I needed a drink. I needed life insurance. I needed a vacation. What I had were sweatbands, Reeboks, and a midriff-baring crop top. I put them on and went into the room.
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and make your feet twitch. On nights like that, every class ends in a dance-off. Meek little wives execute dramatic booty shakes. Anything can happen.
“I don’t mind if you don’t like my mix-tapes, Brynn. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them on long nights. But remember — this is a judgment-free zone.”
He was a windblown blossom of two hundred fifty pounds, and he threw himself around with the reckless abandon of a flapper with arthritis.
“That’s right, Bill,” I said, looking out the window. “Use your hips.”
Time passed. I don’t know how long. I had no watch. They don’t make that kind of time in watches anyway.
I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. Then I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.
Looking up, I announced: “And that’s how NOT to do a body roll.”
It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way — but not as far as Velma had gone. I’d demoted her to the Aqua Zumba class, two floors down.
“Far off, the banshee wail of sirens rises and falls. Out there, a thousand crimes, people are desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear. We dance in a city that’s lost and beaten and full of emptiness, and what happens to us depends on what time we sign up for. But I don’t have a time. I don’t care.
“Yes, Jordan, that means class is canceled.”
The new student looked as hard to get as Congressional oversight for Facebook.
“What’ll it be today, gumshoe?” she asked.
“Let’s start with a shimmy,” I said, “and take it from there.”
She thought about smiling and decided against it. “Why don’t you break it down for me?”
So I did. But I lost my rhythm quickly because she shimmied the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.
I looked at my Wednesday 10 AM class. They looked back at me with the hollow stares that said they had traded life for existence and ambition for security.
But I was going to change all of that with three words: “Today’s routine: freestyle.”
“What do I do for a living? Mostly, I kill time and it dies hard. But I also offer advanced instruction in Reggaetón funk.”
The music’s beat was pounding me right between my eyes. I needed to brace my nerves. I needed a drink.
“Rehydrate!” I called out.
A brunette eyed my water bottle. She was the kind of brunette who’d make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window, then salsa over to the rectory for a broom. “What’ve you got?” she asked.
“Coconut water.” I drank deeply. “It’s got electrolytes.”