Yesterday I drove by my high school.
Traveling a block east of the school, I saw a house that I remembered was the home of a friend who also attended the school. I think he was a year ahead of me.
Quite unexpectedly there in the car, I felt him with me. Yes, with me.
I felt his presence ... his spirit, if you will ... and I was consumed with mixed emotions.
J.Q. was an unusual kind of guy. Thin and a bit odd ... very effeminate. Certainly not attractive in the standard sense that teenage girls of my era perceived as "attractive". J.Q. had a big, toothy smile and he showed it often; this alone made him attractive to me.
He loved to dance. And boy-howdy, that J.Q. could move!
I remember my first high school post football game dance; there was J.Q. surrounded by his friends (both boys and girls) dancing, laughing and smiling ... that big, toothy infectious smile.
I wanted to be out there with them. They were not the popular kids ... but they sure knew how to have a good time.
I left my friends (who were the popular kids) standing at the perimeter of the high school gym, crossed the floor and asked J.Q. to dance with me. I was immediately pulled into their very happy group of carefree dancers and soon found myself laughing and smiling and having the best time.
It was obvious to me that they could have cared less about popularity or what was "cool" ... it was obvious to me that they sought only the chance to express their youthful hope, happiness and sense of fun by dancing on those perfectly varnished floorboards of the gym.
The music ended and a "slow dance" began. Without hesitation, J.Q. pulled me into his arms and we danced in a close bear hug.
As he held me so very close, I could feel the heat of his body. It was not the typical teenage sexual tension heat ... it was a heat so prolific that, to this day, penetrates my memories.
He held onto me ... perhaps chasing his dreams ... perhaps running from his demons.
I held onto him ... perhaps hoping that by proximity and osmosis that I could know what makes J.Q. smile.
This scene replayed itself for the next couple of years at every post football game dance I attended. J.Q. and his friends pulled me into their joy ... and I danced with carefree abandon.
A few years ago I heard that J.Q. had died. He had succumbed to HIV/AIDS.
As I type this, I choke back the tears remembering the feeling of J.Q.'s presence in my car yesterday.
I cannot help but believe that he was there to remind me ... to smile ... to dance.
[07:10AM PST] [Permalink]