The Dance

by Anthony Lindsay

It was Wednesday night, hump night in my studying routine. I was carrying six classes that quarter and three of them quizzed on Fridays. I was dog tired and wasn't in the mood for the nightly bull sessions the fraternity house offered. I was headed straight up the stairs to my room when Scot beckon me to the living room.

At that time I considered Scot a friend. It was his urging and my own desire to make connections for the future, that caused me to pledge the predominately white fraternity. As a Black student I knew my grades had to be the top ten percent if I expected to earn an internship at a top corporation; my daddy or none of his friends sat on any corporate boards. Although, the church board he did sit on was instrumental in getting me in school; it was up to me to stay in and make the right connections that would lead to the right job.

I joined five other fraternity brothers that were lounging with Scot in the living room. The topic of conversation was dates for Friday night's dance. Timothy, one of the fraternity brothers scheduled to graduate last spring, finally earned enough hours to officially get his degree. He along with ten other students in the same situation, rented the faculty banquet hall for the dance. I thought it all absurd, why celebrate failing to finish on time.

Timothy was a chronic slacker, who spent his study time guzzling beer and watching pornography tapes. His grades were far below average and he seemed totally unconcerned about them. His cavalier attitude concerning his studies, along with his perverted taste in film, made him one of my least favorite fraternity brothers. His date, it appeared for Friday night's dance, was a paid escort. This didn't surprise me; I doubted his ability to interact with an educated woman he did not pay.

He sat passing the escort's photograph around, and she was voluptuous to say the least. If breast size has anything to do with providing maternal nutrients, this woman could have easily fed every hungry child in Poland and Ethiopia. Her rates were printed on back of the photograph. What she charged for one night, was half of what the church sent me for a full quarter's allowance. I simply smiled. I was past being shocked over the dollars my fraternity brothers spent of frivolous whims.

Of the countless dances we've attended as a group, and those we've hosted, never have any fraternity brothers asked me who would be my date. I sat there listening to their list of possible conquest for Friday night. I was becoming quite bored, when Scot mentioned a different name.

One never spoken in the context they were speaking. Certainly, they spoke of her when they conversed about academic achievers and when they required tutorial help, but they never spoke of her in carnal tones. Scot sat back on the couch rubbing his crotch and spoke as if his conquest was certain. He cut his eyes over to me, trying to gage my reaction to his statement. My thoughts were masked behind my smile. This was why he delayed me. I sat a few moments before leaving, not wanting to reveal my true emotion.

Once in my room, I sat on the corner of my bed and smiled. The plan materialized in thought before I hit the top step. I was certain it would end the friendship between Scot and I, but my intervention was a must. Perhaps if he would have spoken of her with some remnants of respect, I would have felt differently. His tone was guttural. He referred to her as brown sugar.

I laid on my pillow prepared for sleep and thought of Brenda's beauty; classic high cheek bones, full lips, raised forehead and a proud African nose. No, she was not to be polluted by the likes of Scot. I, who appreciated her poise, never approached her. Not for lack of desire, alas, absence of confidence was the culprit.

Restful sleep was not to be had, doubt and insecurity tossed me all night. The smile that graced my face with the conception of the plan was replaced the next morning with a grimace of dismissal. Across the room a young red head was entangled in Scot's arms asleep. He winked one of his pale green eyes in my direction and put his index finger to his lips and nodded toward our bedroom door.

This was standard operating procedure when Scot's female endeavors slept over. I was to creep out the room without waking the girl. How he convinced them to engage in sexual intercourse with me sleeping across the room was beyond my understanding. With my clothes in tow, I left Scot with his most recent conquest.

Waking to the red head in Scot's arms reminded me of his sexual prowess. He slept with a different woman almost every week of the quarter. I had slept with none. Obviously, he knew what to say and when to say it. Were Black women prone to submission from the same words? Would his Don Juan verbiage corral Brenda into his bed? He spoke on the couch as if it was a certainty. I'd woke to no Black women in his arms as of yet, but then again he never spoke of Black women carnally.

Entering my first class of the day, statistics, and seeing Scot positioning himself behind Brenda in a lecture hall seat; I wished for a lesser adversary, one not six foot two inches tall, one who didn't drive a roaster and one who stuttered over his words in the presence of pretty females, as I did. The only woman who told me I wasn't a bad looking man was my mother, and she didn't say I was attractive, merely not bad looking. I had all but given up my plan of chivalrous damsel saving, when Scot slung the gauntlet to the floor. Sitting behind Brenda he mimicked fellatio and pointed to my proud looking Black sister. Our fates were sealed; we were engaged in battle.

I have never been ashamed of, or embarrassed by my parents professions. My father is a auto body man and my mother works in a preschool. Neither of their incomes lead me to carefree abandonment of dollars. I did not own a car. My wardrobe consisted of three pair of jeans, six plain white button down oxfords, a pair of canvas gym shoes and a pair of work boots. For church and dress I owned one brown suit and a pair of black wing tip shoes.

Brenda on the other hand was never seen in the same blouse. When a quarter ends, a limousine waits at the steps of her sorority house to tote her and several trunks to the airport. The students she dated were all B.M. O. C.s , big men on campus. Fraternity presidents, athletic heros and drivers of fine chariots. Being greatly aware of our differences in social status was yet another reason for my hesitance in approaching her.

Willing my legs forward, I walked down the steps of the lecture hall to the aisle she was sitting. I breathed in deeply and made my way to her seat.. Sitting beside her I mentally produced a list of our commonalities. We shared Black heritage, we were both computer science majors, we were both in our third year of school, we were both in the top ten percent of our class and she too used a yellow hi-lighter.

I prayed for a steady tongue throughout most of the lecture, ignoring Scot's kicks to the back of my chair. When the lecture ended, I grabbed her books from under her chair. I stood with them in my arms and asked if I could walk her to lab. Her positive reply and warm smile, almost made me lose my footing. When I looked back to Scot, he was gone.

I often enjoyed lab, but never with the intensity of that day. Brenda appeared determined in me knowing that she was quite capable in the lab. Having observed her intelligence for three years, I was not surprised. We worked well together. We thought along similar lines and her logic intrigued me.

After two hours of stammer free conversation, my confidence rose a bit. I asked her to lunch, she told me no. She was meeting a friend, one of my fraternity brothers, Scot. I asked her did she know him well. She said no, she'd begun tutoring him in Basic this quarter. Books in arm, she left me sitting at the lab table.

Divulging Scot's motive at that point would have been foolish. I needed more information about Brenda. True I'd never seen her dating a white student, but that didn't necessarily imply that she was opposed to interracial dating. And was interracial dating the problem? How could that be a problem for me, the only Black member of a predominately white fraternity? No, the problem was Scot and his intentions.

Would I have been upset if a Black student had matching intentions, and what if she liked Scot; wouldn't I come off like I was on a Black militant tirade? I asked myself if a Black student planned on compromising Brenda's virtues, would I have gone into action?

I knew what most Black students members called me behind my back. I was not a loved man on campus, but I didn't attend school to be loved. I attended to improve my position in life and so did they. If their Black conscious was so high, why didn't they attend a traditional Black college? They were playing the identical game I was, they just weren't as committed as I was to making contacts. They attended the white man's school, to earn the white man's money, the same as myself. If I was an uncle Tom, so were they.

Yes, I soundly told myself; if I heard a Black student planning what Scot was planning, and with the same disrespectful overtones, I would intervene. If Brenda was attracted to Scot, espousing his plan wouldn't benefit me. I would have appeared either jealous or a racist in her eyes. My original plan was best. I had to gain favor in her eyes. I grabbed my books and ran from the lab to catch her.

Upon entering the cafeteria, I approached her and explained that since our next class was together, it was only logical that I join her and one of my best friends for lunch. Her face was puzzled, but she smiled and agreed. When Scot entered the cafeteria and saw us eating together, he smiled half hearted at me and left. I was overjoyed. I was winning.

During the lunch several of her sorority sisters stopped by, said hello to her and hesitantly introduced themselves to me. I saw each of them give a look that asked her if their assistance was required in ridding her of my presence. She ignored each look and continued her conversation with me. When we finished lunch, I gathered her books and carried them to class for her.

Approaching the end of our Business Morality class, I realized this was the last class Brenda and I had scheduled together until Monday. My panic rose as minutes ticked off the clock. It was a simple question; I counted the words, eight in total. Will you go to the dance with me? All she could say was yes or no. The problem was what might accompany her no; laughter, utter disgust, pity, snobbery or worst, the dreaded offer of platonic friendship.

I was perspiring and I was certain my tongue was no longer steady with the confidence from lab and lunch. Brenda heard my increased breaths and asked if I was okay. I nodded my head to affirm my physical heath but mentally, I was wrecked. She pulled a monogrammed handkerchief from her small purse and handed it to me. She touched her forehead, indicating that my perspiration was showing. I tried to tell her I didn't want to stain her handkerchief but my tongue failed me. I sat there holding the handkerchief in my lap, with head hung.

She took the handkerchief from me and wiped the perspiration from my forehead. She knew I was gathering my thoughts and she was patient enough for me to bring them to words. All I wanted to do was protect this Black woman from a man with less than honorable intentions; being honest with myself, I knew my feelings went beyond protecting her. There were too many obstacles in the way is what I told myself. We couldn't date and really get to know each other. How long could she or would she ignore the looks of her sorority sisters? My plan was to stop Scot from going out with her and sullying her reputation; not to get romantically involved with her.

She was from another world I told myself; maybe later in life I would be part of it. It would only be the dance, wanting anything more would be foolish. I had to stick to the original plan. Forcing myself to keep in mind that I was protecting her, and it was only for one night; my confidence returned. Once class ended, I held her hand and asked her to give me a minute.

There was no puzzled look on her face when I asked her to the dance; her smile was full and her eyes sparkled when she told me yes. If there was a bigger man on campus that afternoon, he was unknown to me. I was without a doubt, The Man of the campus.

That night in my room I prepared for the argument Scot and I would have. I would tell him I cared seriously for Brenda and found his statements about her disturbing. I would also warn him never to speak of her that way again. I was looking forward to setting him straight; however Scot slept else where that night.

My mind was purely evil, the entire night I envisioned Scot in Brenda's room. When I could no longer stand the obsessed, jealous thought, I got up and walked to Brenda's sorority house looking for Scot's car. It wasn't there. It was parked down the street in front of another sorority house. I cursed my self for the insecurity and doubt and went home.

Doubt didn't enter my mind as I buffed my only pair of dress shoes, nor did it enter my mind when I brushed down my brown suit. It didn't show it's ugly head as Brenda and I danced the night away. It appeared after the dance, when I witnessed Scot walk Brenda outside. Doubt fussed my feet to the floor. Doubt told me ofcourse she preferred him, I was nothing compared to him.

It was Timothy's big busted escort who freed my feet. She asked me where was my girl friend, she told me it had been years since she saw two young people so in love. My feet moved my themselves.

When I approached them outside, I heard Scot telling Brenda that she was right about me. I did require a challenge to get into action he said. He told Brenda he hoped he found a woman who could read him as well as she read me, and cared about him as much as she seemed to care about me. He told her he still didn't see what she saw in me, but if I was who she wanted, he was happy for her.

Scot said I was funny looking, Brenda told him no, I had distinct features. He asked her if he should tell me , that they were friends from high-school. Brenda answered no, saying that I might feel manipulated. Scot told her she had manipulated me, by asking him to act as if he was interested in her. Brenda said no, she merely gave me the chance to be the Black man of her dreams.

I never told Brenda I heard her and Scot talking that night. Remembering the event however has given me an idea for the inscription in her fifth year anniversary ring; 'From the Black man of your Dreams, Love Thadious.' She'll love it.

The Dance by Anthony Lindsay

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