I just need to express this pain. I know that there are much worse things in the world than braces. But I just got new wires the other day, and my teeth are sore, every single one of them. The pain shoots up with every tortilla chip with mild salsa that I bite down on, up through the root of my teeth, down my jaw and up my head, so that I cannot think of anything else. I run to the bathroom mirror every hour to see if there’s been any movement. I use a smaller mirror to check my back molars. And what do I see? The same teeth I saw about an hour ago.
They’re country line dancing outside my window. They’re out there every Thursday for the Farmer’s Market, a social event I usually avoid by taking the bus into the city, but not tonight. No, tonight I must wallow in my tooth pain. They’re line dancing to George Michael now. This provides little comfort. Five minutes ago, when I was walking back from Starbucks, I heard the music through the large speakers. I saw heads and hair bobbing rhythmically through the crowds standing in line at the shiskabob concession stand, and it took me a moment to recognize what I was seeing. It was them. They made my teeth hurt even more and so I ran into my apartment to safety.
The first time I saw them, I was walking to Starbucks with my friend Till. He abhores music of all kinds, unless he’s playing drums. Then he can’t hear how bad he is, but that’s another story. He had no interest in the line dancers. He probably wouldn’t have noticed them if it weren’t for me. But I grabbed his arm to make him stop walking so I could watch.
“Katie, what’s going on? Let’s go.”
“I’m sorry. There’s something about them. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop. Watching.”
“Till, I’m serious, something’s. Happening. I can’t stop.”
This is when Till made the fatal error and looked himself.
“Oh. My. God. What. Is. Happening.”
“Till. I don’t. know.”
“We’ve got to. Get out of. Here.”
“I know but. I’m. Paralyzed.”
I am not sure exactly how long we stood there, watching this group of some twenty dancers of all sizes, mostly with greying hair, wearing lots of denim and belts with big buckles, kicking and stomping their feet and swaying their hips to the music, in complete, unwavering unison. A skinny woman in a jean skirt at the front, with red hair as tall as a mountain, wearing a microphone headset, called out maneuvers.
“Whoop, whoop! A little to the left. That’s right, now swing to the right,” she called. The dancers followed her every move in perfect coordination, thumbs in their belt loops, some hollering occasional yelps, but all with a cold, unmistakable vacant stare.
“Katie, I can’t stop. Watching.”
“Sucked into. Vortex. Must try to. Escape.”
It was at precisely this moment that I felt strange movements coming from my right leg. It moved to the beat of Olivia Newton-John. “Let’s get physical,” she sang, teezing me.
“Ah! Katie! My thumbs! Stuck in. Belt loops!”
“Me too! Till!”
Without looking, without seeing where I was going, now I was rocking and swaying to the music. My head was locked into position. I twirled, and saw Till, who was twirling, too, with the same vacant gaze as the dancers.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, idiot!”
It was the old lady at the Thai food trailer, the one who hands out the Cokes. She was whacking me with her cane. I’d stepped into her tub filled with ice and drinks.
I felt my body release itself from whatever it was that had taken control. My legs gave way beneath me, as I nearly collapsed. The bruises from her cane lasted for a week, but it was worth it. She saved me.
But Till, he was still dancing.
“Whoop, whoop! I’m really rockin’ now!” he said. He was out of control.
I stood in front of him, snapping my fingers in his face. “Snap out of it, man!” I pleaded, but I couldn’t get through.
I sometimes wonder if I should have tried harder. Should I have attempted to physically break the force? Was I sincere in my efforts? He wasn’t that great of a drummer, but even worse, he was always such a downer, complaining all the time, oh, woe is me, my life sucks, Marin sucks, everything sucks.
And so I let him go. And who knows, he could be dancing outside my window right now. I’m not going to look.