It was Saturday night. Midnight? I was on the dance floor of a smokey bar dancing to Funky Cold Medina with the rest of my cast. A cover band wearing odd, mismatched hats was on the stage, performing this relic from my youth. Even scarier, one of the girls I was with knew every word.
In high school I danced to this song in the cafeteria. The harsh and cold fluorescent lights that divided us into table castes at lunchtime would be off, and I would dance with my friends to anything with a decent beat. When a slow song came on I would go and stand against the wall, transformed from dancing queen to wallflower. I'd watch as my latest crush asked another girl to dance. My arm would creep up my side, my fingers releasing slowly from their fist and spreading outward. "Bloom," I'd say to the friend next to me.
Back in the smokey bar a slow song has started. I stand with my friends against the back wall, holding my hair up to cool off my neck. It is too loud for conversation. I watch the band. I look around at the crowd, guessing the regulars, wondering how the birthday girl is still standing, let alone dancing. I watch the couples dance, the women in their stripper shoes and low cut dresses eyeing the men at the bar. I imagine, for a moment, another life.
In the cafeteria, my dance card is full. Every dance with the same boy. Cute, an athlete. Other girls watch from the wall.
College. Frat parties and sorority formals. Photo albums full of me in cute dresses and the same guy in a shirt and loosened tie.
Years later. A smokey bar, not far from the high school cafeteria. We walk in, and our friends wave from the corner. We smile at the bass player, an old friend. We order the usual, and head for the dance floor. The same songs, for over a decade now, but they still make my heart race and my toes tap. When the slow song comes on there's no looking around, no wondering when the next dance song will start. Everything is a dance song when you have a partner.
In high school I was ready to get out, away from the cafeteria, away from the lunch table caste system. I went away for school. I went away for life. And I wouldn't go back and do it any differently.
But the other night, in the bar? I could see me, in another life. A regular at the bar. Dancing with old friends.