Echo II

Echo II
January 1964

Sometimes it’s wise to do a thing
twice—like kiss that certain boy when we left the dance
at Teen Town and crossed the dim
street to the garage of the dry cleaners, where
we were not the only ones making out
in the dark, shivering in the freezing January silence.

The bulky forms of trucks, stolid and silent,
seemed disapproving as a girl’s father; but couples did their thing—
first base, mostly, a few more daring, and where
his shaking fingers brushed my chest, I felt a dance
of nerves and heat, my breath let out
in sharp puffs of white that disappeared into the dim

gloom. Back on the dance floor, the lights were dimming,
while the Beach Boys crooned, “Surfer Girl” and boys silenced
girls with kisses in the snack shop booths where
they could not be seen and could hide that something
bulging in their Levis under the tables. They might dance
a finger along a white thigh, bared by an out-

grown skirt or one that was rolled at the waistband once out-
side the house and a mother’s view. A bad girl might slide a hand under the dim
table or hook her fingers in a boy’s belt loops when they danced
closely, her fingers fanned across his denim ass. Good girls box-stepped in silence
like they had been taught after school in Social Dance Club—something
that girls like me never learned—too dark, too awkward, and coming from where

the end of town met the edge of the sticks. Not like those girls who lived where
the houses stood aloof and distant as wallflowers, or out
at the lake and country club, their sun-lightened hair gleaming like something
precious. Even in the winter. Even in the dimmest
corner of Teen Town in the basement of the YMCA, where they silently
shuffled right-back, left-over, right-together, left-forward, right-together in a dance

they were just beginning to learn: that rigid dance
of boy and girl, then man and woman, then give and give and take and take, where
good girls married lawyers or doctors and learned the moves of silence,
boxed into lock-steps that went nowhere and provided no way out.
Me? I never really learned to dance, but wedged into a corner of that dim
garage on a narrow side street in Small Town Illinois, something

moved me to kiss that boy a second time. Something that would often lead me back to where
I can’t return: the bass’s dull beat echoing up from the dim basement of the Y as we walked out
into the January night, while above us a dancing dot of light boogied across the sky in utter silence.