Sixth Grade Dance III

Sometimes I wonder
what makes me black out,
why I don’t have a say in it.

I must be staring off
because Marilyn Andrews is tilting
her head at me, gesturing
at my table.

she’s in front of me.
we’re talking.

You’re in Ms. Jackson’s social studies class?
Wasn’t she the one who said
we should do this dance?

Yeah, she’s cool. She’s a feminist.

What does that mean?

It’s like… she thinks that women
should get to go first
more, to make up
for most of the time
when we can’t.

That’s cool.

She sits up. You think so?

Yeah. It sounds like LBJ said: you can’t starve
someone for years and then put them in a race
with someone who’s been eating well.
It’s not the same race.

Marilyn Andrews smiles at that. I think she’s cuter
when she’s smiles, and now my whole body floods
warm and I can’t stop seeing how cute
she can be. In the distance
I feel a faint question.

When I come back
she’s saying, …ust this dance
is cool. All the guys are still staring
at me like I’m the only reason
they’re here… but at least tonight
they have to stay on the bleachers
until I choose one.
It’s like Mrs. Jackson said: tonight
you’re like peacocks.

I nod.

You get lost?

I can’t look her in the eye.

Now she starts to stare off.

What were you thinking about?

I… uh…
I was… wondering
if you think… if you think I’m cute.

She straightens in her seat.

Well, I think… that was cute
of you to ask.

A thick silence settles.

Well, cause, you know, I know
you have—

Look, Marilyn Andrews says. My dad will be here
in a few minutes. But since I didn’t dance
with anyone… do you want to meet
me at the Candy Connection
after school next week?

It takes a full second
for the word to travel
from my gut
to my mouth.


Yes what, freak?

H-huh? That was a male voice.
I look around.

I’m in a doorway
in a house
I don’t recognize.

Mike Chinooga is next to me
with his movie camera.
There are some other guys
on a bare mattress
on the floor in front of me.

Only Mike and I are wearing pants.

Added: January 19, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015