This story reflects back on a dance that I attended when I was a freshman in high school.
It was late fall; the autumn leaves crinkled beneath my heels as I walked up the steps to the school. The sun had long since fled, and only street lights lit my passage. The booming thud of the bass signaled that the dance had already begun–a persistent and urgent rhythm which encouraged my heart to mimic its tempo.
I entered the dance floor and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. A continual flashing of yellow and pink in the back beckoned me closer, and I found my crew working their glow sticks with feverish eagerness. I watched as the neon radiance trailed behind their movements in the obscurity of the poorly-lit room. A duo was engaged in a passionate embrace, passing a glow stick back and forth with their tongues, a peep of bright blue occasionally shining through.
Leaving the would-be ravers to their activities, I threw myself onto the dance floor and proceeded to dance in a frenzy of gyrations and barely masked expression of teenage sexual frustration. After thirty minutes, I decided to take a break and regain my breath.
I wormed my way out of the throng in the middle of the dance floor and proceeded to rest in a chair where I could observe the action. No longer indiscernible in the multitude, I was almost immediately spotted by Henry (name changed), a boy I was interested in. He came over to me and struck up a brief but vigorous conversation, subtly waiting for a slow song before he asked me to dance with him.
I agreed, and we headed back out to the dance floor. With my heels on, I was as tall as Henry. He didn’t seem to be affected by this in the least bit, and he held me as close as I would let him as we made our way slowly around in a rotating circle. I could smell his cologne, a clean and gentle scent that reminded me faintly of the ocean, and I let him hold me a little closer. The song ended, but Henry and I continued to dance together as the deejay started another slow song.
The slow country twang of Lee Greenwood filled the cafeteria, reverberating off the walls and into my very soul. “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” It was only a year after September 11th, and nationalism was still at an all time high. Several individuals started belting out the song; professing the lyrics with an enthusiasm I’ve only seen rivaled at $1 beer nights at Griffins’ hockey games.
The deejay continued to blast the sappy song, and Henry got a crazed look in his eyes that reminded me of a documentary on hyenas I had watched the night before. A vein on his forehead twitched emphatically, worrying me. Something dramatic was about to happen, and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it.
As the refrain began again, Henry erupted in a fury of suppressed political sentiment. “BUSH PUT THIS COUNTRY IN THE TOILET!” He yelled over my shoulder at a confused couple dancing nearby. “EVERYTHING IS SHIT BECAUSE OF BUSH! BUSH IS THE WORST PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE NATION! SEPTEMBER 11TH WAS AN INSIDE JOB!” This verbal shaking of Henry’s fist at the man attracted the attention of every individual within a 20 foot radius.
Instantly turned off by his extreme declaration of liberalism, I shrank back from him as much as I could. A small fleck of spittle landed on my tank top, an unwanted honorary badge of insanity. I felt my soul crawl deeper inside of me as Henry prolonged his political diatribe. I didn’t exactly have the most refined taste in men, and now I had to endure public humiliation for choosing poorly.
With each increasingly bizarre statement that he screamed to the dance floor, more people stared in our direction, wondering why my dance partner was practically foaming at the mouth. The vein on Henry’s forehead was throbbing noticeably as he continued to harangue onlookers. I tried my best to look amused, smiling apologetically at the growing crowd. After the song was done, I politely said good night to Henry and left the dance with as much dignity as I could muster. Two years would pass before I would attend another school dance.