The Yacht Club
by Marie Norgeot
The colored Christmas lights lining the edge of the ceiling were going to keep them there all night. Their ambiance of red, blue, green and yellow was too pleasing on the wood paneled walls to allow anyone to leave before eleven. The punch was almost gone and the sugar cookies were just a plate of crumbs and a lonely paper doily, yet the linoleum dance floor was grouped with awkward couples of teenaged boys and girls pretending they were adults, pretending they knew how to slow dance, pretending they felt comfortable holding each others' sweaty palms, pretending they didn't feel awkward with the girls taller than most of the boys. Most of them pretended, anyway. Lisa, in her pink polyester evening dress, pretended she wasn't so nervous to be dancing with Dave, the cute boy with dirty blond hair and pressed white shirts that she sat next to in Biology class. She pretended in her head that Dave would ask her to go down to the docks, where the older kids went, pretended she knew what it meant to go down to the docks, pretended she wanted to, pretended she'd say "yes, of course, Dave."
Dave, he didn't want to be dancing with Lisa. Lisa was a sweet girl, but too plain for him. She wore no make-up, wore her mousy hair flat. She wasn't wearing any jewelry; she didn't fascinate him like Karen did. Karen Kennicot, dancing on the far side of the room with Charles, the golf team captain, tall and lean, always so well put together, but with a glare in his eyes that made others wonder what exactly could be behind them. Karen had beautiful blue eyes, the kind that matched Dave's tie, the kind that Dave planned would match his tie. Karen had straight black hair, but that night, on the linoleum, dancing with Charles, it was curled. Soft, bouncy curls, curls to run your fingers through, curls to untangle, to smell shampoo in, to bring to the docks. Curls to go swimming in, to declare your love in.
Charles, he probably didn't even notice Karen curled her hair. He wasn't looking at her hair. Karen's hair. Charles was wondering if Karen was wearing pantyhose, he was wondering if he could get her to go to second base. Charles glanced around. He pretended he knew how to get a girl to go to second base. "Karen, hey, you want to go down to the docks?" He blurted it out, He didn't care what she was going to say, he was going down there tonight, going down to the docks, with Karen. If he couldn't get Karen to, then he'd go dance with Barb, and ask her. Barb would do it, she been watching Charles all night over her dates' shoulder. She would do anything for him. She wished she had straight black hair, she wanted to have blue eyes, she wanted to dance on the linoleum right at that moment, with Charles' hands on her dress, around her waist, his eyes three inches above hers', so that she could feel like a woman.
That must be what it feels like to be a woman, to have a man be taller than you. To make you feel like you are always a girl even if you are just being yourself, to feel like every other girl, woman, in the room, to be their peers. Charles is a man, Barb thought. He is not, though. We know better. He is just another boy that eats mashed potatoes and steak at lunch on Thursdays because he thinks it's the most manly meal of the week. Karen hated mashed potatoes, but she still danced with Charles, maybe to make Barb jealous, maybe to make Dave jealous, maybe to make herself feel important, or perhaps in hopes that he'd ask her to dance next time, too. And they slow-danced together, at that very moment.
"Karen, hey, you want to go down to the docks?" he asked.
"Well, um, I probably shouldn't, my mom might be here soon, she said eleven.", she said it so sweetly.
"You want me to drive you home?"
"Well, my mother's probably on her way already, maybe next time."
"You want to just go for a walk?"
"Charles, that's really sweet and all, but I really shouldn't." She did not want to go anywhere but in small circles on the dance floor with Charles, and he knew it, so he left, to smoke a butt on the patio. Disappointed with the evening, Karen walked out to the road, to the bench by the Downtown Yacht Club sign to wait for her mother's station wagon headlights to sparkle the green sequins on her dress. "Well, sweethaht," the mother asked inside the car, gentle warm air blowing on their faces from the half open windows, "did Davey ask you to dance?"
"No… he danced with Lisa all night, but it's okay, it's okay, I guess."
"Lisa Peterson? From down the road? Well she's a nice girl, you know her mother is just so good at baking that banana bread, she made it for the bake sale last year? I should've asked her for the recipe but I jus' couldn't work up the nerve, she's got all those fancy new appliances, and I was jus' hopin' she wouldn't ask me is I had ‘em yet ‘cause I didn't want to tell her no. Not that I don't appreciate everything we already have… Sweethaht, you can't keep goin' to these fancy parties and needing a new dress every time… Maybe you should just ask that Davey Schweibner to come over some day after school."
"Mother, nobody calls him Davey anymore."
"Well why not, I think that's a fine name, and that's what everyone's been callin' him for sixteen years, sixteen years of a name must make it worth something, shouldn't it? And what do his teachers call him? Do they still call him Davey or are they onto Dave, too? Am I always the last one to know?"
"No, Mother, you are not always the last one to know."
"Well, which is it?"
"I told you, Mother, it's Dave."
She told her. She told her mother it was Dave and she meant it. She told her mother. It was Dave. She meant it.
In her bedroom, she ran her fingers through her curls. So much for that. That's what she thought, that's what any of us would have thought. She looked at her face in the wicker-framed mirror, the wicker framing her face, in the mirror. She looked, she looked sad. Charles asked her to go to the docks. What did that even mean. She thought of the narrow path through the marsh, the sharp grasses, the boardwalks, the muck, she wondered why she would want to go down to the docks, why is she supposed to want to go down to the docks? She had heard that a senior, Candace Davidson, went down to the docks with that boy Billy Quinn one night after a dance and she lost the silver bracelet her father had given her. Or maybe it was a ring. Yes, it was a ring. Karen wondered, why would her father give her a ring?
But she caught her reflection again, her eyes met her own eyes, and she returned to feeling sorry for herself. Sitting. Staring, waiting, for something, wishing for love, for Dave, for a fancier, better dress next time, so that Dave will really notice her. Wanting her mother to be less of a mother, more like the stories she heard about Sandra's mother. Sandra's mother let them drink beer in the house. Maybe if Karen became friends with Sandra, Dave would notice her. And then he'd want to dance with her, he'd want to touch her green dress, to touch her soft curls, to ask her
"Hey, Karen, you want to go down to the docks?"
Because that's what love is, love is dancing on the linoleum, it is losing your father's gift, it will be men who love mashed potatoes, and women who drink punch together. It will not be going to the docks, or it could be going to the docks, and it will always be that ride home with your mother, and being alone, by yourself, wishing someone could actually tell you what love is, why everyone wants to be down by the docks.
Creative Writing, Spring '08