When I Learned Courage

I was deafened by the music. Conversation with other people was out of the question. Any attempt would eventually end with a loud “What!?!” and then a feeble “Never mind.” Sweat poured off the bodies of everyone in the dancing crowd. Middle schoolers getting freaky while the rhythms boom was a sight to behold. It must’ve been unimaginably awkward for the teacher chaperones hanging out on the cooler outskirts of the gym floor, which was covered by a blue tarp. The disk jockey put on everyone’s favorite music with his bleached, spiked mohawk.

I simply drifted among the sweating bodies. It went like this: find a group, dance a little, and drift away once more. Totally worth the five dollars for entry. I tried to seize every moment possible, no matter what trace of fear I had. I didn’t participate much in the lascivious and lusty activities of “grinding,” which was basically rhythmic dry humping.

Eventually I was able to receive an opportunity to do something far more elegant, far more complete. I was drifting when the slow song came on. The sweaty bodies all responded by breaking their lusty locks of their hips and started drifting. Since most everyone was comfortable with who they had near them, they didn’t have to drift far. It didn’t matter much to me. Anybody alone and drifting like me could be with me for the moment.

I was moist from sweat, but it didn’t matter. The body heat and sweat poured off every body that was present in the gym and there was no more than two feet of space in between everyone. There was something charming about such intimacy. Nobody could be judged for their smell or for the sound of their voice, with both of those sense being respectively drowned out by everyone’s sweat and the universal noise made by the giant loudspeakers, which were around ten feet tall.

When the song came on, there were a few seconds where I was drifting and drifting. There was some fear of still drifting while everyone else had each other for the moment. The fear was deep inside, where it was not obviously felt. You have to seize the moment, the fear said. Otherwise, you’ll drift forever. The few seconds that took place in reality were lengthened in the separate dimension of my mind. Then I found her.

I called her name. I was glad that she decided to take the moment with me. Her smile was a kind one and she was deeply respected by many for her warmth. We took the general slow dance form: boy puts hands on or near girl’s hips, girl puts arms on or around boy’s shoulders. We started with some distance between us and I looked into her eyes for a few seconds, taking in and appreciating the moment.

We rocked side to side to the rhythms of the slow song. I didn’t know what was even playing. The song didn’t matter. Only this moment mattered and my focus wasn’t on anything else. Seeing other people with their partners didn’t matter either. One moment, please. Instinctively, we drew each other close. Her gentle arms were clasped behind my shoulders and neck, her head resting on my chest. My hands, awkwardly perceiving the sensation of a female’s body, were around her completely. We rocked, rocked side to side. The moment was ours, not anybody else’s.

It seemed so natural, so real, to seize that moment. The warmth of the embrace stopped me from drifting, and brought me to that moment. After the song ended, everybody broke their bondages to each other. All of our separate moments ended simultaneously. We separated, and she gave me a smile. We drifted apart and I was left wondering about what I had felt.

I felt a warmth in my heart, a feeling I’d be able to recognize better in the future. I drifted again, seizing moments that, for the most part, paled in comparison after that moment. I drifted until we had to go home, when the dance ended. I had yet to fully realize the implications of that moment. All I knew at the time was the beauty of sharing a close moment with someone. I clung to the memory of her embrace, recreating the feeling. The recreations of my imagination were only mere echoes, though. I kept the memory locked up inside until I decided to talk to her about it three years later, during a rare moment in which she was not too busy.

You could say I was searching for a validation of that moment, to see if it was something she felt too. We talked via Facebook, which may seem impersonal at first; sometimes it’s easier to say things when you’re only looking at the relative simplicity of a computer screen, rather than the numerous complexities contained in a human face. Especially the pretty ones, which always seem to have gotten me.

“Oh, so I actually wanted to talk to you for a while now because I wanted to thank you for something,” my message read. After I sent it and the words flashed back at me, a maelstrom of fear hit me hard, and I realized what I had done. When she asked me about what I wanted to say, the storm only intensified to a new category. The panic attack unglued me. I knew I had to center myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do that moment justice. I rushed quickly, my chest heaving in and out, my cheeks and ears warm with blood, as I moved in on the kitchen. I quickly grabbed a drink of water and guzzled it down. With my minor retreat, my breath readjusted itself, but my condition still wasn’t right. I had to nail this.

Moving quickly, I came back to the computer screen. Even with the brainstorm that was still ferociously tearing up my rational thoughts, I gained the resolve to finish what I had started. I opened up a new tab on the browser and put on a song. Carpe diem. I constructed my thank you message to the tempo of the song I had on. It’s name was “Last Legs.” After I finished, I re-read it to be sure it was alright. Too much or too little expression wouldn’t be any good for that moment.

I pressed the enter key and the message was sent across the world wide web at an unimaginable speed. Fear started leaking out of my body and relief took its place, flowing in with the pleasure of accomplishment. I knew that she wasn’t the kind of girl who would become upset from the level of emotion I tried to express. Yet the fear consumed me. To this day, I have never figured out why I felt so afraid. Maybe people don’t need a reason to be afraid.

She responded. She was glad I told her, she said. I smiled, not knowing what to think. Her words added another dimension to my sense of accomplishment. The intensity of my previous fear made me feel alive at that moment. I was absolutely consumed, enveloped by the implications of the moment I decided on making. I learned, without realizing, how to seize any moment I wanted to, after having stepped, no, leaped out of my comfort zone.

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