Nineteen years and four days ago, a sandy-haired boy who was an inch shorter than me asked me for my very first dance.
The Lighthouse was the place to be in 1988 when you were fourteen years old. The basement of the United Methodist Church downtown New Philadelphia Ohio was a far cry from the "night scene" in most areas, but, back then, there wasn't a Starbucks or anything else much to do that wasn't illegal. Mist's and my parents were all too eager to drive us over most Friday nights just to know that we weren't one of the kids partying out on the train tressels.
We rivaled the "night scene" in any city though with the lines that stretched around the building. By '88, it was a crap shoot each weekend just to see if you could get in the door. Silly old fire department had decided that only so many of us were safely allowed in, so they counted heads as we paid our three bucks and got our hands stamped. If you were in the back of that line, you had to start making some other plans quick because you were going to get turned away.
Once you made it in, that basement was nothing less than any of us hickville teens ever imagined swank big-city night clubs to be. People milled everywhere in their best outfits. Guys hung out around the foosball tables anticipating their chance to get in a game and scouting the girls coming out of the bathroom. And the girls congregated in the bathroom waiting for the right guy to be at the foosball games before making their entrance. Lights pulsed in the main room through the fog to songs like Push It and Pump Up the Volume. Christian music wasn't cool yet, and I guarantee that the first time they would have tried to pawn Carmen or Michael W. Smith on us on a Friday night, we would have been out the door. They knew that, too, so they semi-screened the music selections. Fight for your Right to Party would make the cut, but a request for Brass Monkeys always got a stern no-way.
About three times a night, there would be a slow song break. Guys would dutifully pause from their games to find their girlfriends, and anyone there un-hooked would start holding their breath waiting to see if someone would ask them for a dance. Mistey always had a dance-- two or three of them would try to get there first, and I would always shoo her out as I tried to pretend like writing on the heel of my Chucks was much more interesting to me than any guy anyway.
This time was different-- during the second set of slow songs, this boy walked across the room and asked if I would like to dance.
Now, reminisce with me here, I'm fourteen years old at this point. Definitely not the savvy girly girl my best friend Mistey was, but not a total tomboy either. I was stuck somewhere in the middle-- more like poor, clueless frumpy girl. The only makeup that had ever touched my face at this point in my life was put there by Mist, and my wardrobe was total Goodwill chic when Goodwill and chic were two words that NEVER belonged together. I had been to a dance at school with a date, and I had had a real life boyfriend (we won't discuss his current sexual preference, ok?) for a whole three months. (Never mind the fact that he went to Phila while I went to Indian Valley North, and our whole relationship revolved around phone calls, one kiss, and a whole bunch of teddy bears that he always brought to my house before I got off the bus to actually see him.) I had even had a date once (i.e. two rides at the county fair together just because he was the friend of the guy who liked Mistey at the time.)
So, this boy walking across the room and asking me to dance was big stuff. Lifelong memory kind of moment.
You're my a-a-a-angel...
I remember his singing the words along with Steven Tyler. I wanted him to be singing it to me like we were a real couple or something, this boy I had just met who had asked me to dance. I didn't even know his name at this point. I only knew that as we moved to the music with his hands cupped together behind my waist and the song lyrics in my ear that this was going to be one of those moments that I would tell my own daughter about one day.
I knew he wasn't singing the words to me, and that self-depricating voice in my head started mocking me for even wishing it. How could he be singing to me? I wasn't his angel. He didn't even know me. He probably lost a bet with his buddies, and they were all over at the snack table getting a good chuckle at his expense. As the song drew to a close, I became terrified that maybe he would walk away in the middle of the slow-song segment. Just run back to the snack table with his buds and leave me there in the middle of the dance floor with all these other couples dancing around me.
Thankfully, he didn't. I don't even remember what the other two songs were, but we danced right through them without a word. As the segway into the upbeat song started and we withdrew from each other's arms, he smiled and said, "Maybe I'll see you next week." Then he walked away.
Nineteen years ago, on April 26-- four days after I learned his name from my best friend as he walked away from me on the dance floor-- that boy, Scott Devore, died after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle.
Every year, his family puts his picture in the local paper Times-Reporter on the day of his death, and every year, I look on that cherubic face and daydream about first dances in smoky church basements and the innocence we all lost that spring afternoon when he left us.
Until we dance again, Scott...