I was a 5 hour flight away from home and dancing alone in a hotel bar. It wasn't too crowded and it wasn't too bright, and the wall behind the 2-man band was open to the ocean breeze. The rhythmic beating of the Hawaiian surf was timing enough for the pair of guitar players. I was 4 drinks into not caring who was watching. The dancing felt wonderful. I took a break and returned to the little table I'd picked for myself right next to the musicians. A shadow fell over me as I sipped my Guinness so I looked up. A blonde man, a little younger than me, was standing there.
"Are you here all alone?" he asked.
"Yes." It was a simple, honest answer.
"Mind if I sit with you?"
I waved my left hand, the diamond glinting in the mild lights. "Not at all." I smiled. I like a little company sometimes, and I missed my husband. It would be nice to have someone to talk with for a while.
"You're a beautiful dancer," he said. It sounded sincere, so I smiled wider and thanked him. "I can't believe you're here all alone."
I explained I was on a business trip so my husband couldn't come with me. My companion hid his disappointment well and brightened when I said he was welcome to sit with me anyway. He asked me my name so I told him.
"Wow!" he said. "That's my mother's name...it's not very common."
His name wasn't very common either. We chatted a little, and he told me he'd lived in Hawaii for 5 years. I looked him over. He was blonde and fair like me, but more tan. His hair was long and I was surprised. Most of the white people who lived here were in the military. Curious, I asked him if he was.
"No..." He looked away, suddenly awkward. "I'm uh...I'm just a laborer..."
I leaned back, letting the balmy breeze wash over me. It felt like a kiss of heaven. I watched my guest carefully as I considered his odd state of unhappiness at my question. It was tangible. I didn't understand, but I wanted to. "Nothing wrong with that so long as you can keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Are you happy?"
"Yes!" His answer was quick and honest.
I smiled. "Well, that's all that matters then. As long as you're happy, it doesn't matter what you do."
I watched the relief wash over his body. His head lifted and he released the breath I bet he didn't know he was holding. "Thank you." He said it softly, as if he could hardly believe he'd heard me. " I needed that."
"I can tell." I wondered who'd made him feel like he had to judge himself by his work when all he wanted was to live peacefully in a little pocket of paradise.
We talked for a while longer, between my breaks for dancing. I love the joy of dancing. On a good night, like tonight, it was as easy as breathing and I couldn't keep the smile off my face. My companion watched, and commented that he was impressed by my willingness to dance alone, and so boldly, even if someone else might think it was eccentric. "I'm just doing what I love. I don't care what anyone else thinks. I'm happy." It didn't seem strange to me at all.
A little later, his cell phone rang. He excused himself and walked off to the quieter breezeway outside the lounge to take his call. I sipped my stout and danced some more. I was returning to the table when he came back. The look on his face was strange. "That was my brother in Detroit."
"He called to tell me my mother died."
In the warm Hawaiian night, I stood very still and shivered. "Oh wow...I'm so sorry to hear that. Are you...ok?" An idea came to me then, and I wondered what he'd think of it. He already thought I was eccentric. He nodded his reply to my question, so I took the risk. "You know, what do you think the chances are that you'd have been sitting here with me when you got this news?" Me, from thousands of miles away, the eccentric dancing girl who shared his mother's name...
"I don't know..." he said in that soft voice of his. I think he had an idea where I was going.
"Well, I don't believe in coincidences." I hoped he wouldn't reject what I was about to say. "I think that things happen for a reason, and that all you have to do is look for them." I looked him square in the eye, and he didn't look away. "I think I was supposed to be here tonight to give you a message from your mother that it's ok to be what you are, if you're happy. I'm sure she wants you to be happy. I think she wanted to tell you that."
We looked across the table at each other then, silent. I let my words lie there between us while we sipped our drinks and thought about it. I believed I was right. I think he hoped I was. Eventually, we talked a little more and then he said good night. I watched him go, and smiled, knowing he'd be all right. I'm glad he got the message.
©Sonja Torres 2003