Feburary Seventeen: Used to Dance

I used to swing dance at this old church in downtown Sacramento. They used to have drop-in lessons on Fridays. You could go and the instructors there would teach you the basic steps and a few moves to use that night. A jazz band would come on after the lesson and play for two hours while people danced. Some of them were really good. They taught different moves every week so you could improve by going often.

The demographic was mixed but slanted young. It was an all ages affair I think but there weren’t any kids there. There was typically twice as many girls as guys. There were teenage girls who went every week. They all wore dresses. They were all thin. They would smile brightly and mingle about and dance and mingle some more, their sweat causing their smooth complexions to shine a bit. Long legs spinning past long legs. They were nearly all white and seemed to come from conservative, well-off families. I danced with them. My hairy ape hand thrust towards them like I was offering them some invisible coffee cup – their delicate hands in mine. Kleine, was machst du mir?

I was there once with some Asian girl I met at a cafe (her name escapes me but her annoying mannerisms linger). I let Yellow Girl dance with whoever while I talked with a coy, long-haired eighteen-year-old who looked like the subject of some Renaissance painting. She drifted off to her friends after she sweetly shook my hand, smiling coyly. Then I found some broad I recognized from somewhere (still avoiding Yellow Girl) and she asked how my progress was. She was a tall, gawky chick with a poor complexion that was caked with makeup that didn’t match her skin tone. She informed me that my basic steps simply would not do (“no, no, no, no!”). This needs refining. As a neophyte, I obliged her. She had this way about her; she was very insistent and clearly liked to direct people. She would excitedly assert that things should be this or that way but she wasn’t abrasive. It’s kind of charming actually. She directed me to the kid who was teaching the class earlier. He was some tall (gay I think) dude who showed me the steps again (him teaching from girl’s side). He was really goddamn good. It turns out I was doing it all wrong. We talked a bit in the hallway and I thanked him and said goodbye.

A year or so later someone shot that poor kid and killed him. A stray bullet from some ghetto fight at the gas station hit him and he died. I was getting gas there the day after it had happened. There was a picture of him and some flowers on this vacant foundation of some never-built parking structure. I looked down at it and said “fuck” and a tear dropped out of my eye.


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