Chapter 9

The first dance of the year is approaching, and I want to make it. It will be a last-minute decision since I have to convince Tim and Steve the benefits of going. A real debate. Their excuses will be pretty weak and I am sure to hear a few about being tired, or maybe something about a cousin visiting. Or there might be a suggestion to do something else like play poker, eat pizza and/or play endless video games; been there done that. I told them we have to work on our skills for meeting girls or we will be left behind in loser land for good.

            Ferguson wrote about being the first guy on the dance floor, which will take balls on my part; big ones. Everybody will be staring, and then I will start feeling bad about my choice of dance moves. I am going to consult my sister.

I knock really hard on her door to be heard over the music she’s blaring. She has this current obsession with Lorde. She usually tries to sing over the music, which usually sends my dad up to her room to make her turn it down a couple of notches. She opens the door then walks out closing it behind her. I give her the situation that confronts me. We head downstairs to get some space.

I am surprised she is so excited to see my floor game. I unleash my skills in a series of shuffling and top tapping moves that I think are not bad. She stops the song half way through. I don’t think I have ever taken her advice on anything, but now it’s time to listen.

            “You have to lose yourself in the music, Fergie and remove your brain from your feet. Yeah, and add more hips. While you do that, get on beat. Getting on the beat is the most important thing.” I hate when she calls me Fergie, it’s a chick singers name for fucks sake.

            We go on the internet and she pulls up a video of the old television show American Bandstand. The music playing is the type my mom and dad would listen to. Some of those people dancing were losing their minds to the music, while others are just smiling and posing for the camera. After we watch for awhile, my sister makes me dance with her. We begin dancing to a song called, Boogie Shoes - disco music from the ‘70s. Cindy says this is the easiest music to dance to. She has me do this little move where I count to four while I move my feet.

It goes, one and two, left foot, right foot, three left foot back and four right foot forward. She has me doing that over and over until it is stuck in my brain. She says I have the “white boy” dancing disease and need to be cured. I should work on dancing for days when nobody can see me.

            My school days have become busy. I am taking on more than ever before. I used to enjoy a snack right after school, then I would flop on the couch and watch game shows. I believe a person could learn more from one episode of “Jeopardy!” than from a month of high school. I saw this routine as de-programming my brain from the mental torture of school. Eventually, I would jump into my homework and get it done as fast as humanly possible. I hate when homework ruins my schedule of relaxation, playing hoops or banging on my guitar. My parents would get on my case about my studies now and then. I can’t blame them, because my grades weren’t anything to get excited about. Let’s face it, most teachers give you a C for just showing up. I remember getting so many D’s and F’s on my math quizzes that I couldn’t believe I pulled out a C- for the semester.

            I thought I should give school sports one more chance. I signed up for the JV cross country team because it looks easy; with a bunch of thoughtless running, kind of like jogging. Everybody makes the team and I don’t think there are tryouts. If you have two legs, I think you are qualified - so I figure why not go for it.

At the first practice, there are fifty other kids; which I didn’t expect. The cross country team is broken up into four sections: junior varsity and varsity (girls and boys). We begin running and I don’t think I have what appears to be the right outfit. I’m running in my basketball shoes, jeans and a sweatshirt.

We have been running for three miles. Some of these kids are doing it with ease, but I’m near the back of the pack; along with some girls and bigger guys that I think are probably on some sort of weight loss regiment. Everybody has to start somewhere, and the back of the pack is where I belong. Now there’s nowhere to go but up. I figure if I could do this then I can do anything. Learning to dance is one thing, but this running stuff is harder than anything I have ever tried. My dad calls it a “character builder”, a test of my inner will and desires. He also says that if I don’t like it I can find something else. But I am not ready to quit yet. Even though almost coughing up a lung is a bad start. I feel like I have good form compared to some guys who run like they have crap in their pants, or those that don’t bend their knees enough – kind of like old people jogging.

            I glance at my calendar hanging on my bedroom wall; it’s the day of the first dance. I’m kinda ready to use my new moves. My four-step-move-thing works well until I lose focus after thirty seconds. My sister tells me to keep at it, and that if I do it enough it’ll come more naturally. I might just have the white guy disease and will never get over it. I figure if I am having a good time dancing and enjoying the music then who in the hell cares? Trust me, most of the guys I have seen dancing at school have the same issue as me.

            After some hard bargaining, Tim and Steve finally agree to go. The deal is that I have to play paintball next time they want to go. I stopped playing a year ago after I got popped in the forehead. I thought it was time to retire from that activity. Now I have to do it again just to get my best friends to interact with the opposite sex. It is not the fact they are losers like me, it’s that they are tired of going and not actually dancing. I’m determined to make sure that does not happen again. 

I put on my new shirt, which my sister helped me pick out. It has a collar on it; not my first choice, but we finally agreed it would be purple. Tim and Steve show up at my house wearing the same crap they wear all of the time. Tim always wears faded t-shirts with random skateboard company names, superheroes or bands. This time he is wearing a t-shirt that looks like he stole it off a sumo wrestler. Steve is wearing a long sleeve sweatshirt. I can’t understand this, because it gets hotter than hell in the gym where the dance is taking place. I have added something to my outfit. I am wearing my dad’s old work boots, which are kind of thrashed. He was going to throw them away, but I grabbed them and they fit. I think they give me a punk rock look. It doesn’t take long for Tim and Steve to give me crap about them. Who are they to give me shit? They aren’t exactly ‘dressed for success’.

            We are still riding the lame train - Steve’s dad’s Astro Van. It’s time we figure out a different way to get around without being so embarrassing. I guess it would be worse if we show up on bikes. That puts us at a close tie between Steve’s dad’s mini-van and the bus. We don’t know the bus schedule at night, so the Astro Van it is.

We arrive early; so early we don’t have to wait and get to walk right in. A lot of other kids show up later, as they have to get some drugs and booze into their system. Our small gang of three is not much of a drug and drinking posse. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s that we don’t have a lot of access to it. Plus, booze tastes like crap to me. Scotch and whiskey are the nastiest rot gut tasting liquids. I remembered taking a shot of whiskey, but it never quite made it down to my stomach. I immediately coughed and whisky came out of my nose. Maybe someday I will be able to down it like a pro.

We arrive in front of the gym, but Tim steers us to the side of the building. He whips out a forty-ounce beer that he had stuffed down his pants. Who knows where that thing has been – or for how long. Tim and Steve pass the bottle back and forth. I give in and slug down as much as I can handle. I tell the guys that they have to dance at least once, or the deal is off – no paintballing. They finish the malt liquor beer, so we go inside the gym.

I look around to find a potential dance partner, but I don’t recognize anybody that I know. This is probably a good thing. The first song plays, but nobody goes out to dance. I chickened out – sorry Ferguson. 

The second song starts up as I look around the room. Now what am I going to do?  I put my head down and walk towards a small group of girls. My heart starts beating like a jackhammer, what the fuck, I can’t have a heart attack now. Two of them look away while the other two stare at me, checking me up and down. I just hope my zipper isn’t down – too late to check now. They just glare at me.

“Would you like to dance?” I nervously blurt out. I didn’t really direct the question to any one of them in particular. I just kind of threw it out there like a shmuck.

The blonde one says no, but the red-haired girl accepts the offer. I take her hand and off we go to the dance floor.

There is still nobody on this over waxed gym floor. It’s just me and my little red headed partner. Everybody is watching us. She starts to shake and move her body, but I’m not ready yet. I count in my head and try to get lost in the music. I envision Ferguson dancing on the floor and losing himself in the song. I can just see him flaying all about; his long hair whipping about without a care in the world.

I look down and do my best to not give a damn, then glance up at “Red”. She is busting out some crazy moves, which makes me laugh. She smiles at me, so I decide not to worry about my dancing. Besides, she is the center of attention now, not me. I start counting out my steps while finding the beat. I’m maintaining the rhythm as long as I can.  I don’t look at other people. The dance ends and Red smiles at me. While I walk away she turns to go back out there and dance by herself when the new songs starts. That’s weird. As the night goes on, I dance a few more times, get rejected by some but most of the time I just hang with the guys in the back of the room. They each dance one time with the same girl, then quickly retreat back to the corner; knowing they are keeping their end of the bargain. I need to get some new friends. Now I am on the hook for playing paintball with them.

The room gets crowded as we start to get pushed farther towards the back wall. I’m getting claustrophobic in this gym. We’re right by the bleachers, which have been rolled to the wall. It’s also hot as hell in here. Steve wants to go outside, but really, he just wants to go. I tell him we can go but, only if we all dance one more time.

         Tim looks at me and laughs,

          “Watch this comrades!”

He runs onto the dance floor and starts to act like an ape with his feet on fire. Steve and I stand there looking at each other in disbelief. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. He is not a dope head, but every once and a while it looks like it when he does some crazy ass stuff like this. Plus, he did have some beer; but he isn’t drunk by any means.

“Let’s go out there,” I shout at Steve.

Steve is all ready to go. He looks at me like he is not happy. I shrug my shoulders,

“One more time, I promise.”

            We move to the floor. Steve and I start bouncing with Tim and make up whatever comes to mind. We bang into other dancers. I apologize, but we keep at it. The song ends, then we high five each other.

“Now can we get the hell out of here?” Tim yells to us.

            “You got it dude, we are out,” I announce.

 I guess Tim is very anxious to get off the floor as he leaves us in the dust. As he leaves the dance floor, he plows over a few other kids in a rush to get outside. He is now way ahead of us, disappearing into the crowd.

Suddenly, we hear shouting and yelling in front of us. There is some kind of fight going on. I push my way through, and sure enough, Tim is fighting with some other guy. This kid has Tim by the shirt and punching him. Tim is not a good fighter. I know this from the times we boxed against each other. I always clean his clock because he dances around like he is a pro, yet he doesn’t defend well.

            I get through the crowd and am able to push the other the kid off of him.

“Cool it asshole,” I yell at the guy.

            That’s when I feel the crushing blow of someone’s fist against my cheekbone. I’m knocked three feet away. I go blank for a couple of seconds. My face feels rearranged. I spit out some teeth fragments. I didn’t see that one coming. I look around; but I still don’t know who did it. There is screaming while bodies are getting pushed away. I look over the crowd for the ass-wad who punched me, but I can’t tell what is happening.

            There are some big guys who grab Tim and the kid he was fighting with. Out of nowhere, Manny Gomes rushes into the skirmish and grabs some other kid. He has him in a headlock and moves him outside. The rent-a-cops come crashing in trying to calm everything down. What a freaking mess. Meanwhile, my face throbs, my ear rings and I just want to get the hell out of here.