The Sad Air Between New York And Philadelphia
The catcher in the rye was stupid, but all the boys in this private school were acting like him and I needed a date for the prom.
Some gym teacher who was a Quaker - can you teach sports and still be a pacifist – put together this dance. It was a winter dance and the prom was in the spring. I figured I'm on my low end of fat, good time to invest in something, a boy or popularity or something for when the weather warms up. So I put on a pair of hip-hugger denim bells, and some shirt that said neo-hippie but not too flower power and I went wearing my clogs (of course). And one of the doctor's kids asked me to dance or probably I asked him because … well … for lots of reasons. Like if I danced with the girl I wanted to dance with, there would be more whispering even though they were all trying to be hip and open-minded. This was a Quaker school. But more important, dancing with a girl, whether they thought you wanted to kiss her or not, was still dancing with a girl. It ain't the blue ribbon at the fair. Fuck liberation. It's still second prize.
Which is how I got to dancing with the doctor's kid, I think his name was Barry. And like, I can dance. So I did. Watching all the black and Puerto Rican kids on Madison Street and at the arts and farts high school on 43rd, I was moving too, along the wall and sometimes even on the floor, because I knew the beat too.
This was some funk I liked. I love funk. When I'm in that beat it's the only time I'm me and the world is mine and I belong to everything and it all fits. So I moooved.
Stupid Barry said, "Geez, Bets, I didn't know you could dance."
Inside I thought, suck this, asshole, of course I can dance. But outside I got all stupid-girl huffy like indignant giggles and said: "Well of course I can [giggle] dance [giggle] Barry [giggle]."
Then I tried to convince myself I could enjoy kissing him. Maybe like become a couple and then all that gnawing inside would stop and I wouldn't have to cut first period to down my vodka and OJ, since the valium prescription ran out (or maybe not but I think the people I live with, Radical and the Lawyer, hid the pills. I was downing them a little too fast for their taste and they had promised the Old Man they'd keep me alive and out of trouble for as long as they had me).
I didn't want to kiss Barry. I wanted to kiss Rifka-Sue. I wasn't confused. I was pissed off.
Rifka-Sue wanted to kiss me. Everyone thought she already had, even Leroy. But she thought she should only kiss Leroy. And somehow if she kissed Leroy and thought of me while it was happening, it would be like kissing me.
Sex, it don't work like that. I was so desperate for something, anything, that those porn movies we all snuck into -- because it was an art house and that was a "retrospective" -- those movies looked romantic to me. Somebody to touch me and me to be there when it happened.
So I went to this fall dance, hoping to invest something into something so come spring when this purgatory ended with a high school diploma, I'd look better going out than coming in, a boy on my arm, manners that didn't include the word fuck, a smaller body that got me compliments like oh-what-a nice-young-lady instead of but-you-have-such-a-pretty-face. And if the Old Man was there maybe he wouldn't talk with his mouth full.
I love to dance.
Still, the evening ended lonely. At some point I just said oh fuck it dance with the girls even if they don't want you to, you know those dance circles with all the girls dancing with each other trying to act like they're all cool with it but you know they aren't, they all hate each other for being there and no one with a dick.
There was drinking or pot smoking, but I was never included like immediately. I only got invited when it looked like I was going to crash anyway. I didn't care. They were stupid rich kids getting stoned. I had gotten fucked up in the neighborhood they wished they had come from.
I come from New York. This is Philadelphia.
I ended up going home and jerking off with the Riunite bottle from the dinner Rifka-Sue and I had made ourselves. I don't remember who I thought about. I just remember thinking I want to be touched. I want to be there while it's happening.