Tom approached Margaret, one of the older ladies, who was seated on a padded bench which ran down one wall of the dance studio.
“Care to waltz?”
She met his smile with one of her own and took his outstretched hand. Tom whispered to Margaret that she was beautiful, not in words, but in his steps as he gracefully guided her around the room. Margaret not only heard, she believed, and for a couple of minutes her skin was smooth, her hair was black, and her heart was light once more.
When the dance ended, Tom escorted Margaret to her seat and looked around for Molly, but was disappointed to see that she wasn’t there. Molly came to almost every Saturday dance and she moved so easily and smiled so brightly. Tom delighted when she teased him about being considerably older than she.
Tom never missed any of these Saturday practice dances at the studio. He had learned to dance late in life and he found that it was the one thing that connected him to other people in an honest way. The accomplishment was honest, the mistakes were honest, and the joy was honest.
Honesty, however, had not always been Tom’s policy. Once his card had read “T. Henry Farris, Servant of the Lord.” Tom had always been friendly and charming and the folks in his little church back in Pinkneyville, Illinois just seemed to feel better in his presence. They began to believe that he had the power to heal through the laying on of hands and Tom was happy to accommodate the belief. He quickly learned that Hope was a sure-selling product and a reasonable facsimile could be manufactured with little effort. He convinced the almost blind that they could just about see and the almost deaf that they could almost hear.
Because the hope he sold was manufactured with poor ingredients, which included a large percentage of his own greed, his world fell apart quickly enough. He lost his fortune, his following, and ironically enough, any hope that his own life would come to any purpose, for of course, T. Henry Farris made the mistake of many young men by equating profit with purpose.
For the past two decades, he lived quietly and searched unsuccessfully. Then, on a whim or divine inspiration perhaps, he decided to take ballroom dance lessons, which at least gave him satisfaction if not purpose.
The following Saturday, before Molly arrived at the dance, Tom was informed immediately upon entering that Molly had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. This didn’t seem possible as Molly was not, and had never been a smoker and she seemed to be in perfect health in every other way. The doctors were saying it was one of those impossibilities that in fact, was not impossible.
When Molly did arrive—for surely she could not just sit at home, waiting—she was swarmed with sympathizers. Everyone told her repeatedly that everything would be okay. One lady strongly suggested a homeopathic remedy. When another began telling Molly all about her sister’s uterine cancer, Tom interrupted.
They began a foxtrot to Fred Astaire’s “Change Partners.”
Although he had sold them by the barrel full, Tom knew the true value of words and therefore, said nothing. Instead, he let the dance talk. Their frame was excellent, their steps were large and light and they floated around the room. Tom held Molly for a dramatic pause and when they caught each other’s eyes in the mirror, they smiled in unison.
“That was nice,” said Molly when the dance was finished. “Thank you.”
Tom could not sleep that night. In the darkness of his apartment, he laughed bitterly at himself thinking that at one time, Molly would have represented nothing more than a mark, someone whose despair he could use to his own advantage. He thought of their foxtrot. He took an imaginary Molly in his arms and danced his way out to the kitchen. He paused. Now, the dance was talking to him. It had whispered something; it was almost inaudible, perhaps because it was more of a sense than a sentence; a feeling, a truth that passed all articulate understanding. But it seemed to say that if one impossibility can be possible, so can another.
When the following Saturday evening was about to end, a young man asked Molly for the last dance, but Tom cut in. “You’ll have plenty of opportunity to dance with Molly, but tonight this last dance is mine.”
Tom presented his arm and led Molly to the floor for the final dance, which was always a waltz. Tom offered Molly a frame into which she set herself. He very deliberately wrapped each finger of his left hand around her right and firmly set his right hand on her shoulder-blade. His patterns were sharp, his turns were controlled, and Molly marveled at the crispness of his steps and his styling. As the waltz ended, Tom led Molly in an underarm turn and then bowed. Instinctively, she curtsied.
“That was beautiful, you two! I was watching,” said Margaret, but her face saddened when the image of the dance faded and the reality of Molly’s situation presented itself to her again.
“Thank you for that wonderful dance,” said Molly. “It lifted my spirits.”
“Not as much as it lifted mine.”
Tom was tired by the time he got home that night. He went to bed, immediately fell into a peaceful sleep, and never woke up.
The shadow of Tom’s death that had hung over the dance studio was lifted three weeks later, when Molly announced that she had wonderful news. By some miracle, Molly’s cancer had disappeared. It was impossible, but it was true. It had disappeared as if someone had just reached in and waltzed away with it.