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Peace Breaks Out | 2011 | What It Is To Belong

06.23.11 1:33 p.m.

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.  

-Bob Newhart


Dance Anthem of the Under 21

I arrive half an hour late and there is literally no one of the dance floor. I get the sense that the woman playing music, DJ Cryptastik, knows not to bother with her A-list material until midnight. While this is likely a prudent course of action, it also results in a self-fulfilling prophesy; no one dances because the music is not quite right and the music is less than ideal because no booties are being shaken and nothing is being dropped as though it were hot.

I sit, alone, staring off at the dance floor, wishing I were either one of the barflies who will not leave their drinks all night or had Irish courage enough to dance on my own without caring about the derisive glares of people who should envy those with two-left feet. Snarkiness is the refuge of the terrified. I should know, I would once have been among the most sarcastic.

There are plenty of people on the roofless smoking porch, slowly getting soaked by the rain as they bum cigarette after cigarette from one another and crowd underneath the one foot overhang provided by an adjoining building. I do not understand their mentality. If the cigarettes are so important, couldn't they stay home and spent the cover charge toward a new box of smokes? Or congregate somewhere both free and dry?

Eventually two of the barflies pull their awkward, overweight friend onto the dance floor to try to teach him a few steps. I take this as initiative enough to begin dancing on my own. They seem grateful for the company, though I give them a wide enough berth for mutual plausible deniability. I am not the sort to dance with someone unconsenting.

Within the course of three or four songs, more people arrive and take to the floor. A group of six girls sees me across the room and motions me over. They aren't my type, but I am not looking for someone to be my type tonight. I am just here to dance and be social. I have temporarily given up on the notion of finding anyone and, even if I hadn't, cannot imagine 80s Night at Cabaloosa to be full of rich opportunities. All the same, a couple of them are interested in me to the point where they sneer when another girl - who I presumed to be one of their group - pulls me away and really dances with me, holding me and having me spin her. At this point, the girls I had been dancing with turn cold. For the next song, they, like a clumsy amoeba, engulf a doughy Ed Hardy fetishist in a backward baseball cap and sunglasses. I laugh and move on, since I have no attachment to them.

When they find me again - possibly because the cold shoulder only works when it is in sight - I note that their bracelets are a different color than mine. Oh, they are Under-21s, largely useless to the club, except that they feel daring simply by being here. These bands are nature's protective coloration, assuring the adults in the room that these larvae are to be avoided. However, if they want to dance around me, I have no real issue.

An hour later, when they have sought me out again and I had the bald audacity to continue to dance without regarding them, the thinnest of them, an awkward girl who will either become pretty in a few years or will be someone's shy secretary in the 1940s, touches me and asks if I could stop dancing with them. Nearly laugh at her gall, but I comprehend that they are looking to be randomly picked up by older men. My presence in their proximity, even when parts of their group seek me out, keeps the Axe-drenched creeps at bay. This is nothing that the girl in big sis's corset and mom's make-up wants.

The other girl, the one who lost me the interest of this covey, finds me again. She is an Under-21, but behaves as though she is illicitly tipsy either because a stranger is plying her intermittently with drinks or because she feels this is an act she must put on. I dance with her again, she spins into me and, before I can think about it, I've kissed her lightly on the eyelid. She smiles but takes no further note. The song ends and I release her back into the wild. When I later check out the porch for acquaintances, she purrs up to me and asks for a cigarette. I tell her I don't smoke, she giggles as though this is a joke and melts back into the crowd.

I dance with several other women through the night, but I do not bother exchanging names. I feel the mantle of observer come over me as I feel less and less a part of this night. I notice a couple of women independently checking me out over the shoulders of the men they are with, as though daring me to intercede with inappropriate violence so they can gyrate near me for half a song before returning to their boyfriends. I smirk at the hipsters, who either dance by shuffling their feet ala Peanuts characters or engage in arrhythmic, vertical, full body seizures because actually enjoying oneself on the dance floor is too mainstream. I enjoy dancing, but this feels more like interpreting the mating habits of ten different contrary species.

Around 2AM, I wonder if it is time to go. I've been dancing for three hours straight and am more than a bit damp with persperation. The next song comes on and it is Melanie's ring tone, The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated". I take this as sign enough I am done with tonight.

Soon in Xenology: Parties. Amber.

last watched: Doctor Who
reading: Anansi Boys
listening: Tom Lehrer

Peace Breaks Out | 2011 | What It Is To Belong

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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