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Wanna Dance?

I’m at that stage of lockdown where I’m meandering down side streets of nostalgia. Remember school slow dances? The boys are all on one side, the girls on another, until someone makes that first move, and suddenly everywhere is pairing off as chaperones make sure the couples are a balloon-width apart. These dances are rites of passage, but for queer people, they can be an exquisite kind of torture. Until, that is, that magic moment, when you’re out and suddenly that slow dance can be with – wait for it – another boy! 

​Take a walk with me, to visit the Ghosts of Slow Dances past.

Location: Fort Saskatchewan, sometime in 1986
I don’t even know how I warranted an invitation to the party really. I don’t remember us being

friends, and I don’t remember it being such a big party that the whole fourth grade was invited. But there I was, in the basement of Jen’s house, and kids were dancing, and I was one of them. Her name was Kalyn, certainly one of the prettiest girls in class. Thirty-five years later, she is still, and always, my Lady in Red.

Location: Fort Saskatchewan, Oct. 31, 1990
I’m head over heels for a red-headed girl named Tara. When we’re on lunch break, I steal lilacs from nearby trees to bring to her. At the Halloween dance, I’m gonna make my move: upgrade the lilacs to a rose, coupled with a teddy bear, and a song request guaranteed to sweep her off her feet.
It doesn’t go well. I’m left on the dance floor waiting, teddy bear still in hand. 
A year and a half later though, after she’s moved away and come back for a visit, I get that dance, to that same song. Thirty years after that, the only thing I’m waiting for is COVID to end so we can grab a coffee and catch up.

Location: Lethbridge, February 17, 1996
There were probably other slow dances. Surely there’d been something at grad, my grad or hers. But even though I may have danced with Jenn, I’m pretty sure I never spun around the dance floor at Chase with Jeff. 
See, I’m out now, well, out and then back in and then back out, and even though I dumped a girl named Kimberley just before Valentine’s, it’s AFTER Valentine’s now and I’m at the Croatian Hall on the outskirts of Lethbridge. Here, the gays and lesbians gather for their monthly “Homo-Hops”. 

It’s my first time in a big group of other queer people. I know no one. But even though I’m sitting there alone, nursing my drinks, I am happy to watch.
The last song of the night is announced, and a boy comes up to me and asks me to dance. I must’ve been terrified. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the dance – details got lost in the alcohol and the sweet juiceberry kisses that followed. 
But if I close my eyes, I can breathe in and smell him still, the first man to hold me in his arms as we danced.

Location: Buddys, February 14, 2003
There was a boyfriend or two, a husband, a mistress, and they all had slow dance moments, I’m sure. But zoom ahead with me, to a place downtown where the queers all came around, a hole in the wall where you could usually find me and Aaron in a cage, screaming along to Kylie and Shania. And one Friday night, eighteen Valentine’s ago, Arrowchaser ended the night with some Lonestar.

Location: Buddys, early 2006
This was my party and it was glorious. Except for when it wasn’t. Oh sure, there were nights you could find me ending the night on the dance floor with the boyfriend, perhaps to some James Blunt, but the boyfriend ended, and the glory faded, and all that really remained was the friendships. 
Including my best friend. After the bar closed, we would stay there for hours, playing games and laughing – and getting high as fuck of course. But before the bar closed, we could always rely on Arrowchaser for one slow song to end the night on.

Location: EVO, sometime in late 2021
I don’t know his name yet, and I don’t know the song, but it’s time for those dance floors to reopen, just so they can close with a song that lets people end the night floating. Not like SMG and Sean Patrick Flanery in Simply Irresistible, mind you, but close. There’s magic in that moment and I’m ready for some magic.

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