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This story is Copyright ©2002 by Jacques LeBlanc. You may send it to your friends, save it to your hard drive, print it out to read at your leisure, and repost it (as long as no changes are made to any of the text, including this notice) in any free forum where you believe it will be well-received, but any commercial use is absolutely prohibited.
"This is a samba, and next up will be a tango, by request," the DJ announced. About time, I thought, having handed him the CD half an hour earlier, just after I arrived at the Chevy Chase Ballroom. I hope he remembers which track it is. I noted that Mina Patel had just arrived, and began working my way across the room to where she was sitting, threading my way past couples engrossed in the energetic Latin dance. I'd met Mina at a dance the previous winter, and been impressed with her talent. Though she'd only had a few ballroom lessons at that point, she followed well and learned quickly; I only had to show her a new figure once and she'd follow it perfectly from then on. Of course, her looks hadn't hurt any: petite and slim, Mina was blessed with a small chin, full, burgundy-red lips, prominent cheekbones, and enormous dark eyes that sparkled with merriment and mischief. I'd only seen her a couple of times since then, but the last time I'd given her and three of her friends from the American University Ballroom Club a ride back to their campus following a dance at the University of Maryland, where I was studying.
"Would you care to tango with me when the next song comes on?" I asked, as I came up to the bench where Mina sat.
Mina looked up from putting on her dance shoe and favored me with a dazzling smile, made brighter by the contrast between her white teeth and dark skin. "Hi, Nathan! I'd love to; just a moment." She finished adjusting the straps and turned to the other shoe. Finished with that, she rose gracefully to her feet, placing her small hand in mine. "I like your pin," she commented, touching the little silver Darwin fish on my lapel. "Just like the one on your car."
"Thank you," I said. "It lets people know where I stand; sort of like a believer wearing a crucifix or a Star of David. Of course, some people don't know what it means; that's led to some interesting conversations. Fortunately, ballroom dancers around here are a pretty liberal, secular-minded bunch; I've met a couple of good little Christian girls who were offended by it, but not a lot."
"Certainly not me," Mina said. "But you already knew that." I nodded, recalling her delight on first seeing the Darwin fish plaque and the bumper stickers that adorned my car: "When Religion Ruled the World, They Called it The Dark Ages;" "Freedom is the Distance Between Church and State;" and "Support the Theory of Evolution: 400 Billion Amphibians Can't Be Wrong!"
We stepped onto the floor and into closed dance position. A lot of women, especially beginners, tend to shy away from the suggestive physical contact that a proper closed position entails, and their dancing suffers for it. Mina did it right, flowing up against me with her right knee between my legs, her right breast brushing my chest, and our hips always in contact, because that's where the lead comes from. She wore an off-the-shoulder dress, and the fine, downy hairs on her upper back tickled my right hand where it rested behind her shoulder. I found the sensation vaguely sexy, which was odd when I thought about it; usually I found body hair on women something less than attractive.
As we squared up, the samba faded out and the next song began. After the opening dramatic musical flourish (an essential part of any good tango), Tom Lehrer's scratchy tenor filled the room: "I ache for the touch of your lips, dear/But much more for the touch of your whips, dear/You can raise welts like nobody else/as we dance to the Masochism Tango." Recognizing the song from the first couple of chords, Mina glanced up at me and grinned. "I might have known," she said. "This was your request, right?"
"Yup." I grinned back at her. "I seem to recall that you enjoyed this song last year." Then I straightened up, holding my head high and to the left as my instructor always insisted. I reminded myself to keep my steps small; even with her high heels, the top of Mina's head was barely higher than my chin, and her small size would make it all too easy for me to throw her off balance if I wasn't careful.
After taking a moment to catch the rhythm, I began to dance, leading Mina through several basic American tango figures. She followed even better than I remembered, so I risked leading something a bit trickier, an open fan reverse turn. She executed it perfectly, as Lehrer sang, "At your command/Before you here I stand/My heart is in my hand... ugh!/It's here that I must be!" Coming back together, we paused in promenade, and Mina arched gracefully over my arm as we waited for the rhythm to resume after the "ugh." Then we continued the dance, working our way around the floor twice before the song ended.
"You're getting really good, Mina," I complimented her, as we walked back to the bench. "I know girls who've been taking lessons longer than I have who don't follow that well."
"Thanks. I took an American Smooth class over the summer, and I think it helped a lot. Did I get that fan turn right? Sometimes I'm not sure which way to turn."
"You did it right. If you can't tell which way to turn, it's probably because your partner didn't lead it properly."
"That could be," she acknowledged. "Most of my partners are beginners like me. It's nice to be able to practice with someone a bit more experienced."
"I'm hardly the best man here for that, you know," I said. "Compared to most of these guys, I'm a beginner too."
"Maybe, but you have a year and a half of lessons on me, and you're patient when I make a mistake; most of the advanced dancers I know don't like dancing with newcomers..." She paused, noticing a couple from American University who had just arrived. "There's Vlad and Marina; I'm going to go say hi to them, okay? I'll see you in a bit."
"No problem," I replied. "Save me the next rumba, okay?"
"Sure thing," she said, and headed over to greet her friends, while I looked around for my next dance partner.
Most of my usual partners weren't there that evening, and Mina knew very few of the men in attendance, so I ended up dancing with her more often than not. Her sultry rumba, danced to Gloria Estefan's "I'm Not Giving You Up," made me wonder whether she was flirting with me, but I couldn't tell for sure. I've never been good with non-verbal communication, and the rumba, when done well, seems seductive whether that's the intent or not.
Delightful as her tango and rumba were, Mina really came into her own when we did swing, which she'd been studying much longer than ballroom; dancing to hits like "Jump, Jive, and Wail" and "Zoot Suit Riot," her energy and enthusiasm lit up the floor. At one point toward the end of the evening Marina and I sat out and watched while Mina and Vlad danced lindyhop to "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Mina's small size making it easy for her partner to lead the spectacular dips, lifts, and aerials which are the hallmarks of advanced swing.
When it was time for the traditional good-night waltz, I sought Mina out, and we floated around the floor to the ethereal strains of Secret Garden's "Serenade to Spring." As the music ended I led Mina out into one last graceful turn, and bowed low over her hand. "Thank you," I said. "That was a lovely waltz."
"Thank you," she replied. "It's been a lovely evening all around. I missed this place over the summer. So, will I see you at Du Shor next Friday?"
"Indubitably. By the way, the evening isn't over yet, at least for me. A bunch of us are walking up the street to the Cheesecake Factory; we'll grab some dessert and hang out and chat for a while. Would you like to come?"
Mina looked crestfallen. "I'd like to, but I'm supposed to get a ride back with Vlad and Marina; I don't want to take the Metro this late at night. It's a long walk from the station back to my dorm."
"I wouldn't want you to have to do that. Tell you what, if you want to come to Cheesecake, I can drive you back to A.U. afterward; it's only a few minutes out of my way."
She brightened. "Oh, would you? That would be great! Let me just go tell Marina I've found another ride and I'll be right back." She hurried away to where her friend sat, while I sat down to change my shoes.
A few minutes later we headed out to Wisconsin Avenue together, both wearing our street shoes now. Outside the ballroom I paused. "If you don't mind, I'd like to put my backpack in the car before we go up to the restaurant."
"Sure," she said. "Is it back there?" She gestured at the parking lot behind the NationsBank, next to the building that housed the ballroom.
"Yeah, it'll just take a moment."
Just then the last few stragglers emerged from the ballroom door; among them was Julie Wallace, the president of the A.U. ballroom club. "Oh, Mina," she said, "I need to talk to you about the class schedule for this semester..."
Mina glanced at me inquiringly. "No trouble," I said. "I'll be back in a minute and we can go eat."
"Okay," Mina said. "Would you mind taking my stuff, too?"
.... There is more of this story ...