(this is annie)

Busting many moves

Cool Hand Luke and I had plans to hit up this arepas cafe, but by the time we made it down to the East Village, the place had stopped taking names for tables. So we walked around in the cold, crisp air in search of another place to eat. Mexican? Maybe. Thai? Not feeling it. We snaked through the streets discussing my ophidiophobia. (He thinks it can be cured; I disagree.) Then we saw an interesting-looking restaurant, glanced at its menu, and saw that it was another arepas place. We decided it was a sign.

I'd never had Venezuelan food, but it's pretty straightforward. The menu consisted of tapas, arepas (stuffed cornmeal patties), and meat and fish dishes topped off with a light drizzle of crude oil. Our server had a birdlike energy, all angles in her gait and back-and-forth eye movements. She recommended the tofu arepa, but I feel like most Venezuelans don't eat tofu, so I went with beans and whatever. We ordered too much food, agreed that it was decent but needed tomatoes or something else to balance its dryness, and drank red wine (CHL) and sangria (me).

The restaurant closed at midnight but the music kept playing, and a few people began to dance. Their sense of movement was natural, their rhythm inspiring. I enjoyed watching them. Then CHL said two words that struck fear into my heart: let's dance. Oh no!

It's not that I don't like to dance. Quite the opposite. Do it all the time at home. The problem is that I am absolutely horrible at it. I explained this and hoped that we could do The Chair. It's the hot new dance move. You sit down and wait for the server to bring the check. It's huge in Venezuela!

"Oh, come on," CHL said. And with no real defense or valid excuse to save me, I was pulled out of my seat. The other dancers were doing some hip-wiggling thing that the nuns back in grade school would have surely disapproved of.

In an attempt to be a good sport, I decided to give it a whirl. I asked myself, "WWPSIDDD?"* I then realized that the answer, too, would involve hip-wiggling. I couldn't do that. That's how you throw out a hip! So I pulled out my usual thumbs-in-the-air, torso-twisting moves. It looked almost as impressive as this. "Why don't you let me lead," CHL offered.

So he led. I tried to follow. It didn't go well. I spun the wrong way, nearly flung myself into the bar, and wondered if a second sangria might have helped me forget this embarrassment in the morning. "I need those numbered feet," I muttered. We laughed. Eventually I started getting the hang of it, or at least I stopped being completely inept. I may even have had a good time.

While dipping down and spinning around, my mind went back to dancing with my father. He used to take my hands in his, and I'd put my little feet on top of his shoes. He'd get a little sparkle in his eye while moving us around and making me laugh. I was sad when I grew too big for that, but as I let myself be led in the restaurant, a small part of that feeling came back. And better yet, I was able to share stories of that memory, of my father, while smiling. I think my dad would be happy to see me dancing. Even—no, especially—when I didn't think I could.

* (What would Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing do?)

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