I always say “yes”, because it’s brave to ask a girl to dance, and it’s terrible to walk back across the bar alone.
John is a baker from Valdez, taking salsa lessons and evidently paying attention in class. Hector is a cook on the slopes, two weeks home and three weeks out, I’m guessing he’s been doing these shuffling cha-cha steps since his boyhood in Oaxaca. And Karl is the theatre manager, no more bitter than any other single man in Alaska, three-to-one ratio in the city, eight-to-one in the villages, the girls saying things like, “I want a boyfriend for the winter,” and the boys joking, “You didn’t lose your girl, you just lost your turn.” We are the visiting circus girls, three workshops, six family shows, two adult shows, two outdoor festivals.
Everyone in Alaska is nice to us.
Our little group drives a borrowed minivan (airport pick-up and drop-off, we invite the owner to pizza after the show), stays at a friend’s house (pillow fights and Mexican night while he sleeps on his couch for two weeks), eats in the fun restaurants and hugs our thanks to whomever has picked up the check. We wear our false eyelashes to dinner and take off our shirts on the radio (“Check out Brock and the Fat Guy and the circus chicks on our Facebook page!”) and only mention our significant others when directly asked.
I make sure I’m not directly asked.
We are the ensemble cast of Girls Gone Alaska, promoting our friends’ single-ness to our audiences, lounging in pretty jammies in the living room, telling them how much we love them, how grateful we are. The New Age One, The Nice One, and The Girl Who Probably Would If Only She Lived Here.
I am not The Nice One.
I am the one who says “Yes,” and sometimes “Maybe,” and often, “If only I lived here.”
I say “yes” a lot on Salsa Night because I love dancing and I love being pretty or at least believing I’m pretty for tonight, and I love being in a city where men actually ask you to dance and mean it, mean “I can lead and I will not laugh too much at your poor following, and I will return you safely to your table when the song changes.”
And I say “yes” to Karl the theatre manager because I love Alaska and free meals and a nice venue with good advertising, more budget than he’s telling his boss, and I want to come back, and yes, flirt with him a little more.
The beat changes and Karl’s a reasonably good leader and there’s the feeling of his body on mine. My boyfriend’s silver gift is heavy around my neck, reminding me, serious but not monogamous, and on the road doesn’t count, and I try not to think that every time I see my boyfriend, we are on the road. That maybe I do want a relationship where we phone each other and chat on Facebook.
Karl looks at me, and I say “What.”
It’s not what’s in his face, but he says, “I never had this much fun in years.”
I laugh, and turn under his arm, and now, on the 3rd or 4th try, I’m turning in the right direction most of the time. He’s handsome and sweet and has a good job and is even almost smart enough, and at the end of the song he sweeps me up in his arms, threshold style, strong enough that I don’t worry about what I weigh this week, and we laugh and laugh and he says, “You should come back more often,” and I say, “you should book us next year.”