I have to admit, I like dancing with Marina better than with Maria.
Marina is tall, curvy, with hair that has been dyed in all the wrong shades of blonde and straightened with all hot appliances, except a proper iron. She is Russian and speaks very good English. She wears a black dress-sweater with a thick belt under her bust and black, knee-high boots. And when we dance together, we are a thing of beauty. I think.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Maria. She is Turkmen, petite, wears jeans and a plaid shirt and her face hasn’t been marred by makeup. She sports an unassuming short haircut and laughs at everything I say but I know she doesn’t understand a word. She doesn’t speak English. And she dances like she's got her own private DJ playing other songs in her head.
They are sitting next to us at the disco where we are the only patrons. They are taking pictures of themselves. I offer to take the pictures for them and that’s it. We are friends. And because we are friends, Marina wants to know if I like mushrooms. I consider my answer very carefully. Before I know it, I’m having visions of us hallucinating in some Russian ghetto somewhere in Ashgabat, having psychedelic encounters with aliens and speaking in ancestral tongues that poor Maria can’t comprehend. Heck, I like the sound of it. I say, Yes, Sure and Marina proceeds to recite the recipes she has in mind. Gigantic mushrooms that she’ll stuff with ingredients the names of which she says in Russian because she doesn’t know them in English. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about the mushrooms being stuffed with garlic and cheese and capers and everything I deem edible, for I have no idea what she’s saying and I’m having to come up with my own recipe. She asks me if I would like to go over her house and eat mushrooms. Not right now, of course. It’s three in the morning. Time to dance.
They pull me to the dance floor and we dance. First to La Bamba, because the DJ knows I’m Colombian and he thinks La Bamba is one of the top 40 in South America. Then to something catchy that makes us turn and bump, turn and bump. It’s hysterical. I’m doing the bump and liking it. Tom is still sitting at the bar, snapping pictures and laughing at me for doing the bump. Then, much to my surprise, the DJ plays, of all things, Hava Nagila. I feel like reminding him that this is a Muslim country, but, oh, he knows. And so we dance to Hava Nagila and Marina says I’m a good dancer and I tell her that she is too and Maria laughs some more. We join hands, make a circle and do a little can-can that seems perfect for a Jewish song. Then the DJ plays Zorba The Greek and we do some genuflections but can’t agree on either direction or beat and end up bumping each other’s knees, which makes the whole situation even more hilarious. Marina says that Zorba The Greek is my song and when I shout “Opa,” she shouts “Arriba, Arriba, Arriba.”
We go back to the bar where Marina and Maria order another round of pomegranate Vodkas. I take a sip of my fizzy water which is salty, smells like seaweed and reminds me of some laxatives my mom used to give us growing up. Don’t laugh, I tell my husband. I’m having a great time. He shakes his head and finishes his Berk. By the time Tom puts his bottle down, Marina is already by my side. She has an invitation and a question.
First, the invitation: Would I like to go over her house? not now of course, it’s four in the morning but some other day? With my husband, yes?
Then, the question: Do I like mushrooms?