San Francisco, California - Mission District
We danced while waiting for our Chilean empanadas to be served, hot like little kittens in small white paper bags.
"Everyone dances here," the proprietor chirped from her perch behind the counter. It was a true perch, as she didn't sit at all so much as stand still for a moment, ready to move around the cubby of a kitchen the second an oven ding called.
She had bushels of black curls bouncing off her head, plastic rimmed glasses that are never in style yet never out, and rolled her R's without fanfare — she wasn't quite a native latin-country speaker, but she seemed to have grown up bilingual. I imagined her code-switching depending on who came to her counter to order.
"We need more dancing in times like this," she said. Was it offhandedly or a bid?
Regardless, we agreed.
"I just can't believe this is happening. In the United States of America." A composer would have written a long staccato over each word of the proper noun as she spoke.
"It happens every generation," my dancing partner told her. She handed us our empanadas, little Chilean hot pockets of joy.
"We're going to get through this," he said to her before we left the hole-in-the-wall.
Her bouncing stopped. The perpetual movement, the radiating humanity of her desire to care for people became static. "Thank you," she said.
And then she was back to her movement, back to the kitchen.