The Dancing Girl: Stories of SoCal
The AT&T store in Huntington Beach emulates the over all feeling of the whole town: Quiet, friendly, and neighborly. It’s far from the hustle and bustle, the crowds, and the over all sense of panic and lack of personal space that I’ve come to know in stores such as this in New York.
I could feel the difference in the music. I’m a music junkie. As soon as I walked into the store, I was overcome with the sense of music hitting my eardrums. The stereo was practically jumping with vibrations in the corner of the store. I immediately wanted to throw myself into a dance, but quickly remembered that I was in public, and tried to control myself. A simple head bob and lip syncing would have to do.
We were greeted by a lovely woman named Katie. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. She walked us over to one of the tables in the middle of the store, and began going about her business of taking care of my phone. She immediately realized that the problem with my phone was far beyond her expertise, and so she stood up and walked towards the back of the store, disappearing behind a door clearly marked EMPLOYEES ONLY. My dad used the opportunity to run out and take care of errands at a nearby shopping mall.
I found the moment alone, and the inability to use a cell phone quite satisfying. My eyes swept across the room, taking in every inch of it. I continued to bob my head and sing along with the music. Every couple of seconds, I would be hit with a wave of thoughts: “Stop it Leigh, you’re making a fool of yourself, everyone’s looking at you,” even though, of course, no one was. Even the employees bobbed their heads as they walked around the store.
Everyone was enjoying the music, but no one more than the small child, salsa dancing across the store.
In the corner of the store, just to my left stood a family of four; the father was busy negotiating a plan with the store employee, while his wife listened attentively. My eyes dropped down a level to see two young girls. The taller one, I estimated, must have been six, and the shorter, skinner girl couldn’t have been older than three or four. She danced with absolutely no inhibitions. She grooved to every beat, allowing her body to sway and bounce to each note. She danced like it was going out of style. She didn’t care if people were watching. In fact, I don’t even think she noticed just how much free her body was. She was in the zone.
Every couple of seconds, her mother would look down at her at shake her head, turning red in the face. Her older sister occasionally put her hands on her shoulders, trying to stop the motion. The little girl never stopped dancing. From the moment they walked into the store, until they left almost an hour later, this girl was on fire.
I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t help myself. She was so graceful, so full of life. Every time I looked at her, I cracked a big smile. The mom, noticing my excitement at watching her daughter dance, tried to stop her shimming and shaking. She hardly noticed, and continued along with the beat.
I wonder: Will there come a time when she no longer has the guts to be herself, to dance wildly and free? How old will she be when she grows self conscious, like me? When will the day come that, suddenly, she becomes aware of just how loose her movements are? Will she shut herself down, or will she shut down by others?
What would it take to make this little girl stop dancing?
Her sister tried, to no avail. Her mother tried, and she too was unsuccessful. By the time they left the store, I found myself rooting for her in my head:
“Never stop dancing, sweet child. Don’t let them get into your head. Don’t let them change who you are. If you want to dance, dance!”
Maybe I should take my own advice…