Band guys got a pass on the Women’s room, if it was empty, the men’s was loaded and they posted a guard. Jackson qualified on all counts and hit the women’s room at The Regent. He stood in front of the mirrored wall, took in the marble, gold tone fixtures, the leather and velvet chairs in the ‘parlor’. The fine art prints, framed quotes from famous women written in calligraphy. It was what he thought the hotels must have been like when he heard old recordings of bands from the Forties.
“From the ballroom of the fabulous Regent, high atop Oilman’s Bank Tower rising like Xanadu above the waving wheat and Oil derricks of Oklahoma we bring you…” It folded right there because he’d forgotten what band name Glenn said they were using for the best New Year’s 1975 gig around. But the women’s room was posh. He’d heard the phrase “tart’s palace” used to describe one, probably equally as posh, in the –
“Jackson?” His drummer watchdog tapped on the door, rhythmically and not too quietly. “Whip it out, get it on and get over it, bro. Women are dancing in the aisles out here.”
Jackson finished tucking his shirt tail in, checked his zipper twice, shrugged into his tux jacket, made sure he’d flushed and complied with the unwritten seat down rule. He reached for the polished brass handle and stopped for another calligraphy quote attached to the inside of the women’s room door.
There are only two things in life that should be hard. One of them is Jolly Ranchers. All else troublesome is merely difficult. – Amanda Morisé
Three songs into the third set Glenn said the slow acoustic version of “Wonderful World” was up, by special request, so everyone in the band but Robbie the bass player got a free break song. Jackson stepped off the riser thinking he’d shunted all the “Do you wanna dance” requests by now. Alix asked this time, her French accent caressing her words.
“You would dance with me, when again there is music?”
“Sorry, can’t. I’m working.” He tried a sidestep.
“As am I.” She smiled, took his hand and he was out into the dance floor with her like his feet and hers were on the same wavelength. She set herself in front of him, right in front of him, caught his eyes with the sparkle in hers. “There is the problem, of you and girls?”
“I like girls just fine, but —”
“I am the girl most as you should like them, I think. So we dance, no?”
When he heard the intro, he took Alix’s right hand with his left, put his right hand on her hip, and pulled her left and back.
“Don’t know much bi-ol-o-gee-ee…”
“The old-fashioned way? I am such the ugly goose? The old foggy?”
“Duck. And fogey. Old fogey. No, you’re not. I don’t dance much, slow dance even less, that’s all. I’ll box step, you add what you want. I’ll try not to let you fall.”
“For such there are reasons? Medical? Mental?”
“When I was eleven or twelve, my parents sent me to this place on Friday nights. Something Soirée.”
“Soirée. So bad for you, the party?” He moved her around in a big square, not too awkwardly. It didn’t hurt that she seemed to read his mind when he needed to turn her, and her waist was made for his hand.
“Our parents sent us, boys and girls. It was a fake party, a party class. They played records, taught us how to ask a girl to dance. How to bow, how to curtsy.”
“Ahh! As was I taught!” She took a half step back, curtsied fluidly in perfect time with the music, and stepped back into his hands. “A curtsy most professional was obtained by you, after such instruction?”
“In fairness the gentleman must demonstrate as well, no?”
“I…” Damn…He waited for the downbeat, let go of her and folded into his well-rehearsed Cary Grant stage bow, caught her left hand on his way up, brushed it with his lips and raised it. She spun out and back into place like they’d never been apart.
“Delightful!” She leaned in closer. “More was learned, I think, in la soirée?“
“They taught us to be ‘polite and considerate,’ not to run like a herd of cows to the couple of girls back then who already had boobs. I had to learn the ‘important social graces’.”
“Most important I think, not to run at girls with breasts. You learned this well, to snuck up on the breasts?”
“Sneak up. Yeah, but after that, we were about halfway through their program and I asked my dad if I could stop going. He asked me why, I told him it was boring. My mother had beaten all of that manners stuff into me already, so I got the polite rules. He said, ‘Your mother won’t like it, but I’ll sell it for you’. So I missed the second half, the dance lessons.”
“So boring for you, oui? To ask most politely of the girls without breasts a dance, more instruction of the curtsy?”
“Don’t know much about the French I took…”
“No, the real problem was, well, around then if I even got too close to a girl, held her hand, danced with her, just being that close, I got…Excited. Couldn’t control it.”
“Excited? You had the freak down and break out?”
“Freak out, break down. No, I got a banana in my pants, okay? Out of nowhere, there it was. I had on loose dress slacks, it was embarrassing. So I always slow dance this way, just in case.”
“Oh, my love…” Alix laughed, almost tripped. Jackson caught her, and they were in a full-on dip. He could smell her perfume, felt her breath on his neck before he pulled her up. “Only in dancing you become excited, or the closeness les femmes?”
“The closeness anywhere, I guess. That summer my mom bought me this way off swimsuit. It was tight, some kind of knit stuff, with orange stripes. It looked like it was painted on, you know, ‘look everybody, here’s my biz!’ It was worse because we’d go to the pool, there were girls in bikinis and the same excited thing would happen. I spent the whole summer in the water, turning into a prune. I got a tan from the shoulders up.”
“The most excited prune, no? With the banana of pants for swimming?” She fell out again. “Would you not ask your mother for the pants of swimming more forgiving in such ways?” She was laughing harder, people were staring at the band guy dancing with the “French Morisé” in big baggy I Dream of Jeannie silk pants.
“Alix, how do you tell your mom, ‘When I walk past a girl I get a chub, I need some jams to hide it’?”
Thank God the song was over. Alix was still laughing when she kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for the dance. Break out and freak down ho-lee shit for real. It was a good thing his underwear was tight because Amanda’s partner was made out of female electricity. He’d only grazed her hip when she’d tripped and that was all it took.
“The boy…Your petit amour…” Alix was having trouble talking through her laughter. “My champagne?”
Amanda handed Alix her glass. “Why did you ask him to dance? I told the girls to leave him alone, with the exception of Beverly in that two-extra-cheeks-to-powder skirt.”
“Ah, my love, for one so young? He sees the woman, not the skirt. Yet he dances with me as his mother, no? This, I think, is the boy who visits you, on the day of your phone call most disruptive. Work I must do and Amanda, always most severe, at once she is the giggles and laughs of the schoolgirl? I decide I must see your petit amour, oui? To hear myself as he speaks most cleverly to you.”
“Was that it, the dancing giant’s story? He told you that?”
“No, my love, he told to me stories of a young boy awakened. Of the instruction in
la soirée dansante, and the pool for swimming where he was most troubled by that which is hard and unforgiving.”
Amanda folded her arms, studied her champagne glass. “Life is hard and unforgiving, Alix.”
“As is that which is not the Jolly Rancher, my love.”
The dance and two song lines are courtesy of “What a Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke