Baby, dance

Dance baby, dance.

Lina heard her mother’s voice in her dreams. She saw her eyes before she could make out her face. They were dark brown, almost black. She bent down and gazed upon her daughter. Quarter-sized raindrops fell onto their brown skin, their bare feet planted firmly in the wet grass before their home. 

Dance baby. The rain deserves a little praise too.

In her dreams, Lina smiled. She raised her hands in the air and jumped. Her mother closed her eyes. She looked like a prayer. She opened one eye and caught Lina staring at her. She chased her daughter, and the two fell into the wet grass laughing, jumping, praying. Lina rolled over, tickled by her mother’s prickly fingernails, and when she turned her neck to catch her mother’s smile, she was gone and the girl was left alone. 

When she came to, Lina heard the gentle patter of rain on her windowsill. She wiped the crust from her eyelids and dug wax out of her ears. It couldn’t be raining, Lina thought. Not in September. Maybe Julia’s in the shower. She hit the snooze button and rolled over to her partner’s empty side of the bed. Moments later, she woke again to a new alarm. 5:45am. She was going to be late for her morning shift at the cafe. 

Lina thrust on some pants and reached for her phone to call a ride. She wasn’t stressed. More annoyed that she’d have to pay for a Lyft rather than catch a leisurely bus ride to LaVida, the cafe where she worked at on the weekdays. No matter though. The early morning rush didn’t really begin until after 7, and the only customer that might be there was Mr. David, an old man who lived alone up the street.

“So sorry, Mr. David,” Lina said to the man who sat patiently on the bench before the coffee shop’s gate with a newspaper in one hand and an umbrella in the other. His bronze skin glowed in the morning light and his curly gray afro blew in the direction of the wind. 

“It’s alright, Miss Lina. I ain’t been waiting here too long,” the man said in a raspy voice. Lina figured that Mr. David was a cigarette smoker in another life. “You okay though? Not like you to turn up late.”

“The rain,” Lina said through a forced smile. She pulled back the gates. Screeching metal competed with the steady patter of rain. Lina unlocked the doors and let the old man in. She turned on the lights and readied the shop for its morning clientele. Mr. David read his newspaper and when Lina looked ready, he went up to order a cup of iced coffee. 

“Iced today, huh? That’s new for you,” Lina replied. She prized herself on remembering everyone’s orders, even those who only came in a few times. Morning drinks, she surmised, said a lot about a person. 

“Yes, I’ll have mine iced today,” said the old man. “Most folks like to heat up in the rain. I want to chill these nerves of mine.”

She handed Mr. David his drink and he lingered by the counter for some time. Lina began wiping down the counter and tinkering with the machines. Every now and then she’d catch Mr. David staring absentmindedly into his cup. She didn’t know how but she saw sadness in his eyes. Figured it must be about his wife, Ms. Diane, who died of cancer last year. 

“Everything all right with you, Mr. David?”

“It’s the rain, dear. Makes me think…”

Lina could relate. She still felt her mother’s playful caress tickling her youthful belly. She pushed the memory aside, afraid of what it might bring up.

“Ever had someone,” the old man began, “someone you wish you could still talk to? You know, make it right…”

Mama. “Can’t say,” Lina replied. She felt an urge to console the man, so she said “you thinking about Ms. Diane on today? She always had the loveliest smile.”

Mr. David shook his head and let out a chuckle. His gray curls bounced with his giggles and he fell into the seat beside him. “No no, honey. I do miss that woman. But we made our peace when she passed on.” His eyes moved to the cars speeding by on the wet pavement. “I’m talking ‘bout someone else. From a long time ago. His name was Antonio.”

Lina came around the counter to refill the straw jar and sat across from the curly haired man. “Antonio,” she said, “what a mysterious name,” Lina teased, but Mr. David didn’t seem to notice.

 “Me and Antonio, we had a...a bond. He loved me when I was young. Many, many years ago. He loved me and I loved him. But,” he sighed, “it was...a different time. Not as uh...accepting as it is today, you know what I mean?” he said and raised his bushy eyebrows at her. And Lina understood. She wondered if Ms. Diane had known about Antonio when she was alive. If he had told their children. She was certain they had at least one. And the thought of children brought Lina back to her own mother. Dance baby, she heard her voice once more. 

And so, she decided to. 

“I do know what you mean, Mr. David. Wishing you could speak to someone from the past,” Lena paused and looked down, remembering the way her bare feet slid through the wet grass. “I keep having these dreams about my mama. She left when I was just 10. Left me with my grandparents. I think she was an addict. I don’t know. I don’t really know much about her at all. But I can still hear her voice.”