Sixth Grade Dance

Even after a month
of planning
I still feel like I just woke up
against the gym wall.

The Sadie Hawkins
was Ms. Jackson’s idea.
She’s new, and I think she’s only
25. She said all month
she wanted to give the girls
a chance to choose.

I guess I should be grateful
that I don’t have to ask someone to dance
because I’m not allowed to.
But every time a girl orbits the wall
or the bleachers, my stomach gets heavy
with water
or electricity.
I’ve been sitting
for about 15 minutes
when a lightning bolt climbs
out of my gut
and I wonder if I can draw
someone to me if I start dancing
alone.

But then Mike
finally gets here, and I’m safe
for a little while.

What’s happening?

What?

He shouts louder.
Anyone asked you to dance?

Still waiting!

Are you giving them
the signals?

What signals?

You know, like, smiling
and looking them in the eye
and not looking bored!
Like you want to dance!

Crap. I gotta start doing that!

…So… how do you do it?

Well, first you have to stand
up straight and look at them!
And wink! They love it when you wink!

Look, there’s one!

Ugh, no! That’s my sister’s friend
Alice. I don’t want to dance with her!

Then just do it for practice!

I get off my bench and straighten
my back, push my chest out
like my dad showed me once
and stare right into Alice’s eyes
on the dance floor.

It works
too well. She smiles and swings
a little more, then starts walking
toward us. I feel like a scarecrow
holding myself up. I start practicing
my Yes, I’d love to when I remember
I don’t want to—she’s my sister’s
best friend—and she’s almost in front
of me, so I push my chest out extra
hard and suck air through my lips
so at least I won’t spit on her
when I say no.

Hey… Mike, right?
Want to dance?

Added: January 11, 2013 | Last changed: August 4, 2015