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“The dancing’s down there,” he said when he saw me.
I was perched on the sidelines, hidden in a dark corner. Out of habit, I kept to myself, feeling shy and alone, clapping my hands to a beat I knew by heart and longed to move to. The floor was newly polished, reflecting the lights that flashed in bright colors from a dream. I couldn’t count the people, there were so many. Arms were linked. Legs were bumping. They didn’t care.
For a while, I stood there, feeling afraid to go down and join the masses of people having way more fun than I was.
And then he passed by, paused and saw my drawn expression. The longing that traced through my eyes. He told me that the dancing was down there.
It woke me up like he pinched my arm.
My dress was red with a sweetheart neckline. I remember feeling pain in my chest; I’d wanted it so much. Mom bought it for me. Said it worked with my hair.
The man looked me up and down after he let me be.
So I left my high-heels under some stacked chairs. Hiked up my skirt and walked barefoot down to the floor. It was cool and smooth under my feet. By now it was mostly cleared. A few people danced by themselves in various corners. Others were sitting and watching them. Watching me.
Do I look nice? Does the wart on my foot show? Is my mascara smeared? Insecurities flashed through my mind, quick and effective as lightning. I began to wonder why I’d let the man’s double take disillusion me into thinking I looked pretty.
But then the music took over, moving my feet like it was their body and I was a detached ghost. A ghost that floating toward the ceiling and watching this strange girl in a red dress start to move in front of these people.
The loud bass thumped in my chest. I felt free. I felt like a bird that is spreading its wings for the first time. So I did. I spread my wings, my arms, and let the music engulf me. It curled itself around my body. Inspired me. Yeah, I felt inspired.
People pointed at me. Smiles crossed their faces. I was alone on the dance floor. Just me and the music. The lights created an angelic halo around me. I leapt into the air and did a pitiful twirl on my tiptoes. I might’ve broken them, but I don’t remember. All I remember is that I wanted to do cartwheels. I ran my fingers up my legs. Up, up, up, until they were over my head. Hands in the air.
I listened to the applause. They were applauding me! Someone yelled my name. I grabbed a corner of my skirt and spun so that it flared about me in velvety red ecstasy.
And then it faded to a gauzy white. Thin and transparent. The lights slowly diminished like cherished details of a wonderful memory. Under my feet was a carpet. As I spun, my legs brushed the corner of my bed.
The music was from an old phonograph in the corner of my room. The clapping was its crackles. My floor lamp was dim and yellow. Hurt my eyes.
My mother called to me from the living room where she was watching an Andy Griffith show on our old TV set. She yelled my name. “Shut off that racket and get to bed.”