In 7th grade, I took a Ballroom Dance elective. I’d never been interested in Ballroom before, but it was a cool class, one “everyone” took, so there I was.
We only ever danced to two songs — an awful, breathy Britney Spears remix of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, and Sammy Davis Jr’s The Candy Man. It was a disjointed playlist, but efficient: one song for the Cha Cha, the other for Swing.
It’s Cha Cha time, and in a stroke of luck, I’ve been partnered up with an 8th grader, a really cute boy with an Italian name so perfect it could be on a pasta box.
I stand there, worrying my hands will be slippery when he goes to hold them. I am annoyed, because they were perfectly dry before I started worrying about this.
The teacher begins demonstrating the Cha Cha, which requires the girls to move their hips a little. Hip-moving comes naturally to me, I know this from my other dance classes, and I wonder if he’ll notice. He does. My hands become slippery-er.
He starts joking and flirting as we step forward, cha cha cha, backward, cha cha cha — star-crossed partners amidst a sea of peers in a brightly lit gym on a Tuesday. He comments on how well my hips move, saying I’m such a natural dancer, it’s like he is “tresmatized.”
I stop for a moment, breaking our rhythm, because tresmatized is not a word. I know which word he means, of course, and cannot tell if he is joking or not.
He’s not joking, and I wonder if I should correct him. It feels like two paths are appearing before me.
I don’t correct him. How can I? He is Marco Niccoli.