Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
To be honest, I had been to only one school dance in my whole life. That was back in Junior High, eighth grade. In that stage of school, all dances took place during fifth and sixth period, and was more of a way to get out of class than to take a girl to a dance. Most of the boys stood around pencil fighting or finger flicking, while the girls sat on the gym bleachers wishing they were older so they could go to a real dance. The All Hallows’ Eve dance at Murray Senior High School was much different. It took place at night for one, as most teenagers had drivers licenses and could drive to the school themselves. For another, boys had noticed girls in a big way, and pencil fighting was so stupid when there was a real DJ playing records that teenagers actually liked.
When the five of us sauntered through the gym wall, we were assailed with the sound of Def Leppard’s Hysteria and I knew it was going to be a good night, if we could survive it. A bit of fortune had come our way. Earlier that evening, the news had spread that the cranes and winches they planned to use to bring the bus up malfunctioned. Mechanical difficulties, they reported. We hadn’t done anything ourselves, so maybe Sister Fate had a little mercy left for us. No matter the reason, it was being said around town that they wouldn’t be able to get things working again until tomorrow afternoon, or even later. We all drew a collective sigh on that one. We could relax and enjoy the dance. Well, as far as any ghost could anyway.
We were taking the Halloween dance seriously. It wasn’t just another to crash or place to play pranks. We dressed up in costume just like anyone else, though us five were the only ones who could see it. And we had to rely on things we had already owned. For some reason, we just couldn’t go into a costume shop and take what we wanted. If we had, everyone would have seen bodiless clothes just moving around the dance floor. Not a good thing if you were trying to blend in. But like we had done a few days ago, we learned we could ‘think’ our way into clothes we owned, or had owned at one time.
Brian took advantage of this by creating a makeshift Frankenstein costume and then allowing Kelly to apply green and black makeup to his face. For bolts in the side of his neck, she used two of her favorite lipstick holders. Apparently, you could share these items you owned with other ghosts. I made myself a mental note that if we had enough time I would write the ghost handbook to help other spirits that might come after we are long gone.
Kelly had taken an old white dress and some of Brian’s Ace bandages he used for football sprains to fashion herself as Elsa Lanchester in The Bride Of Frankenstein. An entire bottle of hairspray and temporary black face paint helped her create the bride’s frightening hairdo.
Donald took the easy way out and made himself into a punk rocker again, down to the misfits t-shirt and safety pin through the eyebrow. He had let Lori draw the anarchy symbol on his cheek, and to top things off, he spiked his hair and applied four different colors to it. You would have thought Johnny Rotten had just crashed the dance.
Lori dressed herself as a dark gypsy. With her black goth make up, she looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks, Elvira (minus the revealing cleavage), and that chick from the Lost Boys movie. In my honor, she had adorned her cheek with the Kiss logo. Of course, I’m not sure if she intended it to represent the hard rock band or a target spot for Robert Smith’s mouth.
For myself, that’s right you guessed it, I cheated and went as a long hair rocker. Jeans so tight I could hardly move in them, a spandex shirt that revealed way too much of my bare chest, and black boots with chains wrapped around them. On my head I wore a Guns and Roses headband, on my hands black leather fingerless gloves. Lori had gotten me with the makeup too, adding a bit of painted flourish to bring out my eyes and cheeks in ways that made me look like I was auditioning for a spot in Poison. Brett Michaels would have been proud, if not downright jealous.
We drifted among the costumed dancers. Many of the boys were Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Myers, with a few Klingons and Imperial Stormtroopers thrown in. Girls had selected Princess Leia, the wicked witch of the west, and She-Ra. One adventurous lass was dressed as Sheena, Queen Of the Jungle, but several chaperones made her cover up.
The DJ, a young man with mullet and beard, changed the song to Whitney Houston, and altered the tempo of the dance floor. It was easier to dance to Whitney than Leppard, so the gym floor found itself with a lot more kids dancing. Some swayed as couples, but most seemed to be single individuals hoping for someone to dance with. Because of the nature of costumes as disguises it seemed our peers were braver than usual and actually approached each other to ask for a dance. Or perhaps it was the newly realized notion that life was short and could be taken away at any time that caused everyone to take a few extra chances.
I looked at my favorite companion. I had to ask myself how in the world I had missed her all this time. How did she move through high school without me taking real notice of her? She was beautiful. Not just pretty like other girls, but strikingly beautiful. She’d hidden it all under her goth attitude an make up, but really when it came down to it, she put others to shame. Kelly may have been the reigning queen of the high school, but Lori was like the gorgeous princess hiding her true self from the wicked stepmother.
“What are you staring at?”
Her voice brought me out of my thoughts with an embarrassed flush. “Um, no reason. Just glad to be here.”
She smiled. “Me too. I don’t think I’ve really been envious of anyone, but I’m feeling kind of jealous now.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Jealous? How?”
“They get to enjoy this next year. We wont be here.” I thought I saw a glistening tear at the edge of her eye. “I can’t believe how I never appreciated any of this. How I just came to school because I had to.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. But hey, we don’t have to miss it just yet. We’re here now. At the All Hallows Eve Dance. Together.” I took a deep breath. A thousand butterflies invaded my stomach. Under the gym lights, she looked so beautiful I wanted to cry and just take…
“Look at them silly asses,” Lori said, pointing out on the dance floor, and making the butterflies scatter as if hiding from a collector’s net.
Brian and Kelly were in the middle of everyone, Frankenstein and his Bride doing a hilarious variation of the twist. While it threatened to become dirty dancing, it was quite comical as they were exaggerating every move. You would think they believed all eyes were on them and that they were still the king and queen of the ball. Perhaps they were.
“I’m going to go to the punch table,” she said. “See if I can sneak a glass without being noticed. You want anything?”
I hesitated. There was, but I couldn’t speak it. “No, I’m alright, “ I said.
She flashed a brief smile. “Okay. Be right back.”
I watched her walk over to the refreshment corner, careful to avoid as many people as she could. A few passed through her, but none had the effect that had overcome me at Brian’s house. Her gypsy dress swayed around her, her bare feet gliding across the polished floor. I couldn’t take my eyes away from how she moved with a slight swish of her dark hair as she lightly bounced up to the table. She reached for a glass of punch, and I turned my head away to see Donald out on the dance floor now acting like a fool. No, that wasn’t right. I was the only fool here.
A new song began. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. I’ve Had The Time Of My Life. I looked to heaven as if to utter a prayer, and then went on the move. I dodged around dancers, shifting from foot to foot, graceful and fluid, as if I were Johnny Castle in the movie. I reached the table where Lori was standing. She had spotted me swaying towards her across the floor and was laughing at my antics. I bounded up to her and held out my hand with the biggest, bravest grin I could muster.
“Nobody puts baby in the corner,“ I drawled. “Not even herself.”
We both stood there a moment, me with my hand held out, and her savoring the moment. Finally she smiled and took my hand, allowing me to pull her out on the dance floor. We tried our best to emulate the signature moves from Dirty Dancing, but it was no use. I was no Patrick Swayze, and thank the stars she wasn’t a Jennifer Grey. But we were Christopher and Lori, having fun under the gym lights, and dancing the best we could, not caring how goofy our attempts to be footloose and fancy free might look. Only three other people in the whole place could see us anyway. Lori laughed as I spun her, one hand holding hers straight out from her, and the other lightly on her hip. Then someone scratched the record.
It was a loud, scraping sound, like long nails on a chalkboard, as the stylus needle was drawn across the black vinyl of the record, interrupting the whole mood. We turned our head to the DJ table and found him looking at his twin turntables in complete confusion. A hush fell over the room, except for a solitary snicker. Donald stood beside the DJ with a finger to his lips, grinning foolishly. Then the DJ’s second turntable started to spin a new song.
“Oh My God, “ Lori whispered, with an exasperated sigh. It was Whitesnake. The song, ‘Is This Love?’ began to play and she looked up into my face. “Well, it looks like you get your wish after all.”
“I don’t see a disco ball,” I replied.
“You can’t have everything. This is 87, not 79.”
I smiled. I did have everything. I pulled her close to me, and folded up into my arms easily. She lay her head against my shoulder as I began to sway with her in time to the power ballad. If you’d asked me days ago if I would be dancing with Lori O’Donnell in my arms to Whitesnake under the gym’s bright spotlights I would have accused of messing in the super weed, but tonight it was just as natural as breathing. The slow yet steady bass and drums of the song propelled us in slow circles to new dizzying heights of existence. We were truly ghosts now, because for me nothing else existed but the girl in my arms. And as the verse moved into the chorus, with the singer pondering the notion whether it’s love or a dream, Lori lifted her head to me and I kissed her. Her lips met mine softly, as if they had always belonged there, pressed against mine and breathing in my kiss. Her arms slipped around my neck, mine around her waist, and we danced so close we could have been one entity. And in this embrace, her hips swaying gently against mine, her mouth partially open on my own, I no longer felt like me. Now I was us, and nothing, not even the reaper himself could drag me away from this girl, this song, this dream. And no matter that the song ended four minutes later. We swayed, and turned, moving like forever lovers that none could separate through three more songs, our lips never once leaving the other.