Dirty Dancing
Robin "Jake" Lampe

My friend Miki is over visiting, and we sit on the soft, worn porch steps, drinking ice cold soda. "Should have been there," she says. "Quite a scandal. Janice showing up with that man." Miki always has a good story, the latest. Miki has a wide, flat smile, which she flashes easily. She makes it look so easy.
Our tomcat rises from the shade of the porch swing and comes to wind his way in and around my legs. He has just returned from a week of wandering, and his left ear is torn and bleeding.
"What was she wearing?" I ask. "Did they stay until the band stopped?" And Miki tells me more about Janice and the foreign man, dirty dancing and pretending like no one else is in the bar. Good for them, I think. I picture them throwing their heads back, laughing loudly, the man pulling Janice closer, both hands on her hips. I picture them making love in some quiet field, on the edge of town, the sound of cicadas surrounding their blanket. I picture me dancing in the tall, dry prairie grass in that field, no eyes on me, moving to the beat of my own drum as the saying goes. The grass reaches high under my wispy dress and scratches at my bare legs.
Miki goes home to make peanut butter sandwiches for Mapa, her daughter. The screen door slams; feet shuffle across the splintered porch. The wood creaks when he reaches my side.
"I heard about Janice and that man," he says. "We used to dance, remember?"
I step to edge of the waving prairie grass to where the trees grow tall and straight, packed dirt beneath their hard bodies. I run, patting the dirt down more with my bare feet, from tree to tree, grabbing their trunks with my arms and pulling myself around to hide. Then I dart off to another tall dark, protector, slowing myself by colliding with the rough bark. It's a different kind of dance, but a dance all the same.
I picture Janice and the foreign man and Tomcat watching from a safe distance, staring with his cold cat stare, glassy eyes that don't blink even when the figures rise and step over him.

First published: February 1997
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