Butterflies and Boys: A Middle School Memoir

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**For more information on the inspiration of this piece please visit the prompt**

* Names have been changed

 

Brown gauchos. Out of all of the things that I could’ve worn to the dance, I decided to wear brown gauchos.

Now, given the well-deserved obscurity of gauchos, I find it necessary to provide a definition:

 Gauchos: a garment that can’t decide whether or not it wants to be an ugly pair of pants or a really ugly skirt.

And what, do you ask, does a clueless eleven-year-old such as myself pair with these brown gauchos? An even more atrocious shirt: splattered with puke green and mud brown, this darling gem boasted a ridiculously large and, not to mention, metallic gold butterfly.

I don’t know what I was going for. A sort of boho chic, perhaps? Forest fairy grunge? Like my gauchos, I was confused.

At the time, however, I thought I’d found my look. I wasn’t the floral-printed, pink sugarpuff that I had been in elementary school. No, I’d moved on—I’d moved up. To earth tones. Gauchos. Orthopedic sandals. I was a prepubescent hippie. I was cool.

And now, all dressed up, I was ready for my first real dance.

Music camp. Summer. 2006. It was the year that *NSYNC’s Lance Bass announced that he was gay. It was the year that Britney Spears and Kevin Federline finally broke up. And it was also the year that James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” consumed the radio, primetime television, and showers worldwide.

But more importantly, it was the year that I would establish myself as a total badass—and not because of my unbelievably rad getup.

The end of camp dance was held in the multipurpose room. White walls, blue carpet, foggy windows—typically, the space had very little spice. Tonight, however, it was filled with seventy-plus campers, all dancing to Kelly Clarkson’s latest hit single, with the exception of a few stubborn wall-huggers. The mass of dancers pulsated with fist-pumping, hip-shaking, and head-bobbing.

I stood at the edge of the crowd, unsure of how to join this madness. It reminded me of the few moments before diving into a pool. The uncertainty. The nervousness. The hesitance. The unnecessary and intense period of contemplation whilst standing on the diving board. I’ve never been a canon-baller or a belly-flopper. I am the toe-dipper.

Before I could make a move, my cabinmates swarmed me from behind and thrust me into the action. As they twirled around me, a flurry of giggles and smiles, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, which produced a sort of swaying motion—rather minimalist, but dancing nonetheless.

A minute into the next song, I added an arm-swinging component. I tried imitating my friends, incorporating some of their moves into my routine. I looked around the room for some more inspiration. I saw all of the classics—the robot, the moonwalk, the—

There. A head poking out of the crowd. A glimpse of golden hair. It was him. His name was David. Thirteen years old. Third stand, first violin section of the symphony orchestra. This was the small, but prized collection of facts that I knew about the golden-haired boy with whom I’d been hopelessly infatuated since I saw him at the check-in tent on move-in day.

One of my cabinmates, Sarah, waved a hand in front of my face.

“Huh?” I peeled my eyes off of David to look at her. “What?”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I insisted. I realized that I’d stopped dancing. Awkwardly, I resumed swaying, struggling to match the rhythm of the song.

Sarah, unconvinced, looked over in David’s direction. I watched as a treasure cat smile bloomed across her face. “Oh. I see,” she said, still smiling.

“See what?” I tried to play it cool. I threw in some head bobbing, even managed a hair flip.

“So when are you going to ask him to dance?”

“Who?” I asked. A few people nearby were starting a conga line; I was tempted to join just to escape this conversation. I had made the mistake of admitting my crush to my entire cabin a few nights ago.

She gave me a look. “Who else? Come on, he’s right there! Go for it before the song ends!”

“And get rejected? Um, no.” The conga line was approaching…

“Fine! But you’ll regret it!” she called out to me as she latched onto the conga line.

If I didn’t ask David to dance, there was no way that I could be rejected. I would rather live in my own dreamland—a world of infinite possibility. A world of made of could be’s as opposed to does not’s. Up in my dream cloud, David could like me. He could want to dance with me. One little concrete indication that he was not into me would completely destroy everything that I had built up in my head.

Plus, I thought that boys were the ones that were supposed to initiate this sort of thing. I wanted to be approached by the cute boy, the prince charming. I wanted him to, I don’t know, bow and kiss my hand or something. I wanted to be chosen.

I looked over at him again. He wasn’t dancing, really. He was just sort of…standing. Waiting, almost. Maybe he wanted to be chosen, too.

Seeing him there, standing, still, stable in the midst of the twirling, jumping, and swaying made me feel like I caught him in a moment. Seized him with my eyes. It felt special; it felt temporary. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this moment was an opportunity, one that could disappear any second. This opportunity could be a story someday—perhaps a victory—that I could tell people when I returned home.

Before I knew it, I was weaving through the crowd, dodging arms left and right, until I came face to face with…brown eyes, rosy cheeks, and dimples.

“Hi,” I said to him, trying to speak over the bass-heavy music. David leaned towards me to listen. Some butterflies were having their own dance party in my stomach. I felt like I was going to throw up a rainbow. “Would you like to dance with me?”

Blink, blink.

Stare.

With a quick shake of his head, he turned around and walked away. Just like that, without a word. My heart fell fifty stories down, down, down, crashing into the pit of my stomach. He does not like me. He does not want to dance with me. Dreamland, gone.

A sniffle away from crying, I turned around and trudged through the crowd of dancers, slowly making my way towards the exit. But before I could squeeze my way out of the dancing mob, I found myself caught in a web of cabinmates.

“What happened?” “What did he say?” “What’s wrong?”

I couldn’t even look at them. I dropped my eyes to my gauchos. I think it was in that moment that I realized how ugly they were. “He said no.”

“What?” “We can’t hear you.” “Speak up.”

He said no.”

Silence. “I’m so sorry.” “What a jerk.”

Shrug.

At the time, I was too devastated to recognize the total badassery that I had just performed. I just asked a boy to dance. Me! A toe-dipper. Frankly, that took a lot of cajones. While I wasn’t completely unfazed by the rejection, I wasn’t a puddle of tears, either. I don’t know how, exactly, I mustered up the courage to ask him, but I did it. And that in itself was something to tell my friends at home.

The song fizzled down and out from the speakers emerged Freddy Mercury’s voice. It was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Everyone around me quieted their dancing to a gentle sway, singing along. Finally, the crowd was calm enough for me to find my way to the exit.

A tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see David holding out his hand. Once we made eye contact, he asked me, “Slow dance?”

Too stunned to sassily deny his proposal, I just nodded and took his hand. So we danced. He rested his hands on my shoulders, and I placed my hands on his waist. I was pretty sure that it was supposed to be the other way around, but I didn’t care. We both refused to look at one another, but we felt each other, and that was enough. Not to mention, my cabinmates passed by us, one by one giving me a thumb’s up. This little piece of reality was so much more than my infinite dreamland. And it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take that chance.

Now, eight years later, I sit in class. There’s this boy in front of me. Each lecture, there he is, sitting in front of me. I don’t know why, exactly, but I want to know him. I want to talk to him. Something tells me that we can have a story someday.

I suppose it just takes a leap of faith.

If an awkward, gaucho-wearing eleven-year-old can do it, I can too. And I will.

Post submitted by JoAnna

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