He realized how much of a nerd this made him but he didn’t care.

Somehow he knew that this Friday night everything would fall into place.  He had convinced his mom to drop him off not at 7:00 when the monthly dance started at the community center but at 8:15.  He knew that his best friend Chris would be there at 7:15 or so and his other friend Dave would arrive right at 7:00.  They both loved ping pong and pool so it was a cinch they would have one of those two tables by that time.  It was key that he not be seen as a loner when he walked in the door because for all his planning he couldn’t predict when she would see him and seeming to be alone would ruin it.

He hadn’t gotten the courage to ask her if he could walk her to the dance.  In fact, he really was nowhere near that stage with Kristie.  About all he knew was that she would be there and that was enough.  He was looking for one shot, just one chance to make a positive impression.  He’d botched his opportunities so far while they were in class or the halls or at lunch.  He was far too intimidated, she was far too popular and the odds seemed interminably stacked against him while they were in school.  No, it would have to be tonight.

He found Chris and Dave at the ping pong table which was good.  Situated in the corner of the building it avoided the harsh fluorescent lights that made his acne more noticeable.  He had only realized this fact recently.  Several weeks before when he thought he was making some headway with another girl he said hello to her in the main cafeteria area under those lights.  When she giggled and went away with her friends he was dumbfounded until he looked into the mirrored wall and saw how every blemish, every imperfection, and every pimple, even those that weren’t all that bad, stood out like Rudolph’s nose on a foggy night.  To say he was mortified would have been an understatement.  Even with Dave and Chris around him he sat silent and depressed the rest of the dance that night.  He vowed never to spend any more time than he absolutely had to in that light ever again.  He would never, ever share a Coke in one of the cozy booths with a girl

While he watched Chris and Dave play ping pong he could hear strains of “The Hustle” from the dance floor. He knew the girls would all be out there, doing some sort of line dance, some crazily synchronized thing he would never be a part of and that was okay.  The guys that would be there near the dance floor would all be seated in small circles of six or eight chairs trying not to be obvious as they watched the girls.  He found it a little embarrassing and he could never be sure it wasn’t apparent on his face how much he yearned for them.  He could hardly think of anything more awful than being caught staring at some girl while she danced.  Other guys laughed it off but he would be mortified.

Right before nine o’clock he suggested they head to the dance floor just as he noticed one of the large windows that overlooked it was vacant.  This was a perfect opportunity.  From this vantage point they could see where everyone was sitting.  They could pick their spot to sit and know where their intended quarry was located.  Chris and Dave seemed happy enough just to watch the girls dance and remark about how tight their jeans were.  It made him self-conscious and he wished they wouldn’t do it but they just didn’t get it like he did.  This was serious business.

He chose the best seats possible, some where he could see her and yet not be obvious so he could get a feel about whether she was having a good time.  He wanted to see her happy but not so enamored with everything that when he asked her to dance she would decide she would rather stay with her friends and keep having fun.  He also didn’t want to see her unhappy.  If she were unhappy she might dance with him in the hopes of lifting her spirits or soothing her hurt.  He was afraid he wasn’t up to that kind of task and so their dance would be more confirmation of the bad time she was having.  He would be associated with that one terrible time at the dance forever.  Her mood had to be just right.

Couples were starting to head to the dance floor as the music slowed.  The first ones out there were the ones that were going together.  They would be the first ones to dance really close together and the first ones to start kissing sometimes even before people filled in around them!  He was always in awe of their courage and the public display.  He would never, ever, even if he were married, have the guts to suck face on the dance floor in front of everyone.  To be fair they were the same ones that walked the halls with their hands in each other’s back pockets.  They were the ones who kissed each other when they parted at his or her classroom.  They were the ones who would slip off alone as everyone walked to the pizza place after the dance, showing up maybe with a new hickey 30 or 45 minutes later.  These were deeds he only dreamed of; things he would never screw up enough courage to do in a million years.

Far too quickly there was only 15 minutes left in the dance.  He had caught sight of her multiple times, tried to will himself to rise and approach her, even groaned inwardly and gnashed his teeth as she danced with one guy and then another.  He knew he wasn’t the only one who had a thing for her and yet somehow, unrealistically he was jealous and a little angry at those other guys for not knowing this was supposed to be their time.  And yet, here he sat, watching everyone else make out while Lionel Ritchie softly crooned the night away.  There could only be about three songs left.  It had to be now.

His knees felt weak and he thought his legs wouldn’t carry him as far as her chair across the room.  She didn’t seem to see him as he approached but she looked up slightly as he got almost right in front of her.

“Kristie, would you like to dance?”

His voice didn’t sound like him and it seemed like his head was in a barrel or something because the music was muffled and the words incomprehensible but he was certain he heard her say,

“Sure, Stan.”

There were only three songs left and although he held her at first as if she were something radioactive, gradually he relaxed a little especially when his forearms cramped up a bit and he had to.  As the song ended they both stepped back a bit.  He saw the question in her eyes:  “Is that it?  Do you want to sit down?” and luckily was able to say in a voice that sounded more like him, “Would you like to dance again?”

She nodded and they came back together as the DJ spun the Meatloaf ballad “For Crying Out Loud.”  He had always liked the song.  It struck something deep inside him and so when he held her a little closer he hardly noticed and when she put her head on his shoulder he didn’t think much about it at all.  They were just two kids enjoying a song together.

They didn’t do much more than look at each other and smile when the D.J. announced this was the last song of the night.  Deep in the recesses of his mind, seemingly almost forgotten, he could remember what it was like to sit, alone, watching as the majority of the kids danced that last song.  A lot of them kissed, some just laughed and talked about where they were going after but tonight he could only think about how good this felt, how right and how he didn’t want this to be the end.  He knew how lucky he was.

When the last note played and they brought up the lights they parted slightly, then she leaned back in and kissed him on the cheek.

“Thanks for the dance.  Call me sometime!”

He stood stunned and could barely croak out, “S-sure” as he watched her run off toward her friends who were headed for the door.

Chris and Dave looked at him with the studied, quizzical air of two people trying to figure out a painting but he didn’t offer an explanation as they headed to get their coats.  Something had changed.  Nerd or not.  Acne or not.  Something had changed.

I hope you liked this little flashback to puberty and maybe recognized some of those goofy things and thoughts we all probably went through in one form or another.  If you would like to read more of my posts, click this and you’ll be sent to the home page for my blog.  And if you like what you read I hope you’ll subscribe to it.  It’s free and just means you’ll get an email on Sundays with links to the week’s posts.  I never sell or share emails so you don’t have to worry about any spam.  Subscribe at the home page or here by clicking this.