Dancing With Strangers

         Target wasn’t very busy, which was good because today’s to-do list was long. This stop involved the purchase of deodorant and cat litter. No cart needed, it would just slow me down. I’ll get in and out of here quickly, get the oil changed in my car, pick up the dry cleaning, and then work in the garden. As I walked my mind wandered. I reflected on the notion that both items I would eventually buy here dealt with masking odor of one form or another. Then I mused about the fact that I was spending way too much on my garden. It was when I started pondering about not really liking the taste of beets that I looked up and saw a woman walking directly toward me. She was thirty feet away and we were rapidly closing in on each other. As a full-grown adult I have long since lost the urge to play chicken with someone, let alone a stranger. When I was a young teenager my friends and I would do this on our bicycles like complete idiots, but those days are gone…well, maybe not the days of being complete idiots but you get the gist.
         As we walked we made eye contact and it was clear that one of us would need to alter our course to avoid an imminent collision, one in which, most likely, no colossal harm would be inflicted upon either of us, but embarrassment would be raised by a sharp degree. We were both near the central part of the aisle so there was much room to maneuver. At about the twenty-foot distance I started to veer just a bit, ever so slightly to my right. Perhaps I thought the subtle movement would be a more graceful attempt than if I simply did a little side-step dance move complete with jazz hands. I looked away from her slightly as I did and pretended to be perusing aisle signs.
         However, my peripheral vision caught an alarming movement and I looked back to see that her tactic was to perform the same exact move as me and was meandering slightly to her left, my right, with the same intent. We were at fifteen feet now. Not wanting to call too much attention to our obvious lack of ability to telecommunicate with each other, I faintly altered my course swerving slightly back to my left, and proceeded to look at aisle signs on the other side. She did the same, mirroring my movement. At ten feet away my collision alarm went off and I made a much more obvious movement back to my right, and of course she made the same motion to her left. Closer and closer we got, back and forth, each of us weaving like running backs trying to evade a tackle. Eight feet, six feet, five, four…
         We stopped in our tracks, facing each other three feet apart. Always awkward, though I have no idea why. It was just a coincidence of exact decisions that brought our varied journeys to a complete standstill, most literally. I’d lived fifty years of life, lived in three states, traveled all over the United States, visited several other countries. She looked to be in her early sixties, Latin American as far as I could tell, probably traveled some, moved some, God knows where her life had taken her, and here we were at this one flash of time not able to avoid each other.
         It was at this moment I had a strange notion that it would be hysterical if all of a sudden we dropped what we were carrying, readied ourselves in a ballroom dance stance, and started waltzing around Target. The Goo Goo Dolls’ song Iris was playing from the ceiling speakers and a waltz would have been possible in that it has a 6/8 meter. I didn’t think about who would lead because I don’t even know how to dance, but in my head I had this vision. Spinning, weaving, celebrating the chance meeting that seemed to have been ordained before the dawn of existence. That’s what it would be, really, an awkward situation that we made into a glorious, memorable moment. We were cheering life together, up one aisle, down the other. At one point I would join Johnny Rzeznik on the chorus, singing at the top of my lungs, “And I don’t want the world to see me, ‘cause I don’t think that they’d understand, when everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am!!!” But I did want the world to see me now because this is what we should all be doing. And others in the store would, finding strangers that they’d never met, paring up and dancing. The lights would dim and somewhere several disco balls would go active shooting thousands of pinprick lights gliding over the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Somebody would set off a few fog machines and the music overhead would become much more present, now flowing out of a state of the art sound system that materialized, turning the mood of Target into that of a dance hall.
         And then at that moment the stranger with whom I was dancing would feel a gentle tap on her shoulder. We had spun ourselves near women’s clothing, and we stop and the stranger turns to discover the source of the tap. I would see an elderly woman looking at me with pleading eyes. “May I dance with you, young man?” she would ask me, “You remind me of my third husband and we LOVED ballroom dancing.”
         “It would be my pleasure, ma’am,” I would reply, extending my left hand. (At least I think I’m supposed to extend that hand.) My previous dance partner would have already found someone, an employee of Target, and would commence her waltzing, celebrating life with another to the remainder of the Goo Goo Dolls’ former hit song.
         I really felt like I would be doing something special, helping this wonderful woman remember a moment in her life. It was at this instant more than just a memory for her. She would be reliving a time that she never thought she’d have a chance to experience again. Her eyes closed, her lips smiling. She would be humming along. I felt pretty good about myself in this scenario. The song would change and we would hear Bette Midler singing, “It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight on your face…” Ah! Wind Beneath My Wings! Perfect! As the chorus of this song rose, I’d see a tear spill down her left cheek. That’s when she slid her hand down my back and gingerly squeezed my butt.
         That’s also the moment I snapped back to reality and realized that I was standing face to face for about three seconds with my unlikely stranger dance partner.
         “Pardon me,” I said, “I’ll go this way.” And I jumped to my right, sans jazz hands. We both smiled and went our opposite ways down the aisle.