Dance For Me – Jareb Parker
July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
He came to our school in a swirl of sequins and chiffon. I sat enthralled as he spun around the gymnasium floor like a god of twirling color. As he moved, I imagined myself as such a master, this prophet of entertainment plying his craft in front of fifty impressionable teens sitting in awe of his skill. I had never seen anyone move like that. His name was Graham Williams and he took my heart that afternoon one magnificent dance step at a time.
“I’d like you all to thank Mr. Williams for coming to Gramercy High School today,” Principal Johns said as Graham gave a magnificent bow and a flourish. We all clapped, and it was over.
Williams was a local celebrity. He now ran a theater and dance class at the rec center on Parker Street, after a brief success on Broadway had run its course. Now he danced in purple sequined tights to Grand Funk tracks in our gymnasium. I didn’t care. I had found an idol.
Me and my best friend David Yow had a two-man dance crew of sorts and were looking for new moves to incorporate into our routine. We were inspired by wild tales disco troupes at glamorous parties, of Studio 54 and living life like we thought we ought to. Money, booze, drugs, we wanted it all and we figured dancing was our way into some sort of fame. We had practiced for weeks and in two days the school was hosting a talent show.
I had read about Graham’s showcase on a flyer in the cafeteria, though it took some convincing to get David interested. As usual, it took April McAdams to get him to do anything.
“Yeah,” I said. “She asked if you had plans or something.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt,” he answered. “Does he do anything other than the hustle?”
April met us there. David and me were smoking cigarettes and leaning on the gym’s back wall looking as cool as we could. David was better at it. He was taller, muscular and had filled out around the time most boys do, while my body grew at a rate slower than a redwood’s. I was short and awkward and very aware of it.
“Hey fags,” she laughed as she walked up to us. “Got one for me?”
David pulled a smoke from behind his ear and handed it to her.
“This is going to be terrible. But better than algebra, I guess.” She shouldered me aside, leaned against David, and ran her fingers down his chest. “I’ll save you a seat,” she whispered in his ear before she sauntered off.
David ground his butt on the bottom of his shoe.
“Come on,” he said.
I followed, noticing the difference between his hips and April’s, the way hers swayed where his were solid and much more inviting. I watched as I trailed behind them.
After the show, me and David walked to my house.
“It was okay. The hands, the spins, we need more of that. But most of all,” David stopped and made his point with a finger in my chest, “no more of this Olivia Newton John shit. We need some real music.”
He wasn’t quite as impressed with Williams as I was, but he was starting to see what it might take to be famous.
I had designed most of the choreography for our routine. David mostly just cut what he thought didn’t work. That usually meant fewer feathers or outfit changes and less chances for anything that involved us touching hands. How we were supposed to spin and gaze into each others’ eyes without holding hands, I had no idea. So I concentrated on the steps.
We practiced in my basement. A dirty orange couch, a record player, and a full wall mirror were the only witness to our efforts.
“Three, four, and step and finish,” I panted as the track ended.
David was smiling and I knew he liked the steps I had added. He hopped over the back of the couch and sat cross-legged, pulling a bag out of his pocket. He laughed.
“Do you really think we have a shot?” He licked the paper and lit a match. “You’re pretty good at this, you know,” he said with a smile.
David looked brilliant. Still winded, he took a long drag and coughed it out. I sat next to him and took the joint from his hand. Our knees were touching and I leaned back and closed my eyes.
“We could be good together,” I said. “We make a good team.”
“And move to LA, be actors or somebody so famous they have to make up a new name for what we are,” he laughed.
“We could be huge. Think of the money, the parties,” I agreed.
As I smiled I noticed that our hands were touching. I don’t know how mine got there, or for how long, and I looked at my fingers, wondering what they thought they were doing. David had stopped laughing and was staring at me. He pulled his hand away slowly. The only sound that got through to me was my heart pounding in my ears so I didn’t hear him the first time.
“I said I should get home,” he stood and put his things in his pockets.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, man,” he said.
School was long and painful the next day. Time passed slowly and David was nowhere that I could find him. I passed April in the hallway after lunch and she smiled at me. It wasn’t a nice smile.
“Good luck tomorrow,” she snorted as she passed me.
That night I practiced alone. David’s parents were tired of me calling and told me politely to find something better to do with my time.
I went to the basement and put the needle to my favorite record.
“Sing to me, Barbara,” I whispered.
It was harder to dance alone when you’re used to a partner but I practiced until my thighs burned.
I fell asleep on the couch that night. With a beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other, I dreamed of David and of being a star.
I walked to school alone. The talent show was in an hour and my stomach was in my throat. I walked into the school auditorium and asked where I was supposed to go. I was pointed backstage where the other performers were stretching and talking quietly. I found the place David and I had agreed to meet, and still there was no sign of him.
The auditorium grew silent as the first act began. The curtain rose and my breath caught.
There he was. He and April McAdams stood hand in hand on stage, heads bowed. She wore a white dress and he a white suit and tie. “Jungle Boogie” began, and they danced, with April moving her hips and tossing her hair as David twirled around her looking to all the world like John Travolta. He spun and stepped just like I had showed him. I was a beat ahead of them in my mind and my mouth moved unbidden to the lyrics. But they were good. Better than I was willing to admit. His hands gripped April’s waist and he lifted her in finale above a heaving chest and a triumphant grin.
That should have been me panting and smiling beside him basking in applause, I thought. But as it was, my number, our number, was scheduled next and I was alone.
I walked slowly on stage, I went to my place and I waited. I thought of Graham Williams and how he stood alone that day, fearless in bright sequins under a blinding spotlight. I held him in my mind and tried to steady my heart.
Graham would have been proud.
My music played and hesitantly I began to move. I was scared and lonely so I imagined my David like he was when we were together. I remembered him and I danced like there was someone next to me who cared for me. I performed each step and sway like he had been there all along. I remembered how his body felt against mine and I remembered the dreams we had once shared.
I forgot I was alone. I danced with David and I danced for David. Then again, I had always danced for him. I would never have the courage to tell him so, and he had chosen April over me. But I knew I had always loved him and I suppose when I got a bit too close, that’s when he finally realized it.