“You’re not going to try and stay up late with us, are you?” my wife said apropos of a little soiree we were having for her ballet friends Saturday night. “You need your rest for the work week,” she said, her face a veritable picture postcard of concern.
“Dear God, please don’t let him stay up and make stupid ballet jokes!”
“Actually, I think I’ll take a long nap in the afternoon so I can keep up with your fast crowd,” I said, but she was having none of it.
“I worry about your health, sweetie,” she said. What she meant, of course, was that if something were to happen to me, I wouldn’t be able to keep working like some kind of dumb animal for another ten years.
“No, seriously,” I said, “I’ll take a nap in the morning after I swim to warm up for my afternoon nap. That way I won’t pull a muscle when I yawn.”
“No, you’re so much older than the rest of us,” she said, as if that mattered. I’d be the only one out on the roads biking at six the next morning, but the thought of riding with a hangover gave me pause, and caused me to agree with her for reasons of my own.
“Maybe you’re right,” I said. “I’ll excuse myself around 11 . . .”
“Why not 10:30?” she interrupted me to ask.
“What’s the rush?”
To the extent that she’s capable of embarrassment, she appeared to be embarrassed. “Well–it’s just that . . .”
“We have so much more fun when you’re not around.”
I think she regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, what with my highbrow tastes in literature like Joseph Conrad and my lowbrow tastes in music like Walter “Wolfman” Washington. Still, it wasn’t a nice thing to say.
Wolfman Washington, left, Joseph Conrad, right: Have never appeared in same sentence before.
“Fine,” I snapped, and I made sure she knew how I felt. “I’ll just toddle off to bed like a good little boy who’s been allowed to come downstairs to recite ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ for a dish of ice cream.”
The Wreck of the Hesperus: Use the mast as a flotation device!
“It’s really for the best,” she said. She leaned in to kiss me just like the female CEO told her to, but I jerked my head back like Muhammad Ali avoiding a roundhouse right.
“I won’t overstay my welcome,” I said and I left her to wrap asparagus in filo dough.
The guests arrived fashionably late because they do everything fashionably. They’re married but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at their driver’s licenses. She’s Pierina Ivanovna Plietskayanovaulanmarkovachessinka, a woman whose name is so long after you add the patronymic that when she steps outside for a smoke it extends into our neighbor’s screened-in porch, a source of much friction over the years.
He, by contrast, has only one name, Georg, pronounced in the European manner, “GAY-org,” which makes him sound like a non-profit web domain. I guess they figured since her name takes up half the phonebook in our little suburb, he should cut back on his to reduce their nomenclature footprint.
Pierina is hard to take, but Georg is truly unbearable. He never goes anywhere without a scarf, even to the bathroom. I hope he uses it as a handtowel.
We greet our guests at the door, exchange air kisses, and then get the party started. Pierina isn’t sure she can eat a whole stalk of asparagus, so she just masticates a piece until it looks like something you’d scrape off a lawnmower blade, then removes it daintily from her mouth with a napkin–a cloth napkin, I might add.
After dessert my wife starts to make rather conspicuous throat-clearing noises, a signal that I’m supposed to say I’m really beat after a long week at work, and for everybody to carry on without me. Which I do.
“Oh, now don’t go to spoil the funs we are have so much of already!” Pierina says. English is her first language, but she studied Broken English at a Berlitz school so she’d sound Russian when she interviewed for open ballerina jobs.
“No, really, I’m tired. I’ll just clear these dishes and let you–young folks–get on with the serious business of BOLL-ay talk.” Note how I hung that Mikhail Baryshnikov pronunciation of the term on them, so they’d know I’m no slouch in the dance department.
As I brushed my teeth I reflected bitterly on my fate: If we’d had my friends over, it would have been . . . Wait a minute: like a lot of busy guys, I don’t have friends anymore; all our friends are carefully selected by my wife to ensure that she enjoys talking to the distaff half of the couple, and if I don’t like the husband, that’s my tough yupkas.
I went to bed and thankfully the dance crowd was quiet enough for me to fall asleep, but I was awakened–as is typical of men my age–by the need to relieve myself. I propped myself up on one elbow, looked at the clock–3:30 in the morning–then turned to my wife’s side of the bed, and saw that she wasn’t there! I listened and heard the sound of laughter floating up the stairs, and resolved that, Terpsichore or no Terpsichore, it was time to put my foot down. In a non-dance way, of course.
Terpsichore, Muse of Dance: The original wardrobe malfunction.
I tiptoed to the top of the stairs, determined to learn what exactly these aesthetes do with my wife until all hours of the night when we have them over. One look tells me all I need to know: it’s a veritable orgy in progress down there, with limbs flailing away around bodies packed together like a scrum on the floor.
“So this is how you repay my hospitality!” I say with as much outraged umbrage–or is it umbraged outrage?–as I can muster.
The looks of surprise on the three faces reveals their guilt. So there has been some sort of sick menage a trois going on all these years! I grope for the words of contempt I’m looking for in French, the universal language of ballet. Merdre? Sacre bleu? Des saucisses sans doubte?
“Honey, it’s not what you think!” my wife exclaims as she runs towards me. I stiff arm her like a Heisman Trophy, however. “It’s too late for apologies!”
“I wasn’t going to apologize–I was going to invite you to play Ballet Twister with us!”
“Yes, please–do join us!” Georg says, all smarmy superciliousness.
“You’re–really playing Twister?” I ask hesitantly.
“Yes,” Georg replies. “It’s the game that ties you up in knots!”
“Produced by the Milton Bradley Company,” Pierina begins in her stilted tone of voice, “Twister is a game of physical skill played on . . .”
“I know what Twister is, Pierina,” I say, cutting her off. “I was playing Twister before you tied on your first pair of toe shoes. There is no such thing as Ballet Twister.”
“But there is now–we made it up!” my wife exclaims.
I decide to give her the benefit of the doubt. “What makes it different from ordinary Twister?”
“It is simple!” Pierina says. “Instead of four rows of colored dots, we have one row of famous ballets, one row of choreographers, one row of prima ballerinas assoluta, and one row of famous ballerinos.”
“What’s a ballerino?” I ask.
“It’s the male of the species,” Georg says. He’s actually using a civil tone, so I’m somewhat mollified.
“Well, I’m up now–how does it work?” I say.
“Same as regular Twister. We twirl the spinner, and it tells us where to put our hands and feet!” Pierina says. She’s currently spraddled across her husband in a contortion that looks like something out of Cirque de Soleil.
“Go on, honey–give it a try!” my wife says.
“Well, all right,” I say. “But I am not putting on a tutu.”
“You don’t have to!” Georg says, and with that my wife spins. When the needle stops, she announced “Right hand–Balanchine!”
“I don’t see his name,” I say, but Georg breaks out laughing.
“It is underneath Pierina!” he says.
Okay, fair enough. I decide to play along and slink like a lizard beneath the two of them.
It’s Georg’s turn, and my wife spins him a tough one: left foot, Coppelia.
“Oh, man!” Georg says, and for once his voice is drained of its normal preciosity. Maybe he’s actually having . . . fun.
The guy is lithe, I’ve got to say that for him. He wends his leg through a little arc formed by his wife’s right arm, and . . . with just inches to spare . . . busts a move that may clinch the game for him.
“I dast you to beat that, sweetie,” he says, using the substandard present tense singular and plural of dare. Frankly, I didn’t know he had it in him.
“Okay,” Pierina says. “How do you say–‘Let ‘er rip!’”
The dial is spun and–Good Lord!–it is the most difficult move on the mat: a right foot Cynthia Gregory!
Pierina has trained for this moment all her life, however; it is her turn in the spotlight, and as she considers her options, her face takes on a look of fearless calculation. It is the look of a puma about to leap on the neck of some stupid crunchy-granola hiker who’s ignored the warning signs placed on the trail by the Sierra Club that say CAUTION: THERE’S A PUMA BEHIND YOU.
“I tinks,” she says, “I see an opening,” and with that she spins her torso so she’s facing the floor, thrusts her leg just beneath my abdomen and . . . nails it! We are now sticking together like a clot of day-old spaghetti left in a collander overnight. I can’t see how any of us will ever be able to move again.
“Just a minute,” Georg says. “You committed the fatal error that is the undoing of so many Twister divas.”
“What is that?” his wife asks, exposing for the first time a rift between the two love-boids.
“Your knee touched the floor in violation of official Twister Rules!”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Dance Fever–Catch It!”