I can dance.
Certainly not as well as I think I can, but I have rhythm and a good sense of beat to at least not be “that guy” on the dance floor; flailing, spinning, and generally avoiding falling down to any music, except jazz. But who dances to jazz? Not cool enough. Jazz buffs just sit, listen, and enjoy. And look cool. Besides, the whole unsyncopated beats thing have me zigging when I should be zagging and very much looking like “that guy.”
I grew up listening (and learning to dance) to soul music. Otis. Aretha. The Temptations, Smoky Robinson. My sister was a great dancer and four years my elder, so I basically traded household chores for dance lessons. I was the Star of the Saturday night teen club dances while most of my friends were sitting around drinking Cokes, talking shit, and wondering what it would be like to dance with the prettiest girls. One thing I learned early was that most of the girls, even the hot ones, wanted to be asked to dance. So I became fearless, a trait which has both served me well and endangered my very existence as my life has played out.
Of all the dancing I have done in my life, there is One Dance that I am sure I will see in the moments before death when scenes from your life fast-forward through your mind.
It was our 27th wedding anniversary and we were staying at my big brother Ed and my sis-in-law Marijo’s lovely house in Ventura, California. They were in Boston when the Marathon bombing went down, keeping them stuck in their hotel room, just a few blocks away from the blast.
Three thousand miles away, I had made reservations for six o’clock at a restaurant sitting right on the marina. Boats of all sizes bobbed as other vessels made their way back to dock. The sun was just setting on another beautiful Spring day on the coast. Perfect. I had secretly made arrangements beforehand with the manager and when we arrived we were taken to our flower-adorned table which I had personally selected as the best vantage point to watch the sun retire for the evening, the palette changing from orange-to-pink-to-dark blue and finally purple as the night began. Three bottles of Dom Perignon later, we had enjoyed some awesome oysters on the half before a sumptuous feast of Halibut (my favorite fish) with King Crab stuffing and a delicate Orange Hollandaise. Karen had a delightful dish of lobster and scallop-stuffed Santa Barbara Prawns. The chef and his staff were rockin’ it. As we settled into our cappuccino and Grand Marnier, the small combo started playing.
Evidently, the word had spread throughout the small restaurant of our special evening and all eyes were upon us as I extended my hand to ask Karen to dance. The next moments were all a man could ever ask from his partner. I looked deeply into her eyes as the band played the Elvis classic I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You (her favorite song). What I saw was pure love and loyalty gliding with me across the floor. Through my tears (I know; I’m a pussy) I saw every sacrifice, every difficulty she ever faced as my lover and best friend, and once again, for the umpteenth million time, I thanked God for blessing me with Karen. As the song ended, I kissed my wife deeply as the entire restaurant, including the kitchen staff, broke into applause. Now, admittedly I am not the world’s best dancer, but I was pretty tough to beat on that night.