp
Subject: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
Hey Liz, my flatmate bailed on me for tonights dance class and ive got these vouchers for the class that im trying to use but i need someone to come with me or they wont take them. Wanna come? Some details about the class below.
Oh yeah, lunch later today as well, see you at 12 at the usual curry place.
I read and re-read Daniel's e-mail, trying to make it passed the glaring misuse of capitalization and the lack of apostrophes, to get at the gist of his message.
I looked at the extra info Daniel attached about the classes, and it felt like I raised an eyebrow and kept it raised the entire time I was reading about it.
Dancing? Daniel wants me to join him at a dance class?
Wait, Daniel's been going to dance classes?
From: Elizabeth Sharp
To: Daniel Hale
Subject: RE: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
Umm, hey, are you sure you intended this for me? I mean, dancing? I don't think I can do dancing - remember that time I spun on my office chair and fell off? I'm clumsy and injury-prone and I'm pretty sure I have a centre of gravity located outside of my body and far to the right.
And when did you start taking dance classes anyway?
I must have told him a million times about that day I fell off my chair, 1) Because he's forgetful, and 2) Because it was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me at work for an entire week - I stare at a computer screen for a large part of the day and communicate with people mostly over e-mail; I don't get exciting work stories.
Well there was that time that I was trying to talk to one of my co-workers while filling-up my cup with hot water and putting too much of my attention on him instead of my cup. Maybe that's another reason I don't wear such expensive work clothes anymore either; because I keep spilling scalding hot liquids all over them.
Yay, Elizabeth with the unexciting work stories that always end in personal injury. That's me.
From: Daniel Hale
To: Elizabeth Sharp
Subject: RE: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
lol, you crack me up Liz. Yes, im asking you to come along. Youre pretty good at timing and rhythm and all that stuff, youll be fine :)
See you at lunch right?
I replied and let him know that I'd make it to lunch, but I left my answer for dancing wide open. I wasn't exactly eager to go, but a large part of me was asking the question: Why not?
Work trickled through to me in little bits over the next few hours, but all that time I kept trying to make up excuses for declining Daniel's invite to dance classes. Maybe something else would come up? Maybe I should visit my parents tonight? (I haven't seen them in a few months.) What if I do visit, and I find out one or both of them are really sick and need my help? Or maybe I should get that chinchilla I've always wanted and spend the evening getting the little guy acclimatised to my apartment?
I found I didn't really have any good excuses, and with just half an hour left until I was to meet Daniel for lunch, the nagging question was getting stronger: Why not?
Still, I had half an hour to go, and the flow of work-related e-mails ceased. I didn't think I needed to make another tea, not so close to lunch. I spun around on my office chair trying to think of other things to do, when I noticed Janet glaring at me.
"What?" I asked her.
"You really should stop spinning on your chair." said Janet, in her 'strict mom' voice. "You remember what happened the last time you kept spinning on your chair right?"
I stopped spinning and Janet, looking pleased, stood-up and went to the kitchen. With nothing to do and spinning on my chair banned for the moment, I pulled out the last resort.
I went to check Facebook.
"You win this time Janet..." I muttered under my breath.
Chapter 2. Lunch
I was watching the clock like a hawk in the moments before I left work for lunch. At 10 to 12 I bolted from work and walked swiftly through the not-so-thick pre-lunch crowd to the restaurant, only to arrive a bit early. Nobody else was there. I sat down at a table for 2 and told the waiter that came up to me that I was still expecting someone else and would order then.
I took out my phone to see if Daniel had sent me an 'I'll be late' message. No messages, as usual. Nobody really sends me messages anyway, which makes me wonder why I have such a high-tech smart phone compared to my low-octane social life. It was a present from my dad last Christmas, which I was happy to accept, but sometimes it feels like this technology was wasted on me. I mean, I'm pretty sure my phone would have killed itself if it knew it was going to spend its life getting texts from my parents and the public transportation system.
Daniel walked into the restaurant then, and I waved at him unnecessarily. I looked down at my phone-slash-glorified-timepiece and sure enough, 12 o'clock, right on time. Daniel does have that part going for him, in that he's quite punctual. I guess when your spelling and grammar is as bad as his, you've got to have some good traits to balance out the bad.
"Howdy Liz." said Daniel as he approached the table.
Daniel's always been pretty well-groomed, but today he looked a bit more well-dressed than usual: his short brown hair was being held in place by an unknown number of hair products to make it look something akin to bed hair (I never understood why you'd intentionally undo bed hair only to force it back into that position), he wore an ironed white shirt with some random screen print on it, standard blue jeans, and some comfy-looking brown shoes. As I took stock of what he was wearing, I noticed that I'd seen this combination on him before and think maybe these dance classes have been the reason he's been so well-dressed.
As Daniel sat down, the waiter came up to our table and gave us the lunch menu on 2 pieces of laminated paper. Daniel and I looked down at the menus on the table, then glanced back up at each other and shared a smile. We'd eaten Indian food with each other so many times before that we now have usuals, making the menu somewhat obsolete.
"It's your turn." I said to him, grinning.
"Alright then." he sighed. "Hi," he said loudly, waving to the retreating waiter, "we already know what we're getting."
We mentioned our usuals to the waiter, and when the waiter retreated to the kitchen to kick-off our order, Daniel got straight to the point.
"So you going?" he asked.
"Going to what?" I replied, even though I already knew what he was talking about.
"Tonight's dance class! You've been avoiding the question ever since I asked this morning. Does that mean you don't want to go, or that you're undecided?"
"I don't know!" I said defensively. "I... I don't know if I'll be good at it or..."
"You'll be fine." said Daniel, swooping in with the reassuring tone. "I already said you've got the timing stuff down, what with you being musical and everything. That's all you need to start with. And you remember ballroom dancing back at high school? You were pretty good at that."
"Oh come on, that was like 5 steps we had to memorise."
"And look at how few people actually managed to memorise those 5 steps."
Our teachers made us practice ballroom dancing for weeks in the lead-up to the school dance in our final year, and I recalled how some of the guys, even after all that time drilling those steps into our heads, were still a bit useless. The worst thing about it all though was the music: tunes from an era that I swear were written before the invention of electricity, and no matter how much they sucked, repetition etched the songs into my brain.
"Dammit Daniel, just when I thought I had those stupid ballroom dancing songs out of my head."
"Bah, now I'm thinking about them too. Witch! Get your soundtrack out of my brain!"
Daniel clutched at his ears and pretended his head was about to explode, although he probably didn't have to pretend that hard - that music was pretty awful. I laughed and thought of my next excuse, and realized it was just as weak as my last one. I really didn't have anything holding me back from going to the dance class, and I guess it was at that point in the day that I resigned myself to my fate.
"Will these clothes be OK then?" I asked, looking down at myself.
Daniel did a quick scan of my upper body, then stuck his head under the table to see what I was wearing below waist height.
"Oi!" I shouted, moving into position to kick him.
"Your clothes look good." he said, quickly retreating to a proper sitting position. "Heck you're probably better-dressed than some of the ladies there. There's this one girl at the class who I swear forgets to wear some deodorant. One time I had to hold my breath when I danced with her."
"What?" I said, slightly shocked yet feeling a bit better about myself. "That's got nothing to do with clothes though."
"You really don't have anything to be worried about Liz: you dress nice, you smell nice, and you look nice too. You'll be starting at a beginner-level so everybody else in the room - they split people off into different experience levels - will be just as clueless as you."
I didn't know what to say then. I'd run out of excuses, and when Daniel goes on his little charm offensives I don't really know how to respond. I've never been that good at taking compliments, and they usually leave me spaced-out - staring at the person a bit blankly, mouth a bit open in wonder, and not knowing what to say because I'm thinking too hard about it all: do I say 'thank you', was the other person being truthful, or just nice?
"Liz, you're spacing-out again."
"Oh," I said, breaking my gaze and staring at everything else except Daniel, "umm, sorry."
The food came soon after, and while we ate Daniel explained how things would work tonight. I paid attention to what he was saying, although he was being pretty vague, always ending things with 'you'll see how it is when you get there'. It was like an exam and he was giving me all the preparation notes so I wouldn't screw things up half-way through, only to tell me that the preparation notes were attached to our exam desks.
"So I'll see you there at 7?" Daniel asked through a mouthful of rice.
"Still here?" Janet asked as she packed-up her things to go home.
"Yeah, still here." I sighed. "Daniel invited me to his dance classes, which don't start for another..." I looked to my computer clock, "...45 minutes. I'm just killing time until then."
"Dancing?" said Janet, unable to keep the surprise off her face. "Well, this should make for some interesting stories tomorrow morning then."
"Oh shush. I've already spent most of the day convincing myself that I'm not going to be terrible at it, don't try to destroy all my confidence in one go."
"I wouldn't dream of doing that to you Beth. I'm just surprised because I didn't think you did any extra-curricular activities."
"I don't." Well, not after tonight anyway. "I'll see you tomorrow." That last part was a cue to Janet to let her know I didn't really want to say any more.
"Yeah, tell me how it goes in the morning. See you tomorrow." said Janet, taking the hint.
Janet left for the lifts, and the moment I heard the ding and the sound of the lift doors closing on Janet, I was the only person left on the floor. Over 500 square metres of office space, and only myself and my thoughts were there to occupy it.
It's harder to stare out into the city during night time. The lights in the building and the lack of sunlight outside just make the windows all reflective, so when I looked out the window towards where the harbour would normally be, all I saw was my worried face looking right back at me.
The terrible ballroom dancing music wasn't the only thing I managed to remember from our high school days. I also remembered how, on the night of the school dance, when the final song came on, most of the people there ended-up going in circles on the dance floor. I also remembered how astonished I was that nobody really bumped into each other to cause a massive pile-up. And I remembered seeing all of this because I had a pretty good vantage point from my seat at one of the tables where I sat and watched the last dance take place.
I was a wallflower then. Maybe that's the only reason I was looking for excuses to avoid tonight: because that part of me hasn't really changed.
Chapter 3. Steps
"Where are you?"
Daniel's voice was shouting at me through my cell phone, trying to be heard through the crappy reception and static that played as background noise to the call. I was shoving the phone as close as I possibly could to my ear, the other hand blocking the other ear so I could hear him better over the noise of people and traffic on the street I had accidentally found myself in.
"I think I'm lost!" I shouted,
"How... you... are you now?"
All this technology in my phone and it still sounded like Daniel was talking through a swimming pool all the way from the moon.
"If you... coming from work, did you... left at Collins St?"
I heard that part semi-clearly, and realizing my mistake - turning right at Collins St - I turned around and headed back the way I came.
"Left! Dammit, I turned right! Hold on, I'm on my way." I said, and hoped that my sentences had a better chance of reaching him than his words did to me.
"Cool, I'll... outside the building and wait... you."
"K. See you!"
I ended the call and looked at the time on my phone: 7:05. My first dance class and I was already 5 minutes late. This better not be a sign of the night to come.
5 minutes later I spotted Daniel standing outside the building he described earlier - a rather non-descript concrete structure with walls that he said were some sort of cream, but illuminated by the evening street lights made the colour tend towards pink. Apart from him, the only sign that this was the right place was a sandwich board sitting on the sidewalk by the entrance advertising the dance classes that lay within. I probably would have walked right by this place.
Daniel noticed my approach and waved at me.
"Hey, you made it." he said as I reached him.
"Oh my gosh I'm 10 minutes late. Have I missed anything?" I replied, panicked.
"Nah they're just warming-up. There's still a line of people inside. Are you ready?"
"Yeah, hurry up let's go!"
Daniel went through the door and I stuck close to him, following some more signs that politely pointed the way with very large black arrows on the white paper they were printed on. If only I had these arrows show me which way to turn earlier...
We soon found the hall where everybody else was, and it was a big space. It reminded me of my school's gym, if a gym had stage light rigging attached to the ceiling and a slightly-elevated stage at the front. Inside the hall though was what surprised me the most: a tonne of people. They were all stepping side-to-side doing their warm-ups, and it looked like what I'd imagine an aerobics class would be doing in a gym (if I ever actually went to a gym).
"Hi Daniel," said the girl sitting behind a large desk by the doors, "who do we have here?"
"This is my friend Elizabeth, and it's her first time here." said Daniel, pushing me forward, presenting me like a sacrifice to a pagan deity while I was still staring at everything and taking it all in.
"Oh, welcome!" said desk girl happily, this time at me. "In that case, could you please fill out this form. We get all our new sign-ups to do this."
Sign-ups? Was I signing-up to anything? I looked back at Daniel with a question mark on my face, but he seemed not to notice, so I turned back to the form, picked-up one of many pens scattered on the desk, and filled-in as much of my personal information as the paper form had space for.
"Excellent." said desk girl the moment I completed my signature. "And welcome again!"
Once I set the pen down, Daniel pushed me further into the hall and off to the side where we set down our bags. I assume he presented the voucher while I was giving-away my home address, e-mail address, and phone number to a bunch of strangers, because desk girl never asked me for money.
Right then the warm-up class seemed to be breaking apart, and the man at the front of the hall was directing people where to go based on skill level. All I managed to hear was "Beginners stay here."
"Alright, we're in here for the next hour." Daniel said, confirming what I heard.
I followed him into the middle of the room as people went in all directions - some staying in the room, others creating a line out a side door to another room - and watched what the others who were in here were doing. Everyone else was getting into pairs, facing each other, then lining-up in their pairs into imaginary rows. Daniel and I did the same.
"Welcome everybody," said the man at the front of the hall through a headset, "if this is your first class, then I'd like to thank you for coming along to try something new, and for those of you who came in using the vouchers we had on several daily deal sites, then lucky you because those vouchers expire tomorrow."
I turned to Daniel and tried to say, 'Lucky us', with my smile, but Daniel was still looking towards the front of the class.
"OK, now that everybody's settled..." continued front-man as he beckoned to some woman to come join him - his dance partner/demonstrator I presumed - who was dressed pretty glamorously I thought. While the man was in a shirt and jeans much like Daniel, the woman was in a really nice dress, quite unlike me. I looked down again at what I was wearing, looked around the room at the other girls for comparison, and felt just a wee bit underdressed.
"...the moves we're learning tonight are all written on the board here," as front man pointed to said board off the side, "and the first one we're going to learn tonight is..."
Front-man read and demonstrated the first move off the board with his partner for everybody to see. My initial reaction was something like 'holy crap', mixed with a lot of second-guessing as to what I was doing here. Then front man and woman broke it down in slow-motion, making it easier for me to follow what the hell just happened, and suddenly I didn't feel so overwhelmed.
Daniel held out one of his hands, I placed my hand in his, and we followed front-man's and front-woman's steps. This was repeated a few more times, and it didn't feel too bad at all. I managed to reproduce each of the steps rather easily and Daniel was able to copy the lead, though it felt like his skill was more through practice from his previous classes.
"This isn't too bad." I said aloud to Daniel, not exactly looking at him as I said it since the current step involved me being at his side and facing in a different direction to him.
"Told you so." he replied, which came out a bit flatly. Concentrating perhaps? "When'd you get so good at spinning anyway? Most girls here have to go through several classes before they can spin on the spot."
I was about to tell him it was all thanks to the practice I get from spinning on my office chair. It made sense in my head - gaining confidence to stay on balance and to trust that balance while the rest of your body spins somewhat controllably - but as I opened my mouth to try relate the 2 types of spinning, I found I didn't really know how to explain the connection between the two in words.
Maybe I could explain it to Janet tomorrow morning, then she might not be so strict about me spinning on my chair since I've now found it has a real-world application.
"OK," said front-man, "now we're going to switch partners."
I think I panicked a little when I heard that.
As front-man explained who was going to be moving (the guys) and in which direction they were going (to my right), I watched Daniel move on to the girl next to us and instantly strike a conversation. My hands were still hovering in mid-air, just as he had left them, and I just stared at them, frozen in my panicked state. I eventually remembered to loosen my arms to let gravity take a hold and bring them back down, when someone suddenly stood on my foot.
It didn't hurt (thanks to my comfy shoes which happened to have some thickness to them, and because my mind was elsewhere at that moment), and the culprit was quick to remove their foot off mine. I looked away from my hands towards the person who had stood on my feet.
"Oh my... sorry about that." said the guy in front of me.
"Hmm? Oh, I'm OK, I wasn't really paying attention to my feet."
"Still, that's a pretty bad way to start my first day at dancing."
"You new to this too?" I asked.
"Yeah. My cousin dragged me along." said the guy, pointing-out another girl in the room.
"Hah, my friend for me." I replied, pointing-out Daniel just next to us.
"You look a bit nervous there."
"Oh, I..." I shook my head for some reason, as if shaking my head would shake-off the remainder of the feeling of panic I got when we had to switch partners and I was left with the idea of dancing with complete strangers. There wasn't much feeling left to shake-off though - the small chat I had started-up with this guy who probably had the most unique ice-breaker I've ever encountered (stepping on my feet), accidental or not, was really pushing away the nerves.
"No," I managed, after shaking my head, "I'm fine."
I held out my hand in the way Daniel held it in-place earlier, and the guy took it and we continued to practice what we had just learned.
Chapter 4. Names
And so it went like that the next hour or so, but with less nerves and zero stepping-on-feet. I learned a lot of other stories of how other people got into dancing, learned a lot of names (some I'd forget in a week, the majority I'd forget in an hour), but most of all I was learning to dance!
I've always loved to move - spinning on my chair at work was a prime example of my more restless nature - but my movements are usually quite awkward and feel a bit uncontrolled. Hell I remember in one of my school reports my phys-ed teacher wrote down "lots of enthusiasm, but needs to control her movements more". I'm ashamed to admit that report was from my high school days.
As much as I loved to move, I'd always felt I was doing it wrong.
Tonight's dancing however, it made me feel... graceful.
Following front-man's moves and front-lady's steps, my own moves and steps just felt better, controlled, and with much more purpose than my usual flailings (that's what I'm going to call everything else I've done before now that I used to pass-off as dancing: my 'flailings'). Even under the lead of some of the guys here my spins felt right. It felt a helluva lot better than what I do on my office chair by myself anyway. My phys-ed teacher would be proud.
When the class was over the music continued to play, and some people carried-on practicing. The others who had shuffled-away to go to their more-advanced class, came back to practice and then some. I sat down where Daniel and I had put our bags, waiting for Daniel to join me and allowing myself to catch my breath.
"So how was that Liz?" he asked when he came over.
I looked up at him from where I sat and beamed.
"That good huh?" he said, taking the reply from my expression. "Told you you'd be fine at dancing - it's right up your alley." Daniel fetched something from his bag, a drink bottle, and sat next to me. "You do look a bit on the tired side though."
"You know I don't do the gym thing," I replied, "so I'm actually a bit sore in muscles that I didn't even know I had! I thought all those years of walking to/from work would have helped, but apparently walking muscles are not the same as dancing muscles. I mean, I did side-steps and I felt my legs strain! When was the last time I walked sideways to work? Never!"
"True." he conceded. "But look at you, all sweaty and gross too. Ewww."
"Oi!" I said, and like at lunch today, moved to kick him, but found it too much of an effort, so settled for a lame slap to his shoulder that was more 'flailing' than graceful. I really need to get fit, or maybe just stick to this dancing thing for a while more.
Daniel continued to drink from his bottle, and I was glad to find they had water coolers and plastic cups around the place. I fetched myself a cold drink of water, returned to my seat, and joined Daniel in watching some of the more advanced people practicing in the middle of the room to the music they'd left playing.
Once the current song had stopped and I picked my jaw off the floor from what I saw some of the more expert dancers manage to do, Daniel nudged me and held out his hand.
"Care to show me what you learned then?" he asked.
I gulped-down the remainder of my water, set aside the cup, accepted his hand and accepted his challenge. "You're on."
We hung around for a few more minutes, Daniel managing to get one more dance in with the girl who was to my right during class, the one he so easily struck a conversation with when he left me a frozen sack of nerves. I stuck by the door holding both of our bags and other things, waiting for him. The appearance of me preparing to leave probably kept away several of the guys looking for girls to practice dancing with - I saw them look my way, look at the bags slung on my shoulder, then look somewhere else. It made for a pretty effective social shield.
"Leaving already?" said a voice to my left.
I turned my head and it was the guy who had stepped on my foot from earlier.
"You!" I shouted accusingly.
"Yeah, I'm still kinda sorry about that." he said, looking down at his feet, or maybe my foot, the one he stood on.
"No, don't be. Believe it or not, it actually helped."
"You were right: I was nervous. I've never done this, and I don't really go out much. New people can scare me a little sometimes... but you were quick to take my mind off that."
"Oh, umm... you're welcome?"
I smiled at him, then turned back to watch everyone on the dance floor, these people of all ages twisting and turning with such form and purpose. I can't remember exactly what moves I witnessed, but I remember what I was feeling and thinking when I stood there and just watched everyone, particularly the experts, at play.
I want to be able to do that.
"You know what else helped?" I asked, still watching the people dancing. "Talking," I continued, not waiting for his answer, "just listening to your story. It made me understand that I'm not the only one that's a bundle of nerves here."
"There are other ways of getting someone to talk without stepping on their feet." said the guy.
I looked at the guy, and arched an eyebrow. "Oh, what would you suggest?" I asked.
"Well, names are usually a good place to start." and with that he held out his hand, not in the way we did during dancing, but in greeting. "Jonathan."
I took his hand and shook it. "Elizabeth."
"See you next week then?" Jonathan asked.
I looked back at the people on the dance floor, their moves so purposeful and so much more refined than what I used to do, or what I used to even think was possible.
I want to be able to do that.
"Yeah," I answered, "I'll be here."
I went to work the next morning as ready as I would ever be to face the day: I fell asleep easily last night after having tired myself at dance class, had my alarm wake me up at the usual time, and again some 10 minutes later (thank you snooze button!), managed a quick breakfast of 2 pieces of toast and some hazelnut chocolate spread, and rushed to catch my normal bus still chewing my breakfast.
Front-man from the dance class last night encouraged us to practice spins whenever we could find some time and space. When I got into the lift at work at the basement level, his words to practice spinning entered my mind. I examined the lift: smooth floor, enough arm room, nobody else around.
I took a step back on my right foot, focused on a point level to my eyes on the lift doors, spread my arms out a little, then stepped forward, using the right foot to push me into a counter-clockwise spin on my left foot, bringing my arms in as I spun around. After a rotation I planted my right foot, stepped back on my left, then noticed the lift had stopped on my floor because the doors were open and there was Janet, on the other side of the doors, looking in.
We just stared at each other, not saying anything. I was feeling quite embarrassed, still posed at the end of my spin, and Janet was smiling, looking very pleased. It felt like hours with just us 2 looking at each other, and I got to wondering how long it had been because aren't the lift doors supposed to close by themselves after a couple of seconds?
Janet broke the stalemate by walking into the lift, still in silence. I walked passed her and, even though I didn't look back, I knew that grin on her face was getting larger and larger.
I eventually heard the lift doors close behind me as I walked away, made it to my desk, and sat down on my chair.
Then I smiled.
I think I did a pretty good spin.