Rite of Passage
“You’re mine,” the singer croons, “and we belong together.” The beat is slow and easy. I hope my clumsy body can find the rhythm. My arms are too long, my feet too big. I can’t believe she’s actually dancing with me.
We’re playing an oldie but goodie on the jukebox. Ritchie Valens. “He was too young to die,” she sobs. It’s been six years since that plane crash – why get so shook up about it now? “He was only seventeen,” she adds, “just like me.” I pull her closer, burying my face in her hair. So soft, so clean. “My Breck Girl,” I whisper, forgetting her name. We’ve had classes together all four years of high school, but don’t really know each other.
She was two seats ahead of me in typing class the day the teacher left suddenly, then came back with tears streaming down her face. “The President’s been shot,” she told us. I kept on blindly typing, until someone lifted my hands from the keys and gently led me out of the room. I remember pictures of a pink suit splattered with blood, getting out of school for a week, mom crying nonstop. That school year passed in a daze.
Now, two years later, jungles and burning villages with strange sounding names fill the tv screen every night. After the evening news, dad shows me his WW2 medals. He doesn’t seem proud. He seems torn up. “War is a living hell, Charlie,” he tells me.
My Breck Girl sings me back to the present. “Yes, we belong together, for all eternity.”
“Cathy!” I blurt out. “Will you marry me?”
She keeps on singing. I must have only thought the question. But at least I remembered her name. The song ends, and we drop another dime into the jukebox. The Four Tops.
“Sugar pie, honey bunch,” I sing, shutting out everything except our warm young bodies gliding across the floor. I reach into my jacket pocket, knowing that the unopened letter with its dreadful summons is waiting. It will keep. For now, I just want to dance.