Friday, February 5, 2010

That Old Terrorist Vibe

The room is crowded, with more guys than girls, which is surprising until you consider that these guys are probably trying to hook up. They’re wearing clean T-shirts, new high tops, and lopsided grins. They’re scoping out the opposite sex. They’re going to learn the Lindy Hop if it kills them.

I’m probably not going to learn the Lindy Hop, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

“Everyone is going to dance with everyone,” the instructor announces. “Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner. We’ll keep switching.”

Although we hardly talk, you can feel the guys’ personalities: the guy who holds his limbs loosely, the guy who already knows how to lead, the guy who’s afraid to step on your feet, the guy who tells you you’re doing it wrong before you even start. How strange to touch so many strangers so intimately.

And then there’s the guy who really, really doesn’t belong. He’s dressed too formally, stands too stiffly. I caught him pacing around outside before the class started, not making eye contact. And when the instructor tells us to change partners, he doesn’t hold his arms out to me as the others do. I have to jam myself into position like a crow bar prying a broken lock. His body shrinks away from mine, and while I’m older than most of this crowd, I’m not that bad. No one else had a problem holding my hand.

When the music starts, he seems confused. Although we’ve been practicing footwork for half an hour, he makes no effort to move to the beat, to take firm and definitive strides, to execute the triple step. He kind of shuffles his feet as if he’s walking in the dark and doesn’t know where the stairs are. He won’t make eye contact. He’s not even trying. It pisses me off. I’m not a great dancer, but I want to make an effort. I want to Lindy Hop. And you can’t do that with a brick. Girls are supposed to follow.

A little later, I compare with my friend. “Did you dance with that old guy? He can really lead,” and she agrees. “What about that one creepy weird guy who wasn’t even trying?” I ask.

“Which one? Where?”

But he’s already gone. He must have left right after he danced with me. “Serious terrorist vibes. Like they told him to try to fit in but he still couldn’t bring himself to touch a heathen woman.” Maybe I’m judging him on his full beard in a room full of clean-shaven guys, or his medium-dark skin, or the pained look in his eyes, like he’s watching some kind of a blasphemous orgy rather than a Tuesday night swing class at the university. Anyway, he scared me. What was he doing there? What was his motive?