A Slow Dance Remembered

This morning as Denis and I were commuting to work, I had my headphones on listening to my latest MP3 disk I made last week. It has a bunch of old stuff from the 1970s and 80s – stuff from my childhood and teen years. At one point Sheena Easton’s song “You Could Have Been With Me” came on and it took my back to the first half of my seventh grade year.

I had a major crush on Jimmy West. My dad (who was in the Navy) announced that we were moving from Washington State to California the weekend of a big dance at my junior high school. I was devastated. I had hoped to finally tell Jimmy West how much I liked him and see if he’d dance with me. Instead, I spent the week leading up to the dance telling all my friends that I was moving away. I remember crying to my parents that I really wanted to go to the dance – I just have to go to the dance or I’ll die! – and they acquiesced and let me go, despite the fact we were moving the next day.

It was held in the school gym, with streamers as decorations and all the music you loved and hated in 1981. All my friends were there, and I spent most of the night building up the courage to ask Jimmy West to dance. You see, in elementary school I was the class bully and spent half my day pinching the boys and making them cry. That was the way I showed my love for them. In particular, Jimmy West and Jimmy Motley got the brunt of my attention (their black and blue arms attesting to that fact). I was in love with them as only a naive seventh grader in 1981 could be.

The dance was nearing an end, and I still hadn’t spoken to Jimmy West. Then the dj announced the last slow dance – and Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” started playing. Realizing I was going to miss my chance, I walked over to Jimmy and asked him to dance. I remember his eyes registering mild surprise and fear – wondering if it was a trick. Then he smiled. And said yes. We walked into the middle of the gym and for the next 3:30 minutes of my life I was heaven. It was my turn for surprises when he said he would miss me after I moved to California, and that I should keep in touch. He had given me his address earlier in the week (okay, I had forced him to give me his address while pinching his non-writing arm), and so I told him I definitely would.

The dance ended, we said goodbye, and that was the last time I ever saw Jimmy West. I left the dance as soon as we parted ways, and the next day we moved to California.

We wrote a few times to each other – vague, half-friendly attempts at communication. He told me what I was missing in Washington, and I told him how great California was. After a handful of letters back and forth, we stopped writing. I don’t know who made the decision to give up keeping in touch, but there it was. I found a new crush at my middle school in CA (a wonderfully shy boy named Franco), and who knows what happened to Jimmy West.

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