BEFORE I NEVER learned to dance, I did try. Truly, I did. We had organized dances to go along with our organized religion and the CCD dances set up by the parish were great places to meet the girls you'd never see in your all-boys high school.
Since the testosterone zone of a growing boy is difficult to channel...wants to be it's own wild pony and all that, I got myself to as many CCD dances as I could afford.
There, one drippy March afternoon, I remember seeing a girl working her dance moves spectacularly, and with powerful grace amidst the tribe of what I supposed were her girlfriends. I'd never seen any of these girls before but I definitely wanted to get close to this one powerful dancer.
They were together in a dark corner of the gym near the stage. You couldn't make out their faces as they were silhouetted by the lights blaring from the stage. The vista was too exciting.
I pushed through this fragrant buzzing mix of girls, right up to that one most athletic dancer and asked her. Rather, I yelled into her ear as she turned her head and gave me the classic, "what?" mime with the one palm cupping the place where an ear would be if not for all that wild hair.
Surprisingly she grabbed my hand and pulled me deeper into the middle of the girls.
Remember, those were the days of the Twist, the Swim, and the Mashed Potato, so there wasn't much touching. I guess the point was, if there was a point, was to thoroughly impress your dancing partner with your moves while not accidentally knocking her or anybody else in the head with your elbow.
We danced three times, I believe, before the much hoped for slow dance arrived. Never mind those hopes, I best remember her taking my outstretched hand, again, and lifting it high and slightly behind her, palm to palm. She tucked her chin under my ear with her cloud of fragrant, sweaty hair almost covering my face. I think it was ok, though. At this point my eyes were the last of my senses in operation.
I was doubly blinded. The hair, the easy way this strange girl folded herself into me. I could hardly breathe.
As the song dragged to a close I remember the painfully shy boy inside me tripping me up by demanding I come up with some cool commentary or really good joke. The slow dance always anticipated a fifteen minute break for the band and I couldn't stand the thought of this girl escaping with her giggling friends into the ladies room never to be heard from again.
I hadn't said one word as we danced head to head, chest to chest. The girl hummed the song....she could even hold the tune. I was enchanted. And nervous.
The song ended and she just stood beside me with her head down as the fluorescent lights snapped on and the nuns and priests chaperoning politely clapped for the band.
The vision changed so abruptly.
I moved to face her and she lifted her chin to reveal a beautiful heart-shaped face, beautiful, but horribly scarred, peeking out from behind the forest of dark hair.
Burns. and many marginally successful skin grafts. And the most piercing look from her beautiful dark eyes.
She said, "So-o?"
Epilog; Her name was Bonnie, one of the funnest, funniest girls I ever knew. We went out on several 'dates'. Things a fifteen year old can do involving homework and Vanilla Egg Cream fountain drinks. She dumped me, graciously, for a guy named Guy. I've always hated that name.
North Chesterfield, VA