Within seconds of taking the floor, my partner Sally, a middle-aged medievalist from a third-tier state university in North Dakota, had proven herself to be the second best dancer at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, and in so doing she leapt upward in my esteem.
How could it be otherwise?
She moved as beautifully as anyone I’d ever seen, with a rhythm and a lithe grace that belied her age and her occupation. Only someone with a native joy in movement and a profoundly deep soul could move as this woman did.
This is why most academics can’t dance, their souls are shallow.
As individuals they’re hysterics. As a group they’re either a lowing herd or a raving mob; nasty and petty conformists of the worst sort. Ask them to dance and they jerk about grotesquely revealing only a sliver of soul.
Yes, I may be a misanthrope…a charlatan…a cynic…a cad…a toady to the powerful, and a bully of the weak, but I have a soul, damn it! And I can dance!
And so could Sally, and I admired her for it greatly.
We had been doing a complicated variation of the Electric Slide, one which I had devised myself, and which Sally was able to pick up and embellish wonderfully. It was joyful and funny, the sort of perfect synchronized improvisation that not one pair in a hundred thousand was capable of doing. And it was, withal, a magical moment.
The music slowed; a piece of Lionel Ritchie drivel. Sally and I moved together, shifting to a slow box step.
“My God, Bo. You. Are. Amazing!”
“And you, my dear Sally, and you,” I replied truthfully, “Where did you learn to dance so beautifully?”
“Ah, that?” Her voice had a grating Middle Western nasality that at that moment I did not necessarily find unpleasant, “I was a showgirl in Vegas.”
As the saying goes, you could have “toppled me with a teewurst“.
“Ha?” I said.
“You don’t believe me?”
Sally disengaged herself, stepped back, lifting her left leg slightly, pointing her toe, and raising her arms in an elegant showgirl posture. Suddenly the years spun back and she looked 24, in the dim light, through two pints of brandy and a large Budweiser.
Well, what could I say, dear readers? When someone presents conclusive evidence of having had a heroic and worthy past a gentleman merely salutes and offers to buy a round.
“How completely marvelous!” I said in all sincerity, which is perhaps my rarest of modes.
The DJ moved to play some piece of bumpkinish Nashville nonsense.
“This music is reprehensible,” I said, hitching my thumbs into the belt loops of my trousers, and starting the opening movements of the Cotton Eyed Joe, “Allow me to buy you a drink.”
“Yes, please.” She took my hand and pulled me through the rabble to the the bar, where I ordered us two plastic tumblers of cheap tequila.
“Here’s to Sally the Showgirl.”
“And here’s to you, the Gallant Korncrake.”
“Von. Von Korncrake.”
“Oh whatever, Bo.”
We touched glasses and drank deeply of life.
Dear readers, I will now spare you the details of the rest of the evening, of the further drinks and the dancing, of my brief and victorious bout of fisticuffs with an elderly scholar of Aquinas and his companion, a trollish lady whom I took to be his wife, and of the details of the unsightly couplings of middle aged flesh.
Instead, I will simply tell you that in the morning I awoke with my head throbbing, two broken fingers, a badly wrenched knee, and a profound sense of my own looming mortality, one brought on by the sight of my sleeping companion. And yet, for all of that, I was able to pack my bag and slip out of my room as quietly as a titmouse.