The girl who drove the Volkswagen bus plastered in Dead stickers fell off the face of the earth after graduation. West is what I heard. Community bordering on cult, new name. I pictured her in a homespun dress drawing water from the well for backwoods apostles.
She popped up on Facebook — as we all do — 25 years later. No bonnet, no copper kettle. Her profile shot is blazing female Gumby, bronzed flesh arched in a yoga bridge against the setting sun. The other photos are strappy heels, flashing sequins, rhumba beats and a man in a fedora testing the limits of her psoas muscle by pressing her stretched leg flat against his chest before dropping her into a dip.
She’s dyed her hair black and let it grow wild. It cascades down her back, frames coconut buttered cheeks, makes her diamond white teeth pop from inside that California smile. She teaches Zumba and places in Latin ballroom competitions. Her day job calls her just as much as the music. She’s a certified nurse who loves God’s gifts and bedazzles her posts with emoticons blowing kisses.
And she looks like this, only amplified by 10:
I’ve just come home from my own Zumba class. I had to hack and slog through inertia to go, which is a truly sorry state of affairs. Zumba is one activity I undeniably, unconditionally adore. No matter how few hours of shut-eye or how burbly the belly or how wretched the commute, I go. I dance.
For seven years, Zumba has been the straightest route from ennui to awake. Some days, I have to remind myself of this unfailing truth. Some days, I’m too enamored of my misery to follow my own advice.
The firm reminder is necessary today because the car failed inspection. Gamble on repairs? Junk it and wave my magic wand to conjure up the cash for a new ride? This, just after shelling out a several thousand dollar deposit for a home repair project. I’d been saving my pennies for two years. I thought I had enough. For windows and a patio door OR a new car, not both. And certainly not to repair the leak in the bathroom ceiling that greeted me when I came home from work yesterday.
The firm reminder is also necessary because I spent the evening in the company of plumbers and neighbors and ears to the wall, and went to bed with an unsolved but very damp mystery on my hands. Its uncertain cost lurked in the corner all night long.
I’m weary from walking the dull edge of this knife (dull because who has the money to replace it or the time to go get it sharpened?) The paychecks are so thin I can see right through them. They cast a scorched sodium tint over everything further down the road. The anger surges, sprays scattershot. Anonymous ones catch most of it because once familiar, they become too cherished to fault and too fraught with their own troubles to be responsible for mine.
So I peel myself from my desk, pull my hair into a ponytail and head to my Zumba class. I’ve barely stepped out of the car when I hear the rhythm hollering at me from the studio. I aim for it. My feet alight and slip instantly back off the earth. Soaring first then bouncing, I ride air currents whose striations are skimmed from the walls of canyons. I am somehow both round as sugarbowls and long as lightning bolts. I multiply. Animal cocktail. Chimera. I am the mixed and marinating DNA of heron, tamarind, bumblebee.
Back home and filled with the liquid pulse, rich with all the Yes and all the Can, and money will come, and solutions will doubtless generate from this most fecund form, I click open Facebook,
And there she is.
Silver icestorm crashing past her skin. Lats and biceps, lean meat, light. She is elements, she roars. On the polished floor, her tiny tarsals are hailstones, flashing as they meet gravity and ping skyward again.
She knocks me flat.
Never, I think.
Never will I be so breathtaking.
Just moments from my own dance and I deflate. The material me frays from its grip on the wind, sags, and puddles back to earth. I become stretch marks and scars, lipids and flatulence, a jellyfish washed up on the shore. My bulk bloats and wheezes, suffocating any sinew beneath.
If only I could channel such discipline, such bliss,
such entirely someone else.
And then I remember this:
The shift makes an almost audible crack, physic chiropractic, and I can see
This ravishing galloping creature, this distant woman who has found a way to spin straw into light. Art twines with skill, and her form becomes sharp as kites against cloudless sky. I can see her
because I stop trying so hard to un-see me.
I see how she slips stillness between motion to punctuate the moment, how her neck swivels and snaps, how the smile opens, impossibly, even more.
that she is her own entirely, and I my own,
and also that we on our opposite coasts and intervening decades can dance ourselves together.
Then I am up, my spine remembering the long stride between cells, how even bone is blood and air,
how always a beat
to unblind me
a beat here
carries me again