The Dance
Darlene P. Campos

“Geez Nimo, quit holding up the line again,” John David told me at lunch. “Every time you look at a girl, you stop moving.”

“She’s so cute,” I said and grabbed a slice of pizza from the counter. Michelle Iron Horse had almond shaped eyes with lashes that looked like they were pointing at me. She was in 7th grade and I was in 8th, but we had Health class together. Every time Mr. Perkins talked about ‘in-tim-acy,’ I would glance over at Michelle and wink.              

“She’s an idiot, she’s in my art class and she doesn’t know the difference between a pen and a pencil,” John David said as we walked to our table. “Watch, once we get to high school, she’s gonna drop out.”              

“But she could get her GED,” I said.              

“Nimo, the only thing she’s gonna get is an STD,” John David said and he seemed right about that. From what I heard around Wolf Creek School, Michelle saw more hot dogs than the ketchup bottle at the cafeteria condiment booth.              

“Why don’t you go over there and tell her you like her?” John David said when we were at our usual table. We sat at ‘Geek Zone,’ the table with all the kids in advanced classes. Kids from the other tables usually threw food at us, especially the one Michelle sat at, which John David called ‘Dumbass Domination.’

“She’d freak out,” I said.              

“C’mon, Nimo, don’t be scared,” John David said. “Maybe she does like you, can’t hurt to ask. And, you’d quit holding up the line.”              

“You do it for me,” I said, so he got up and walked over to Dumbass Domination. John David whispered into Michelle’s ear and then she looked right at me and said, “You’re fat!” loud enough for the whole cafeteria to hear.              

“I can lose weight and not be fat! You’re a bitch and you can’t lose that!” I shouted back at her. Thanks to me, I got myself and John David Saturday detention. Principal Henderson wanted to suspend us for a week, but my parents came to our rescue by having a meeting with him.              

“We can’t have Geronimo cussing at other students like that,” Principal Henderson told my parents. “He’s a straight A student, he should know better.”              

“He does know better, if he was stupid, he wouldn’t have called Michelle Iron Horse a bitch in the first place,” Ate said.  

“Jay Eagle, stop being ridiculous. Nimo, that wasn’t a nice thing to say,” Ina said. She leaned over to me and whispered, “That bitch had it coming. Good job, son.” Luckily, me and John David got off the hook, but Principal Henderson said if we screwed up again, he wouldn’t let us go to the Fall Dance.

“Can you believe that? He wants to ban us from the dance for calling a bitch a bitch?” John David said during our bike ride home from detention. “If he bans us, I’m gonna break in and pour punch on him like in that horror movie with the weird girl.”

“He said if we mess up again and we won’t,” I said. “I wanna see if I can take Emily Jumping Bull on a date.”              

“What is it with you and girls?” John David asked. “Girls aren’t all that, especially the girls at our school. Half of them are pregnant and the other half will be pregnant by summer.”              

“Aw c’mon, I bet there’s a couple girls you like,” I said, but I really didn’t know. John David never talked to me about his crushes and he was my best friend since we were in lower elementary school. Even friends I wasn’t that close to would tell me who they had their eyes on. I started noticing girls on our first day of 6th grade and I couldn’t understand why John David hadn’t by now. After dinner that day, I went to the porch to talk to Ate about it. He was carving a beaver figure and when I told him about John David, he didn’t seem too surprised.              

“Son, have you seen the girls who go to your school?” Ate said.              

“They’re not that ugly, Ate,” I said, but they weren’t good looking either. The prettiest girl I ever saw was Cindy Blackbird. I met her at the Los Angeles Pow Wow in 7th grade. She was Apache and since my Lakota parents named me Geronimo, I took it as a sign. Since she lived too far from Pine Ridge, I could only talk to her on the phone.              

“Ina went to my school and you don’t think she’s ugly, right?” I asked.              

“Nimo, your ina is so hot that if the stove quit working, we could throw the raw food on her face,” he said as he smoothed the beaver’s tail. “Anyway, don’t worry about JD. You need to worry about controlling those teepees you keep building in your pants.”

The week before the Fall Dance, I tried to get myself a date. I asked Emily Jumping Bull first and she said she already had one. When I asked who it was, she told me John David Gutierrez. I found John David at his locker in the hallway and told him I was going to kill him.

“I’m not going with her,” he said.

“Why would she say that then?” I asked. I had a fist forming, ready to punch him.              

“Because she’s a lying piece of crap,” John David said. “I’m going to the dance, but I’m not going with a date.” I figured Emily thought John David was handsome, like every girl at school. John David is half Lakota and half Costa Rican and girls liked that he was different. He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Pine Ridge with his ina after his parents split up. He had the same black hair and brown eyes we all had, but he was light skinned and spoke Spanish with an accent the girls loved. John David had been teaching me Spanish for a while, but I hadn’t mastered the accent just yet.              

“Do you wanna double date then?” I said.              

“No, I don’t wanna double date, I don’t even wanna single date,” John David said.                

“So there’s no girl you wanna dance with?” I asked.              

“I can dance by myself, Nimo, people do it all the time,” he told me, but I found everything a little suspicious. We were about to turn 14 and I was still the only one who thought about making out 24/7. I didn’t know if John David was a late bloomer or if I was a horny asshole.              

“Try Greta Blue Feather,” he said. “Guys think she’s too nerdy.”              

So at lunch time, I sat near Greta’s spot at Geek Zone and asked her out. She laughed right in my face and called me fat. I was about to do a repeat of the Michelle Iron Horse incident, but I really wanted to go to the Fall Dance with a date. I thought if I couldn’t get at least one girl to like me in junior high, I was doomed for high school.              

“Face it, Nimo, your date is JD,” Greta said and I rolled my eyes. Girls hated me and John David hated girls. Both of us were screwed for dates.              

“Are you gonna take me out to dinner first, dance date?” John David asked me with a grin. I sighed and went to ask Janet Two Bulls at the table across from us. She said I was fat too. Then I asked her best friend, Hannah Tatanka. She almost fell off her seat from laughing.              

“All right, I give up,” I said when I sat back down next to John David.              

“Me too,” he said.              

“What are you talking about? You can have any girl in this cafeteria,” I said.              

“So?” he shrugged. “That doesn’t mean anything to me.”  

 

On the night of the Fall Dance, Ate and Ina dropped me off at the front of Wolf Creek School. I was about to take off into the gym, but they stopped me so they could take 50 pictures of me.              

“Just one more for your unci, okay? She’ll love seeing you in a suit and tie,” Ina said and made me smile for another picture. “You are so cute, Nimo.”              

“If I’m cute, how come I don’t have a date?” I said.              

“Be tough, son. When you was born, you didn’t even cry, you yawned. That’s why Ina and me named you Geronimo,” Ate said.              

“Geronimo’s Apache name was Goyathlay and it means he who yawns, but we thought Geronimo sounded better,” Ina said.              

“Ate, Ina, you’ve told me this story a billion times,” I said.  

“Take care, Nimo,” Ate said and patted me on my back. “If you wanna leave early, I’ll come get you.”

When I went inside the gym, I saw John David by the punch bowl, staring at the ladle. I didn’t want him to pull a reenactment of that horror movie with the weird girl, so I asked him if something was up.              

“Yeah,” he said. “Something is really wrong.”              

“What?” I asked. He told me he wasn’t sure if he could talk about it, so we stood by the punch bowl, talking smack about everyone who passed by us for a long time. Music we liked started playing, but since we didn’t have anyone to dance with, we didn’t bother moving. Soon, it was the end of the night and prizes were about to be given out.              

“Cutest couple that should be together but aren’t,” Mr. Henderson said on the gym stage. “John David Gutierrez and Emily Jumping Bull!” John David was grabbed by a crowd of people and dragged onto the stage. I was clapping for him, but he didn’t seem too happy about it.              

“Help me,” he mouthed to me in Spanish, but I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just pry him off the stage in front of the whole gym.              

“Aren’t you two adorable? Give Emily a kiss on the cheek, John David. She’s gorgeous, don’t you think so?” Principal Henderson said. He handed the microphone to John David and he answered with one word: No. Everyone in the gym gasped and started booing him and Principal Henderson said he’d get Saturday detention for a month if he didn’t apologize.              

“I don’t think she’s ugly,” John David said, but it didn’t help much since Emily was in tears. “It’s just, I don’t think she’s pretty.”              

“Gutierrez, you say you’re sorry this instant,” Principal Henderson said. John David looked at me and I saw a tear slide down his right cheek. He took the microphone from Principal Henderson and cleared his throat.              

“All right, you all really wanna know why I don’t think she’s pretty? I’m gay!” John David shouted. Everyone erupted in laughs, but when they saw John David was serious, they went back to booing him. They called him gross, pervert, sissy, and words I don’t want to think about. Even Principal Henderson joined in and called John David a waste of a handsome young man. So I grabbed the punch bowl, ran up to the stage, and poured what was left on Principal Henderson.              

“Thunderclap! Gutierrez! Get over here now!” Principal Henderson yelled, but me and John David ran out of the gym and we didn’t stop running until we got to Big Bat’s Convenience Store down the street.              

“I’ll call my ate to come get us,” I panted.                

“Wait, wait, wait,” John David said. “Are we still friends?”              

“Hell yeah, why wouldn’t we be?” I told him.             

“Yeah, but I’m gay and I thought you wouldn’t wanna, you know, be my friend anymore,” he admitted. “Anything you wanna tell me?”              

“You wanna order some food while we wait for my ate?” I asked. “I could use a burger. I’m hungry from all that running.”

Darlene P. Campos

is an MFA candidate at UT-El Paso's Creative Writing Program. In 2013, she won the Glass Mountain magazine contest for prose and was awarded the Sylvan N. Karchmer Fiction Prize. Her work has been published over 20 times. She is a writer for Kesta Happening DC newspaper and a fiction judge for Yeah Write Review. Her website is now available at www.darlenepcampos.com

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