If there is one thing that I know for sure about myself, it’s that I’m a hell of a good dancer. Mathematically I may be a train wreck but kinetically I am gifted. When out at a bar, a club or even while ambling through the cereal aisle of the grocery store, when a good jam seeps into my ears, my body starts itching to move.
I first discovered my love for dance in middle school. One Friday night a month, the gymnasium’s basketballs and bleachers would be cleared off to the side to make room for towers of boxy, black speakers and milk crates full of the hottest records. Those Friday afternoons at school, hours before the dance, felt electric. My friends and I would be in a tizzy over whose house we were going to meet up at ahead of time to get ready. In between turns with the curling iron, we’d paint our eyelids in sparkly eye shadows, swipe shades of Pepto Bismol-esque pink blush on our cheeks and dot our lips with cherry-flavored lip smackers. After a quick dinner of pizza and soda, we’d be off to the event we had been impatiently waiting for all month.
At 7:30 pm, the gym doors would be propped open and a cluster of sounds would pour out into the usually quiet hallways. I couldn’t wait to get inside and when I did, my body would shift into hyper overdrive and I would dance until sweat was puddling in my shoes. The only time I stopped moving was when the DJ busted out the obligatory slow song block and I would have so much energy pulsing through my veins that stopping felt like a cruel and unusual punishment. I felt the same way at the end of the night when it was time to go home. My friends and I would pile into the back of one of their parents’ cars, mascara dripping, blush streaking our faces, and head home, riding high off of the thrills of the night.
Monday morning back at school was always depressing simply because we knew we had to wait another full month for the next dance. But there was one Monday in particular, when I was in seventh grade, that proved to be especially difficult for me. Just as I was stepping foot into my first period English class, my teacher pulled me aside and told me that Ms. Yasky, our Vice Principal, wanted to see me in her office immediately. My face got hot and turned tomato red. I had no idea what I had done wrong but being summoned to her office was never a good thing.
Ms. Yasky sat upright in her chair like a marine. Her dirty blond, straight hair was pulled back tightly in a ponytail which sat at attention on the back of her head. This woman was built like Jabba the Hutt and scarier than Cruella de Vil. I sat across from her and turned stone cold with fear.
With a smirk on her lips and a raised eyebrow she asked, “You enjoy yourself at the dance on Friday?”
“Yes…yeah it was…I did.”
“Okay.” (Long torturous pause.) “Dawn, you had quite a bit of energy on Friday and while dancing can be fun, it appeared that you were having a bit too much fun.”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
“Dawn, your principal and I are concerned that you are using drugs. Are you on drugs, Dawn?”
My jaw dropped and my eyes got wide. Was she seriously asking me if I was on drugs? Before I could even utter a response, she demanded that I give her my bag.
I wiggled the thick straps of my backpack off of my shoulders and slid it over to her, where she laid it flat on her desk and unzipped the large pocket. Slowly she pulled out my rainbow-covered Trapper Keeper and a pile of neon colored spiral notebooks, along with a few textbooks wrapped in brown paper bags. The covers of the books were inspected meticulously and the pages of each notebook shuffled like a deck of cards. Seriously, what in the world was she looking for? A pot leaf? A dime bag? A syringe? She reached into the bag’s front pocket and picked out a bundle of pencils, empty gum wrappers and a clear sandwich baggie full of bright pink powder. Jackpot! Or so she thought.
“What is this?” she snapped.
“It’s blush.” Oh my God, my mind started frantically swirling out of control. Does she really think that’s drugs? This can’t be happening right now.
“Are you sure?”
“Why is it in a bag like this?”
“Because I dropped the compact on the floor, it broke, and the blush cracked so I put it in a bag.”
She looked at me sideways for a minute and then asked again, “Are you sure that this is just blush?”
I wanted to scream, “Yes, I’m sure you crazy beast of a woman and if you don’t believe me, then why don’t you just stick your finger in it and taste it? I’ll take a drug test right now!” But I knew that the truth didn’t really matter; her Sherlock Holmes act was all about proving me guilty of being a coked-out seventh grader that partied too hard to Rob Base’s “It Takes Two.”
You see it was no secret in my painfully small town that my family had problems. My last name appeared on a much-too-regular basis in the local paper and it wasn’t because we were winning first place trophies at the science fair. My family’s deeds, excessive drug use and frequent arrests had made our last name synonymous with trouble and I know, as this was happening, that this is why Ms. Yasky viewed my behavior through a heavily distorted and judgmental lens. This was nothing more than a case of guilt by association and she was not going to let me win.
That day, after confiscating my hot pink powder, Ms. Yasky sent me back to class; that was the last I heard of Blushgate but it wasn’t the last run-in I had with her. A few months later, I got into a heated verbal altercation on the bus with a girl who ended up slapping me in the face. Ms. Yasky was practically foaming at the mouth waiting for me to get of the bus the next day. She pulled me aside and explained that I was being suspended. When I asked her why the girl who slapped me was getting off scott-free, she responded, “That’s none of your business.”
It still angers me when I think back to that morning in her office. But when the memory borders on becoming an obsession, I snap myself back into place by imagining that instead of asking if I was using drugs that night, she smiles and asks if I’d ever considered teaching dance lessons.