When the station wagon rolls away from the curbside, dark and swarming with youth, I begin hunting for familiar faces or voices amid the chatter and the laughter. Desperate not to be standing alone among the dimly lit clusters huddling on the church lawn, cowering, I weave toward the bright light of an open door where a line of my peers is slowly filing into the basement for the Friday night dance.
Plenty of familiar faces dot the scene, but not a friendly one in sight. Until there, at the bottom of the crowded stairs, flash the comfortable smiles of good friends, as happy as I am at the sighting.
Into the dim and din of the dance, we move in a small, giggling mass to areas of equal un-interest: the drinks table, the snack counter – then, to the sidelines surrounding the dance floor, where tiny gangs of nervous pre-teens and new teens twitch, taunt and tell tales.
A group of boys laugh and push and swat at each other as they glance across the floor at a particular ring of girls. Finally, the boy with red hair and distractingly long limbs plucks enough courage to cross the floor toward the girl he’d been dared to ask to dance.
But just as he’s making his way across the vast, sparsely populated stretch of beige and green-checkered linoleum, a popular song comes on which springs the crowd – and his targeted partner – into action.
The dance floor erupts with awkward motion.
The moment – and momentum – are lost.
But the darkness emboldens, and as the first slow song starts spinning conquests are won, as the line drawn between the opposite sexes begins to blur.
Now the dare proves not only daring, but profoundly stirring.
One song leads to another, and another, and another.
New couples on the dance floor encourage others across the hot and cramped basement.
And the boundaries blur further.
Are any eyes on us? On me?
Retreating to the easy obscurity of a dark corner, I watch the clock on the wall – and my friends – whose eyes now focus across the room.
Across the divide.