In this moment, looking at the internal vocabulary, searching for new ways to express myself without resorting to a thesaurus, listening to the replay of conversations, realising how many details I’ve forgotten that make stories more real, feeling my face and neck break out with small infected pores that are commonly called acne…
“Learning never ends.” [from a 15-cent stamp on an envelope dated 15 Sep 1980 sent from my father to his mother containing the following poem]
Lineage [for Evelyn]
Only moments agoOur only son
Gave his oath
To his country
As his grandfather
Did fifty-one years ago
As his father
Did twenty-six years ago next month
Ah, tears well in my eyes
A lump is in my throat
For him, for we three
Grandfather, father, son
For the why we each serve our country
For patriotism, love of country
For ____ why —-?
— RLH 9/15/80
A line whispered into my ear from a dance partner. “I flew to New York for the weekend. I walked 10 miles a day, wearing poor shoes for walking the first day, and my flats for the second day. This dancing tonight, bending my knees…phew! it’s killing me!”
Multiple storylines begging to be continued — the Martian tales, the Mad Hatter chronicles, the Wondering Wanderer, the Wandering Wondering, the thinker, the doer, the tinkerer, the inventor, the investor, the Kickstarter campaign…
If I don’t write them down, they don’t get lost, they simply never exist except in the vast universe of my imagination which entertains me for as long as I live with this stimuli-driven central nervous system of mine.
I finalised the West Coast Swing routine with Abi today — enough so that we can play with the routine and keep it in time with the music — that in itself would be celebration enough for a lifetime.
But a second routine, with Jenn, has not been finalised less than two days before our premiere performance on Saturday, with scant time to polish our moves.
There is much I have learned in the past two years of dance lessons with my wife. In our 27-plus years of marriage and 40 years of knowing each other we have aged together, aligning our storylines so that one of us cannot tell the tale of our lives without including the other.
In the past few months of dance lessons with Jenn and Abi, the learning has changed pace.
I could never have imagined that I would once again know a person whose physicality was without bounds, but that tangent will wait until another day…soon.
Tonight, as I prep my thoughts for trippy dreams, I look at the faces of my two dance partners and see their futures written in features that change with aging skin and graying hair.
When I danced with one, our connection running from her big toe through her foot, calf, thigh, ribs, shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, and fingers, down through my fingers all the way to the floor, I felt the warmth of a loving mother, a powerful lover and an equal dance partner that, although we have danced untold times, I had never felt deep within myself like I did today, willing to share with my wife that I took on Abi as a new lover today but in a way that surpasses sex, in the way that Monica and I, who never kissed, could say we were lovers the night we melded our thought patterns and saw how our differences made us one an evening in Knoxville during the early 1980s. I felt Abi simultaneously as a child, a young adult, a middle-aged mother and an elderly grandmother fighting for every last breath before she dies.
Jenn, with whom how many dance partners can easily brag how much better they dance than I, our connection is like…being a kid all over again for the very first time.
I want to have fun all the time — Jenn is more willing to let me just be crazy with my dance moves when I shouldn’t be than Abi — I do them both a disservice by not taking our dance practice more seriously.
I know the two of them are not the same even if our goals for this week are.
Jenn and I are not lovers on the dance floor and I cannot predict a future where we will or will not be. I have not set a goal for such an event.
Instead, it is within the pure bubble of unadulterated fun that I want to place the memorised routine with Jenn.
She was willing to come to the studio tonight, tired after a trip out-of-town, to nail down our moves but I was outside myself with mirth, unable to concentrate but wanting to make her visit not be a total waste.
When I held Jenn in my arms, I felt an older woman and saw gray streaks in her hair — I heard the voice of her husband, Gilley, speaking through her, wondering if I also heard her father and mother, maybe even her grandparents find their way to me through her.
I used to keep these observations to myself, thinking I was crazy, sensing different personalities in the sight, sound and touch of other people, wondering how much mass media representations of ghost stories, ESP and other paranormal phenomena were imprinted in my thoughts as fuzzy labels upon my irrationally-explainable emotional states rather than scientifically-testable experiences.
But I remember I am a storyteller, a tall tale spinner, exaggeration my best feature rather than my facial profile or wishful hunk of a body.
Jenn sensed a mouse in me when we first started dancing, my feeling intimidated by the laughter welling up from inside my thoughts at the silliness I felt, unable to justify why I was standing with my childlike friend trying to take ourselves seriously as adults with little time for fun before our showcase routine in two days.
Abi demands that I first treat myself as a strong dance leader seriously, putting fun second after I’ve shown my dance partner, the follower, that she is the only connection I feel with the universe, the rhythm of the dance music our source of energy. Her demands I have given into reluctantly but willingly like a latent masochist, a glutton for punishment.
Jenn asks that I take command of the dance floor.
Every leader and follower is different.
Tonight, the older woman in Jenn needed her strong, lifelong male partner to hold her up and I failed to match that need.
My distraction was the leftover euphoria of discovering what a West Coast Swing connection with Abi truly means.
The world will not end because I was unable to settle myself down and concentrate on Jenn in a dance studio dominated by my wife, Abi, Chris and his dance partner.
Jenn and I have another hour, maybe two, three at the most, before we dance our Lindy Hop routine together.
For two years I wondered what dancing with Jenn would be like, seeing how well she matched up with other guys, some better skilled than I and some less skilled.
I have learned that Jenn’s strengths come from her deep knowledge of physical skills, including track-and-field events for which she spent long hours training.
I can neither compete against her dance partners nor against her years of physical training, or more recently, her hours of physical therapy recovering from car smashups.
I will dance with Jenn and Abi again after this weekend’s showcase. Of that I am certain.
What I have before me, in the next 40-plus hours and the next 40-plus years, is a challenge to discover what this 51-year old body can do as it gets older that it never learned to do at a younger age over many days, weeks and months of arduous practice, both for the sake of my wife and for the sake of any dance partner I walk out onto the floor.
The challenge for me with Abi is how fast can I learn from her the years of training she’s had with the best dancing instructors on this planet.
The challenge for me with Jenn is how fast can I learn from her the years of the aforesaid physical training, minus the pain and physical rehabilitation, if I can help it, and training she’s had with some of the best dancing instructors on this planet, including Abi.
The challenge for me with my wife is how patient I can be to help her improve her physical stamina to be just as much fun as Abi, Jenn or any number of dance partners that I encounter in this adventure that started what seems like yesterday.
How can I convince myself that focusing my attention on the art of dance moves is fun, rather than mundane work that I abhor in any endeavour?
What is life without challenges?