Radha Likes to Party!

August 2, 2014
Pow, pow, pow, punch!

Lights low, the pulsing rhythm glimmered in the air, so strong and pungent that it filled the room’s lungs with a cloying dazzle. Shimmering before my eyes, the beats melted into a powerful pounding in my chest.

It was actually happening. It was actually working. A burst of happiness bubbled up from the clenched muscles in my stomach. Sweeping across the stage, waving my hands like chaffs of wheat in the wind, laughter blossomed through my whole body, the sound of swirling costumes rustling softly alongside the tick-tock of claps in the audience.

Who would have thought I could dance? Certainly not me. From the minute Amira had called me to ask me to join in her Indian dance routine, I had adamantly declared (a claim to be repeated in the coming days), “I can’t dance. I’m uncoordinated. But if you don’t mind that, then I would love to.”

It was true, true to the most offbeat tune there could be. I’d performed onstage a handful of times in my life, an energetic pastime I’d always adored. My strength, of course, had always lied in acting, particularly comedic. Singing? Not so much. Dancing? Entirely different story.

Despite the very real and vivid possibility of tripping over my two left feet, I was eager to learn and breathe a new culture. The talent show was scheduled to take place while I was competing in International Scenario Writing with a few friends at Iowa State University. The Future Problem Solving International Conference had been an annual highlight since sixth grade, when my first scenario, a futuristic 1500-word story, won first place in New Jersey, qualifying me to compete globally.

As much as I loved the FPSPIC, I had never entered its variety show. Over five hours of intense preparation with Amira outside had barely been enough to follow along with her fluttering motions, and I was exhausted. Could I just melt into a puddle of syrup? Frustrated, not only with my legs, but with the sludgy pace my brain processed the movements and struggled to recall their order with. My head, as per normal, began to slightly buzz. But by the next morning, I was able to roughly keep up with the rapid-fire pulse of the music. As I spun in the sequined costume Amira had lent me, I felt alive, like earth magic was rushing out of my bare feet and flashing fingers, felt like I was lit up with the spirit of an Indian princess.

It was beautiful, and I fell in love with the music.

Until it stopped playing.

Halfway through the performance.

Technically, it was more than halfway. But it happened so quickly, it sure didn’t feel that long. The sound collapsed as we began to twirl, and within a few seconds it had fallen apart. We stopped dancing and turned in a daze to the stereo before stumbling offstage.

Now, I look back and wish I had screamed, “Keep dancing! Radha likes to party! Spin on 5,6,7,8!”

But I didn’t. Retrospect can sure be bitter.

Instead, I was furious. The deejay refused to restart the music. The Youtube internet connection had snapped. We had had our chance. We were done. Frustrated, I felt desperate to do something, anything? but I just couldn’t think of what it was I wanted to do. I wanted to break into tears, but some thread inside pulled me back. You will not play the pity card. You will not show weakness to these people.

Retreating back to my seat, a smile concealing my glare at the floor amidst smatterings of “good jobs!” I felt fumes of heat boil up inside me.

As the minutes passed and I grew increasingly outraged at our ill luck, a gentle phrase from only a few days prior floated over the noise. When something bad happens, you could take it strong and be mature, or not.

I swallowed, and although roils of anger still twisted in my gut, I made my decision.

I would be mature. I would refuse to let this spoil my good time.

After all, why should I let something like this bother me? I’d had real fun practicing the dance. It was really hard, but once I got a sort of hang to it, I began to feel like an angel. What more could you ask for? The performance itself isn’t what matters; What’s important is the experience of learning and loving. And in ten years, I’ll be telling this story with laughter, not tears, in my eyes.

It was a growing pain. Life isn’t fair, and when things don’t work out, you have to take a deep breath and continue on.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t find me ranting about it to anyone who will listen.

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