Saturday, June 27, 2009
Michael Jackson and the Dance That Never Was
I suppose since everyone else is sharing their favorite Michael Jackson-themed story or their memories of the gloved one, I should do the same. However, my recollection doesn't involve the man but rather one of his songs.
I was in ninth grade, at one of the Friday night post-football game dances that the different clubs in my high school sponsored on a rotating basis. On this particular evening, the French Club was in charge of the event - refreshments, the deejay, tickets, the whole bit. At this point, I was still a horribly awkward teenage boy, not sure yet of who I was or what I was supposed to be doing in life, and as such it seemed really odd that I would be hanging around a big school dance. By and large, I was still painfully shy around most folks and really didn't like crowds and spent much of this particular evening standing on the gallery that circled the top of the gym - a place where folks would gather to watch what was going on on the floor below and plot their next move.
And then it happened. The school's most beautiful girl, who was a senior during this, my freshman year, walked out to the edge of the gym floor and stood there, talking to her friends. All I could do was stare; this was the girl who all the guys thought was unapproachable, someone who the year before I had asked to sign my yearbook only after summoning every bit of courage I could ever hope to find. I continued to stand and watch her in the glow of the lights illuminating the dance, and at that moment the song started: Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." The French teacher and sponsor of the club saw me standing there and asked me if I wanted to dance with the girl I was watching; I replied that I did - and she said, "So go ask her."
I was shocked! There was no way that I could ever hope to get this particular girl, the senior admired by all the guys, to dance with me, and I said as much in response. She said something to the effect that, "Well, if you notice, no one else has asked her to dance yet, so you've still got a chance to be the first." I pondered it for a moment, turned ...
... and walked to a spot further down the rail to continue watching. Before long, the song ended, the dance ended, and this senior that I had worshipped from afar was headed out the door - and a few months later, headed out of the school forever. However, to this day, I can still plainly hear Michael's voice - "If they say why, why? Tell them that it's human nature ... See that girl, she knows I'm watching..." - in that darkened, cavernous gymansium, lyrics bouncing of the walls and echoing around the vast room.
And I still see the shy, gawky teenager that I once was, standing high above the gym floor watching silently as he let the opportunity to dance with his ninth grade crush - that one magic moment - slip through his fingers.