Like No One's Watching
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Perhaps it was karma. I have this dark habit of bastardizing friendship emails. I can't help myself. Those cheesy, syrupy stories and phrases that yearn to be inspirational bring out the absolute worst in me. Whenever I am sent the classic "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift that's why they call it the present." or "Dance like no one's watching" my normally gentle, mild-mannered demeanor becomes malicious and sinister.

Sentiments such as the following: "I wish you a day of happiness and perfection... Little bite-sized pieces of perfection that give you the funny feeling that the Lord is smiling on you, holding you gently because you are someone special and rare." will compel me to do something like this: "I wish you a day of misery and aggravation... Little bite-sized pieces of aggravation that give you the funny feeling that Satan is laughing at you, twisting a hot knife into your unsuspecting back."

  
 
But I prefer to blame my little mishap on the smoking ban that has recently plagued so many nightclubs. It was a cold Saturday night in mid-January. My favorite band was playing at Mahoney's in Orleans on Cape Cod. The room was small and narrow and it was packed. The stage was in front of a picture window next to the entrance. Just outside was a bench and some tin cans for the smokers. I grabbed a beer, greeted my fellow fans and set to dancing.

Ahh, "Imelda," a nice exotic Latin beat. Just little hip moves, tiny steps, twirls with imaginary castanetas. "Imelda" requires little room to dance. It faded into "Honeydripper," another little hip move tune. Nice rhythmic ¼ note steps.

My quads started singing. My breath grew quicker and all the tension of the week started running in rivulets of perspiration down my face and neck. Horns swirled around me and the air smelled of warm, wet brass. My heart pounded against my ribcage. I closed my eyes and tossed my head back. It was just me and the music pulsing through me, every cell in my body alive, humming, and vibrating. I sighed with pleasure up into ceiling. God I needed a cigarette. Good, a slow tune, the scholarly "Ronald." I finished my beer, wiped the sweat from my face and neck with a cocktail napkin, put on my coat and went outside.

The cold air felt good at first, until the wind bit through my coat and chilled my sweat-soaked shirt. I was only half finished with my cigarette when the band finished "Ronald" and broke into "Crab Napkin".

Damn! "Crab Napkin." My favorite. A great jumping, twirling, dancing ditty.

It occurred to me that aside from a passerby thinking I was crazy, there was no good reason for me not to dance outside. In fact, it would keep me warm and there was far more room for me to twirl and jump around. Why, I could go nuts!

I danced and twirled and smoked and sang softly. My heart quickened and I grew warmer. I spread my arms and twirled joyfully, eyes closed.

And that was when that terrible, cheesy phrase entered my mind from out of nowhere and assaulted my happy dance: "Dance like no one's watching."

I shuddered and tried to push it away, twirling faster. But the truth was, no one was watching. I silently cursed everyone that ever sent me that wretched friendship email. So busy was I trying to right my thwarted reverie, that I didn't notice the knee-high flower barrel that I gracefully twirled into backwards at record speed.

It’s amazing how many thoughts flashed through my head in that split second. The first being: “I sure hope no one sees this”, as my knees hit the back of the barrel and gave way. While flying backwards I realized, “shit, I'm falling hard enough to be seriously maimed or even killed!” This led me to think that maybe it wouldn't be so bad if someone saw me, since I'd likely require medical attention if I did survive.

The crease where my legs met my buttocks struck the far end of the barrel, but I was moving way too fast to grab the edge. Certain that my skull would momentarily crack like an eggshell against the pavement, I decided to enjoy the trip down and broke into gales of laughter. After all, it truly was a beautiful way to go. In fact, were I not so scared, I'd have been having great fun right then. I was no longer cold. The wind was in my hair and I was being propelled by my own dance-like-no-one's-watching twirl, upside down and backwards. It was thrilling, like a roller coaster.

I cannot explain what happened next. It seemed that time slowed down. Everything slowed down. "Crab Napkin" became a distant low hum. Perhaps the wind picked up or the force of my howling laughter broke my fall. Or perhaps, in her infinite goodness, that annoying little angel of friendship decided to lift me to my feet even though I didn't forward that e-mail about her to 10 of my friends within an hour.

My shoulders curled inward and gently hit the pavement. My feet flew up in the air and I rolled up onto my shoulders. I was grateful I chose jeans over a skirt that night. It occurred to me that not only was I alive; I wasn't even maimed. Then I thought, it's a good thing no one saw that. But I was still rolling, forward now, and with such force that I was able to straddle the flower barrel and stand straight up. Yet, I still hadn't stopped laughing. Then I looked through the picture window and saw the guitar player and the sax player still playing, but looking over their shoulders with concern at my maniacally giggling form.

"Crab Napkin" picked up again and, because I'll never learn, I continued dancing. Unfortunately, I lost my cigarette in the scuffle. I lit another, closed my eyes and started twirling again, ever mindful of that mischievous flower barrel.


To check out the band highlighted in this short story, go to The Chandler Travis Philharmonic.

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