How You Say… Wait, What?

It’s hard to pinpoint the single weirdest person I’ve ever met, but in the running is this girl named Zoey. I met her when I was vending costumes at a dance festival in Sebastopol, and liked her immediately. She was a dark haired Spanish girl with a thick accent—peppered with cute “how you says” and misplaced words— living in Berkeley where she taught samba, bellydance, classical Indian dance, and yoga: things she had studied during her time living in Brazil and India. She loved my work and suggested we establish a trade system exchanging dance or yoga lessons for outfits she could perform in—a great deal for me, since I could get exposure for my art and receive one on one instruction from a professional.

I made her a beautiful costume set embellished with mosaics of red and amber glass beads and dismantled pieces of Afghan Kuchi jewelry, layered over black silk that floated and swished and rattled like a snake depending on the movement. It was one of my best.

I traveled to her house across the bay several times, whereupon she would immediately plead with me to help her with an urgent costume need or very important alteration while she ran errands or entertained an out of town friend. Somehow she never had time to do any dancing that day. It wasn’t a huge deal at first, I just added up the hours onto my side of the trade register.

One day I was getting ready to make the drive when she called and said she’d been invited last minute to spend a few days up in Mendocino, and asked if I’d like to go with her. We could treat it as a little yoga and dance retreat. My schedule was loose enough back then that I said sure, threw some clothes in a bag along with a blanket and pillow, and had her swing by to pick me up on her way north.

When we got there, it turned out that her friend was actually a friend of a friend, and it was a weed farm and she was there to trim. There was no house, no toilets or showers, just a broken down RV full of garbage and wasps, and a barn full of dudes who eyed us uncomfortably. Suffice it to say we would not be doing much dancing. We were quickly assigned the job of fetching groceries and cooking for the group, who turned out to be a collection of half brothers from a polygamous family, all of whom believed firmly in alien invasion, the dangers of canola oil, and that my having no interest in cheating on my husband was very appealing. Zoey, on the other hand, was completely available, and immediately displayed a strange need to win the battle for attention, stripping half naked when it hit 80 degrees and suggesting we all head to the freezing ass river to watch her go skinny dipping. That night in the barn loft, just a few feet away, she triumphantly and loudly bedded the oldest brother, mumbling Spanish phrases I can only guess the meaning of.

The next morning she took an hour and a half to do yoga with me followed by a suspiciously amateurish samba lesson—which she later informed me was worth a total of $90, whereas she valued my sewing time at less than minimum wage for some reason—and I told her I would actually like to go home. We stayed another two days so she could burn several bridges and drive a wedge between brothers.

On the eventual drive back, we got to talking. I was curious about her time living in India and Brazil studying dance (“Oh, it was wonderful, I spent a month in each country”), and at what age she had moved here from Spain. “Oh, I’m not from Spain,” she said in her thick accent, “I’m from upstate New York. I just traveled to Spain recently and really liked the accent.”

Managing Editor for Synthesis Weekly. Amy likes to make clothes, plant flowers, and chase butterflies.