(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
D and I are enjoying our drive-about through the Western U.S. So far, we’ve visited friends and family in Northern and Southern California, Las Vegas, and now Salt Lake City. Four of the five G brothers are converging here in the town where they grow up for a day of talk, food, drink and guitars. I’ll do my best to keep up with my little ukulele. I’m lucky to have married into such a musical family, and such a welcoming one.
The chance to travel like this is one of the prime blessings of retirement. Of course, a little just-us time between visits is an important component of a successful road trip. On our way through Nevada, D and I spent the night at the Virgin River Casino/”Resort” in Mesquite, on the Arizona border.
Everything you’d imagine, good and bad, about a budget casino-hotel was on offer. Lots of lumpy, sad-looking old folks with various infirmities, staring glumly at their slot machines. Chatty, cheerful waitresses who call you Hon as they bring your bargain plate of prime rib. A cloud of cigarette smoke that permeates everything and clings to your clothing. Squealing kids splashing in the pool. Passers-through staring in wonder at the blinking lights, ringing bells, electronic music, and weird, wonderful artwork on the gambling machines. Jaded-looking croupiers and dealers in polyester vests, awaiting the next bunch of suckers—er, gamblers. Cocktail waitresses squashed into tight mini-skirts, trudging through the rows to deliver cheap alcohol. Just watching them made my feet hurt in sympathy.
I must say, though, that the food was tasty, the hotel room clean, and the bed comfortable. At the bar, a very competent quartet played rock standards and country tunes from the 80s to the present. The dance floor was filled with white people in their sixties and seventies doing the same complicated line dance to every tune and clearly having a good time.
And behind them, doing her own funky thing, was Jessica. I learned her name during the band’s break, when she staggered out to shout greetings to the gamblers. Many called her by name, and someone said, “She’s gonna get her ass thrown out of here again.”
Probably fortyish, Jessica wore a red ribbed tank top but no bra. She was short and thick, and her mussed blond hair hung loose around her stocky shoulders. The length of her white pants suggested that she’d been wearing heels earlier but had discarded them somewhere along the way—perfectly understandable while dancing, though probably not the best idea while trailing across the casino floor.
On the one hand, I felt sorry for her. She was making a spectacle of herself and, judging from the way the waitresses rolled their eyes as she passed, this was not her first time doing so. She gyrated and spun and tottered across the dance floor, throwing her arms wide at the band, and then at the crowd, and then shooting leering grins at the few lone guys in the bar. Every few minutes she’d plop down onto the edge of the stage and strike a pose, probably to catch her breath. The line dancers ignored her, as did the band.
On the other hand, she seemed so joyful, so determined to wring every last drop of fun from the occasion. When the line dancers left, Jessica kept dancing. Her swirling, zig-zag path across the dance floor reminded me of a little girl dancing at a concert or wedding. Her infectious grin was adorable, and I so wanted someone to get up and dance with her. Or maybe take her home—which was probably what she was hoping for. Who knows?
D consented to one dance with me, and afterward I contented myself with wiggling in my chair. Of course, the movement caught Jessica’s eye, and she trotted over like a happy puppy and held out her hand.
And so we danced, Jessica and I. I twirled her across the dance floor, nearly dumping her on her behind—not deliberately, mind you. It’s just that she was pretty unsteady on her feet. But it was fun, and I was glad to share her energy for a few minutes.
There’s something to be said for exuberance, and a lot to be said for dancing. And I wonder—how big of a change in my circumstances would it take to make a Jessica of me? After all, I love to dance, and I like my wine. If I were all alone, could I resist drinking too much and tearing up the dance floor?
Here’s to Jessica. I hope she finds a dance partner.