My right shoulder stung from the slap Brenda Deweese had just rendered, her thick lips pursed with an annoyed reprimand. I suppose that I deserved the slap. She had grabbed me from the throng that teemed around the dance floor, insisted that as a freshman representative of student council, I was obliged to dance and get others to dance. Dancing was no problem for me, uninhibited as I was. The apparent problem was that she expected me to dance with her. I wanted to dance with everyone around us, pulled a few friends out on the floor with us.. thus the slap. Brenda was a senior, president of the Rochester High School student council, and she expected me to defer to her, something I had continued to resist during my tenure on the student council. I’m pretty sure it was Brenda who eventually proposed that only one freshman was necessary to represent our class, instead of two, the result being that I was voted off of the council. Honestly, I deserved it.
Everyone went to the dances at our high school those days, even if it meant merely sitting in the bleachers or milling around the edge of the dance floor. Most of the guys were too afraid of looking foolish to get out on the dance floor, the girls usually dancing with each other. The guys would wait for the slow dance, the easy dance and a chance to get close. I was the opposite — fast dances were my favorite and I was too shy for the slow dances.
Brenda had started something for me at that particular dance. Suddenly I became a favorite for the junior and senior girls, one of the few guys who liked to dance. The whole evening I barely got a chance to rest. Every time I tried to make it to the bleachers, someone else pulled me back out on the floor. As a 14 year old boy, I enjoyed the attention. Funny thing was that, as a freshman boy, my popularity waned when the slow dances came, as did my confidence. Like I said, I was too shy.
It was during a slow dance that I made it to the bleachers to catch my breath. I sat and watched as the couples swayed in the dim light, wishing just a little that I could find a girl who wanted to slow dance with me.
And there she was. Barbara Burdzilauskas. Her friends were dancing with their boyfriends, but for some reason no one had asked her to dance. Barb was a freshman, one of those petite sweet faced late bloomers who was just beginning to come out of that awkward 14 year old stage. I had a bit of a crush on her, had thought for a while that she was a bit too pretty for me. But dancing will all the upper classman girls had boosted my confidence a bit. I caught Barb glancing over her shoulder at me, a hint of interest tossed my way. Even the freshman boy that I was could pick that up. As I stood up, an exhale passed my lips, my confidence sinking into my chest. Brenda had turned and was looking my way. I had better get moving before Brenda pulled me back out onto the floor.
I don’t remember what I said as I approached Barb, but I can still feel the burn of the blush on my cheeks. All I know is that she said yes when I asked her to dance and that she told me that I was a good dancer as we began to dance. Barb was my first slow dance, ever. Not only that, but she didn’t seem to be nervous with me at all, something that almost instantly cured that blush and prompted me to hold her tight as we danced. Our slow dance was not one of those awkward hands-on-her-hips-hands-on-his-shoulders dances. We moved well together. 14 year old me was feeling pretty good about that.
The song ended, but we didn’t leave the dance floor. For the rest of the evening, Barb was my dance partner. When it came time for the last dance of the night, the dance competition, we stayed on the floor. We were having fun, our eyes never leaving the other as we bounced around the floor for the fast dance. Then the competition moved to the slow dance as Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” filled the air, our hips moving in sync as we held each other tight.
We won the dance contest. My prize was a Revell model kit of a ’57 Chevy.
The only other thing I remember from that night is the kiss on the cheek that Barb gave to me as she left.
When Monday came, I returned to my awkward self. I never managed to ask Barb out, but we did stay friends throughout high school. She always reserved one dance for me. Barb bloomed rather nicely, doing some modeling during our high school years, a bit of a minor celebrity when she and a friend modeled Sedgefield jeans in a local television ad. At our 25 year high school reunion, a reunion that I organized, Barb and her husband sat next to Miriam and I during the dinner. She got me into hot water with Mir when she came up to me, a bit tipsy, hugged me around the neck. When we got into the car to leave that night, a jealous Mir asked me what that was all about.
It was just a memory. That was it.