Sitting sideways, legs crossed, in an upholstered chair as luxurious as its surroundings, I sipped a glass of Cabernet as I listened to the house band at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island, looking to all the world — I realize only in hindsight — like a dance partner ripe for the picking.
I had found the comfy chair near the dance floor just as the band's front man started plucking a familiar tune on his guitar. One by one, the rest of the band members joined in and Santana's Black Magic Woman washed over the room.
I was mesmerized, lost in my own thoughts, wondering things like where the band came from, how much they get paid for a gig like this, how old they are ... when, all of a sudden, my vision was blocked.
By a man.
Standing in front of me.
He was wearing beige polyester pants that ended mid-ankle, a dark brown shirt and a pale yellow sweater vest. What little hair he had was combed over the crown of his head. On his feet, which, by the way, seemed way too large for his body, were laced leather oxfords.
Uh-oh. Dancin' shoes.
That revelation came only a split second before his words.
Yikes. I really don't wanna dance. Think quick, think quick, think quick ...
"Okay," I said, putting my glass of wine — and inhibitions — on the table as I stood up.
Dancing had been the last thing on my mind as I sat in the hotel lounge killing time until my daughter-in-law got done with her business meeting and could join me. But I didn't want to hurt the guy's feelings.
I let him take my hand and lead me onto the half-moon dance floor with full-wall windows overlooking the Atlantic.
When we got to the place where the carpet ended and the wooden dance floor began, I suddenly remembered why I don't like to dance — with strangers, anyway. The man in the yellow sweater vest suddenly took off like a shot, dragging me behind until we got to the middle of the dance floor, right in front of the band. There, he whipped around to face me, grabbed my hands and started doing a modified two-step. He twirled me and then twirled himself under my arm.
"Spin like a top," he said as he gave my arm a good yank and I yo-yo'd away from his body, down his arm until it was completely extended.
And then he yanked me back and I spun in the opposite direction. Strong little fellow he was.
He was grinning because he was delighted to be dancing.
I was grinning because the whole scene seemed so ridiculous.
The first time he got close enough to hear me, I gasped, "Maybe you should find a smaller girl."
"No, I like you just fine," said Mr. Arthur-Murray-Taught-Me-Dancing-In-A-Hurry as he twirled me again.
When the song was mercifully over, I said thanks and wobbled, a little dizzy from all the spinning, toward the glass of wine I had set on the table. I picked it up and headed away from the dance floor to a bar stool hidden from the dance floor — and potential dance partners. My daughter-in-law came in not long after.
A couple of hours later, as we were leaving, I spotted Fred Polyastaire still out on the dance floor.
I can't believe I thought I had to hide from him. He didn't need me.
There he was, center-stage, oxfords tapping and sliding as he twirled his new dance partner around.
A dish of a woman, half my age with long dark hair, wearing a sequined mini-skirt and thigh-high boots.
I was grinning again, except this time it was because I was genuinely happy for the little guy with the big amount of stamina. He was out there cuttin' a rug and bustin' a move like nobody's business — seemingly under the spell of his very own Black Magic Woman.
Now who says getting old is no fun?
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8746