We dance

20 Jul

30th high school reunion.

I am sitting at the bar by myself, waiting for the DJ to start the music.  I’ve got to have a break before I hear another person tell me that I haven’t changed a bit.  And I need a drink before I hear (again!) my ecstatic: “Neither have you!”

Just let the music begin.

Jeff comes over and sits down next to me.  He starts to talk.  I remember him immediately.  We never had a class together, but our parents were friends.

He talks and talks and talks.  Just as I remember him. It’s a torrent of whatever is running through his mind, I guess.

I try to pay attention, but it’s a struggle: his intonation doesn’t change much.  I ask a question from time to time to register participation.

I catch his eye, just for a second:

I haven’t seen you in 30 years, I say.

Jeff says, “I remember John Cunningham from school.  John Cunningham went to school with me.  But I haven’t seen him…”

There’s more about John Cunningham, but I’m checking out fast.

I try this: It’s nice to see everybody after so many years, isn’t it?

“I remember John Cunningham.  He was in school with me…”

I start to plan my escape.

I throw this out, partly as a good exit line: You know what, Jeff, when the music begins, we should dance.

Then the world stopped.  John Cunningham vanished.  Jeff looks at me.

He looks at me:

“I would like to dance with you.”

And I look at him.  And I believe him.

41 Responses to “We dance”

  1. Bruce July 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    A beautiful post. I know Jeff and knew his proud, loving mother and his late, great, loving father. All of them were great people–like you

  2. carrah July 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    It’s a wonderful thing when when we suddenly actually see each other

  3. Lisa Luikart July 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    It was the best moment of the night seeing you two on the dance floor 🙂

  4. jenny July 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks for reading, mom and dad. 🙂

  5. Bee July 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    The moment captured me too Jenny, thank you for sharing!

  6. jenny July 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi Lisa, Hi Bee!

    Awfully nice to see both of you this weekend, and neither one of you has changed a bit. 🙂

  7. sledpress July 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    I am assuming then that he could, indeed, dance?

    • jenny July 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

      Everybody can dance:

      • sledpress July 21, 2011 at 6:59 am #

        I dance once a year, but I’m careful not to even think about Fred Astaire for a whole month before and after. It would just be rude

      • jenny July 21, 2011 at 7:22 am #

        How about the polka, sled? There was a Slovenian polka festival in the hall next to our reunion. (Another reunion highlight, right there.) I don’t do it, but it looked like fun. And easy.

        Once a year? What’s the occasion?

      • sledpress July 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

        My underage beau has a fancy office holiday party and I dress up to remind people that I still can. After that, you have to dance (it’s more a demonstration of strength and gymnastic elasticity performed in long gloves).

        Then I swear and fume and wonder why people wear these stupid clothes.

      • jenny July 22, 2011 at 5:48 am #


        You “fume” because you’re smokin’ hot in that red dress!

      • sledpress July 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm #


        you gots a red dress too even if your back is to the camera no?

      • jenny July 23, 2011 at 10:46 am #

        Sled: Not flatterer. Flirt.

  8. Philippe July 20, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    You faced the music and danced. Fred and Ginger, in the parallel world they’re in now, *may have danced beside you.*

    • jenny July 21, 2011 at 6:24 am #

      Ah, Philippe, that’s beautiful! Thank you.

  9. Bee July 21, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Perfect video!!

  10. Cyberquill July 21, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Good move. Dancing and sex are among the most effective strategies to shut people up.

    • jenny July 21, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      Sigh-berquill, pick the response you like best:

      1. This is the one where I wring my hands a bit because you’ve undercut the real emotion of this moment for me, but, at the same time, laugh because you are funny.


      2. Umm, Cyberquill, shall we dance? 🙂

      • Cyberquill July 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

        1. I use an F-shaped online reading pattern, so I rarely pick up on any nuances.

        2. Mattress mambo?

    • jenny July 22, 2011 at 6:04 am #

      I want to answer your cheeky comment,
      music — it’s a mambo!

      • Cyberquill July 22, 2011 at 11:23 am #

        Fabulous. Now I get it.

      • jenny July 23, 2011 at 10:29 am #

        CQ: I’m about to go all Sally Field. 🙂

  11. Andreas Kluth July 21, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I’m just glad that we didn’t go to high school together, so we don’t ever have to test our deep cyber-relationship at 30-year reunions.

    • jenny July 22, 2011 at 6:00 am #

      Yo, Andreas, I’m glad we didn’t go to high school together, too: You’re that kid who ruins the curve.

  12. Geraldine July 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Mambo! Yes!
    Cuz, it’s the Tango that causes distress.

    • jenny July 25, 2011 at 7:48 am #


      There is a marvelous play by Slawomir Mrozek called TANGO. (Actually, all of his plays are marvelous.) It has this fabulous line:

      You have no idea how much courage it took to dance the Tango!

      • Geraldine July 25, 2011 at 11:30 am #

        Thanks, I love the line. It’s true.

  13. Man of Roma July 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm #


  14. jenny August 15, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    I just read this Dana Gioia poem in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column:


    This is my past where no one knows me.
    These are my friends whom I can’t name—
    Here in a field where no one chose me,
    The faces older, the voices the same.

    Why does this stranger rise to greet me?
    What is the joke that makes him smile,
    As he calls the children together to meet me,
    Bringing them forward in single file?

    I nod pretending to recognize them,
    Not knowing exactly what I should say.
    Why does my presence seem to surprise them?
    Who is the woman who turns away?

    Is this my home or an illusion?
    The bread on the table smells achingly real.
    Must I at last solve my confusion,
    Or is confusion all I can feel?

  15. mr. crotchety September 1, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    30th high school reunion.

    I arrive at an abandoned, one-story mall with fifteen acres of parking. (This was all corn thirty years ago). It looks like we’re four hours early for a Dodgers game. That must be the place, The C&J Banquet Center. Outside: scorching asphalt. Inside: damp air conditioning, and cloth orchids. The DJ pounds ‘Billy Jean’ beneath the mirror ball (Billy Jean was later, wasn’t it? How about AC/DC?).

    The event is $25 and BYOB. Approximately ten percent of the graduating class trickles in, each with a cooler. Some with a cooler of Bud Light, some with Jack and Coke, some Michelob Ultra.

    Such nice people. I should stop swearing. I hear about the daughter playing basketball at Butler, the son sponsored by Redbull (he could get us into a race when he’s out that way). I am reminded that I am not on Facebook. I feel like we could join forces and solve a problem, but there is no time. There is the invalid mother, the schizophrenic brother.

    It would be much easier to chat if the DJ would turn down the fucking music. People came here to drink and chat, not dance. Ok, they’re starting to dance. Who are those people? God, I’m an asshole.

    We know why we’re here now, but why are we here? The C&J Banquet Center belongs to alumnus C (or J). C is having a nice time. Perfect blonde hair, diamond ear rings, smiling; a good dancer and a brave man.

    • jenny September 1, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      Mr. C!

      My exuberant initial reaction (borrowed, but feelingly adopted):

      O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!

      (Still, some whooping, in the form of comments, literary and social, is in the offing.)

    • jenny September 2, 2011 at 5:02 am #

      So, OK, Mr. Crotchety, you’re right that Billie Jean was a little later. It stings me to admit it. There’s no way to get the same kick from “She’s Out of My Life.”

      No wonder you’re talking AC/DC: I googled the top 100 songs of 1980/1981. It’s a lot of pretty awful stuff: Neils, both Sedaka and Diamond, Fleetwood Mac (but after Rumours), Billy Joel (but after The Stranger), everybody’s favorite Barry Manilow and some mercifully now forgotten duet with Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer.

      OH MY GOD, Mr C, just put me on the friggin highway to hell!

      I love your whole picture: the asphalt, the coolers, the now-no-longer cornfields, the heat, the damp, C–who is possibly J–and all the other nice people you’re going to join forces with (over a Bud Light) and solve a problem. I believe you will.

      But there’s no time. Is that what you said?

      Just terrific, Mr. C. Terrific on its own, and sly as a response to my post. Thanks.

      I asked the DJ to turn up the fucking music.

      • Mr. Crotchety September 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

        I was going to suggest ‘Shoot to Thrill’ (turned way up before it starts to play so that you get the first power chord and turned way down when it gets horribly misogynistic and embarrassing). Nothing like those British mama’s boys making songs that sound like they’re in therapy. But who am I to judge? I think our class song was ‘Celebration’ (1980) by the Kool and the Gang. No one else remembered. So happy.

        Since you brought it up, I checked the top 100. Grim indeed. That reminds me that our French teacher was named Betty Davis and we sang, ‘she’s got Betty Davis Thighs.’ She was also the cheerleader’s coach. Don’t tell her we said that.

        Too busy putting out fires to build a fire truck.

      • jenny September 3, 2011 at 6:48 am #

        I don’t think you can beat this, Mr. C:

        The building that used to be my Junior High (early 20th Century hulking structure) has been converted into a retirement community.

        If my children delight in perversities, I might live out my dotage in 7th grade homeroom.

        Poor old lady, the attendants will say, she’s always asking why she’s in detention and when she’ll get to go home.

  16. Andreas Kluth September 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Mr C & Sprezzatura: I’ve long known (longer than anybody else, I dare say) that you’re both talents. But now I discover that you’re also co-talented.

    Go and sell your book, or anthology, or album, or whatever. Do it now. You can just mention me in the acknowledgement, after agent and publisher….

    • jenny September 3, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      No, Andreas, Mr. C and I are busy this year. We got a gig, promoting a book. Yours, actually.

      It’s a groovy new concept we pitched to Riverhead, based on a Rudyard Kipling poem. The idea is that writer and reader (much like success and failure) are not what they seem. Better, then, to have readers promote a book. Who the hell are you, anyway? Riverhead liked it.

      We’re calling the book tour “Those Two Impostors”.

      We will mention you in the acknowledgement. Or maybe we’ll just use your picture.

      • Andreas Kluth September 3, 2011 at 10:00 am #

        Oh, I see. Yes, do stay with your current gig, in that case. We’ll plop the next gig down for 2012. But you’ll be reminded.

  17. dafna September 3, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    my thirty year reunion should be coming up soon… (a year or so) might i say you look ten years younger than me!

    it will also probably be held at a party center owned by the local guy who went into the restaurant business with his father.

    • jenny September 3, 2011 at 6:10 am #

      Now, dafna, have you forgotten that this is the internet and I could be a dog?

      • dafna September 3, 2011 at 10:46 am #


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