Me and the Sweet Snowstorm
I don’t know how to dance. But not knowing how to do something has never stopped me before.
I guess that comes from growing up in the mountains of Idaho, with parents who were…unconventional, to say the least.
My brothers and I learned at a young age that just because we didn’t know how to do something didn’t mean we would get out of it.
Plus, what better way to learn how to do something than to actually do it?
I twist the cup of punch I’m holding in my hand, looking around for a place to set it down.
The fire hall is full of happy people, happy music, happy smells of good food mixed with summer air and flowers since someone left the doors open to allow a breeze to flow through.
A small-town volunteer fire company has to be frugal, and air conditioning probably isn’t on anyone’s top ten list of things they need.
I don’t care, since that’s another thing I somehow learned growing up—to acclimate to the climate.
In the summer, I’m fine with the heat.
In the winter…okay. I’d be lying to say I’m fine with subzero temperatures, but there does come a point where your body compensates for the temperatures outside if you’re out in them.
I’d get soft if I constantly moved the temperature of the air inside to make me the most comfortable.
I didn’t have a lot of comfort growing up.
I’ve found a garbage can, and I mosey over to it, draining the rest of my punch before dropping the cup in.
The object of my attention, or maybe I should say the woman my attention is focused on, is deep in conversation with her grandmother, a spry eighty-year-old named Agnes, with whom I went whitewater rafting on the Snake River not that long ago.
Kimber, the woman I’m going to be dancing with, went with us.
She’s a city girl.
That makes me nervous. But it doesn’t make me change my mind.
I nod to a couple of people as I weave through the crowd, conscious that the current song is winding down and, now that I’ve made a decision, not wanting to wait through another one.
I don’t know the rules, maybe you can’t ask someone to dance in the middle of the song.
It occurs to me that Kimber probably knows the rules. People from the city usually do.
People like me, who grew up on the land, have more of a tendency to make the rules to suit myself.
I also look to see what’s going on outside with the weather before I decide what I’m doing for the day.
Not that there’s anything wrong with people don’t. We just live by different rules, which means sometimes we don’t understand each other very well.
That’s probably going to be true for Kimber and me, but the time I spent with her on the Snake River has given me the knowledge that there’s an attraction there, for me at least, and even though I know we are too different to ever be compatible, I want to dance with her.
Maybe hold her a little.
I might have helped her in and out of the raft a few times, the same way I’d helped her grandmother and everyone else on the trip.
I want this to be different.
I want to hold her the way a man holds woman, even though I know the man-woman thing isn’t going to work for the two of us.
I wish I could say I time it just right as I arrive at her side, and she and her grandmother have just finished their conversation, and I’m able to ask her to dance, and she accepts with a smile.
If life were perfect, right?
But I don’t time it just right. Maybe there is no such thing as perfect timing for me. Because I’m twenty feet away when a man in what I assume to be an expensive suit—but what do I know about these things—taps her on the shoulder. He’s got his back to me, and she turns to face him, her face lighting up with a smile and her eyes holding recognition.
Obviously, she knows him and is happy to see him.
He tilts his head, and his mouth moves, and she nods, putting her hand in his, as he leads her to the dance floor.
There goes that idea.
I suppose it took less courage for me to walk over than it did to think that she wouldn’t mind dancing with me, even if she isn’t attracted to me like I am to her and even if she doesn’t like me as much either.
Seeing her reaction to that man has made me wonder.
I guess I don’t get my feet stopped in time, or maybe the Lord just kept them going. I don’t know.
But I’ve taken another fifteen or twenty steps, thinking about whether I’m going to attempt to ask her to dance again and not really paying attention to where I’m going.
I realize I’ve stopped right in front of Miss Agnes, Kimber’s grandmother.
“Why, Bain,” she says with a smile—an older version of Kimber’s smile. She’s happy to see me. And she recognizes me.
I had a lot of fun with the seniors that I guided down the Snake River.
“Sonny, you came over here to ask an old lady to dance, didn’t you?” She grins at me, and I get the feeling she somehow knows that I had intended to ask her granddaughter and not her. I don’t get the feeling she’s upset about that.
In fact, Agnes might be eighty, but she’s shrewd, and I see the intelligence in her sparkling blue eyes. I also see her brain moving.
She likes me.
I have no idea why, other than we might be kind of kindred spirits. Even if I’m a much younger version since I’m less than half her age.
I figure Kimber is about the same age as me. I do know, from hearing different conversations on the trip, that Kimber has never been married and doesn’t have children.
She enjoys living the city lifestyle, enjoys being her own woman, enjoys her independence and her success as a vlogger.
All things I admire.
Even if I don’t entirely understand them.
“I sure am,” I say, holding my hand out for Miss Agnes. “I looked around the room, and you looked like you had on a pair of sturdy shoes that can handle me stepping on your toes since I don’t know how to dance.”
I think she takes it as a compliment, because her lips stretch up further, and her face wrinkles even more. Miss Agnes and I hit it off the first day we met, and there’s definitely mutual respect flowing between us.
She puts her gnarled old hand in mine as the strains of the last song end. At least I know now it’s okay to ask someone in the middle of the song, since that man asked Kimber and she looked pretty happy about it.
“Lead the way, son. I’ve danced with plenty of men a lot clumsier than you are.”
“How do you know how clumsy I am?” I ask, more to make conversation and to keep the smile on Miss Agnes’s face. She’s the kind of lady that you just want to see smile.
“I saw you hopping in and out of the boat.”
“Raft,” I say, correcting her automatically, which she takes graciously with a nod of her white head.
“Raft. I want to use the correct terminology,” she says, and I hear the humor in her voice.
“I knew you did,” I say. “That’s why I corrected you.”
“Then you’re not gonna feel bad when I correct you when you stomp on my feet,” Agnes says, and I grunt at her.
I have no intentions of stomping anywhere, even if I don’t know how to dance or maybe especially because I don’t. I don’t want to hurt her. I’m a good bit bigger than she is.
My whole family is tall, all four of my brothers, and although I’m not the tallest, I’m kinda heavyset too, and I know despite the sturdiness of Agnes’s shoes, I really would hurt her if I put any force behind stepping on her feet.
Even if I don’t.
A song comes on that I don’t recognize, which isn’t surprising. Where I typically hang out, we don’t have much electricity, and while I can strum a few chords on the guitar to entertain myself, the songs I play are mostly songs my parents taught us when we were younger. Not any of the modern-day stuff. I assume that’s what this is, although I really don’t know.
There’s another difference between Kimber and me. I’m sure she’s up on all the latest. Whatever she does for a living depends on being on the edge of what society is obsessed with.
“Loosen up, sonny. You can’t dance when you’re stiff as a board.” Miss Agnes puts both hands on my shoulders and shakes a little, like she wants me to relax.
Why not? I’m not worried about looking like an idiot in front of these people. After all, as my eyes sweep the dance floor, I don’t see anyone who actually looks good while they’re dancing.
Whatever that means. I guess I mean to say I don’t see anyone who actually looks…sophisticated while they’re dancing. I suppose “sophisticated” and “dancing” don’t really go together, unless you’re talking about ballet, which I’ve heard about but never actually seen.
I’m just guessing on it anyway.
“You just feel the music, and you let yourself move to it,” Miss Agnes says, and she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.
That makes sense; I relax and move to the music.
It’s a little harder than what you think though, and you kinda have to put the idea that there are other people in the room out of your head. Now I understand why people might dance with their eyes closed.
“Think about it like you’re out under the stars, and you don’t think there’s anyone else around, and you’re on your knees with your hands lifted up to heaven, just feeling the air and the night sounds and looking at the stars and being awed by your Creator.”
I stop moving, my eyes wide, and I’m staring at Miss Agnes.
She chuckles and fists her old fingers together, chucking me on the shoulder. “When you get old, you don’t sleep as well as you do when you’re a young pup like you. Of course, maybe you don’t sleep well either, and that’s why you were out there.”
She saw me on our river trip.
I shake my head. I wasn’t there because I couldn’t sleep, not really. I was just out there because sometimes you just get overwhelmed with the vastness of the universe, and the beauty all around you, and how intricately everything is put together, and how carefully everything works in time, and you have no choice but to get on your knees and lift your hands and acknowledge the God of the universe and his superiority over you.
She’s right. I certainly never thought anyone was watching me do that.
“Music is the same way, son. You just feel it right here.” She taps her chest. “And it moves you.” Her eyes narrow at me as the music goes on around us, filling the room and seeming to vibrate over the air. Some kind of thumping bass with other, smoother instruments overtop, maybe some violins, but it definitely has a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it.
“It will be easier if you close your eyes and just forget about everyone else,” Miss Agnes says.
“If I close my eyes, I will be stepping on someone’s foot,” I say, joking, because I don’t want to be serious.
Miss Agnes lifts her brow, like she knows my cover. Then her eyes, which were holding mine, deliberately track to her left. My eyes follow hers, and I see Kimber, dancing with her hands in the air, uninhibited, and moving with the beat. The man she’s with is a lot more stiff, and while her eyes are closed, his are on her.
Miss Agnes looks back at me. “See my granddaughter?”
She’s asking like we hadn’t just stood there and stared at her for a good five seconds, and I feel like there’s something else in her tone. Actually, I feel like she knows the whole reason I was coming over was to ask her granddaughter to dance, and that’s why I am standing here now, thinking I need to learn, and fast, if I want to do what I had already decided I was going to do and that was dance with Kimber. Just once.
“I do.” Maybe I shouldn’t say this to the woman’s grandmother, but I wasn’t raised in polite society, and I have a tendency to speak my mind. Not in a bad way, I don’t think, but in a way where if I think it, I say it, and I don’t hide it just because it might not be sophisticated and debonair to say. “If I were dancing with her, I wouldn’t be standing so far away from her. I’d want to hold her.” I lift a brow. “And feel her move against me.”
I haven’t shocked the old lady. Far from it. She smiles, her lips curving up and her brows going down with her lips pressed together. She knows exactly what I’m saying.
And I get the feeling she approves.
“Loosen up, feel the music, practice with me, then we’ll go over and talk to Kimber. You’ll get your chance, son.”