#439: Sam Cooke, "Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963" (1985)

The middle school dance is full of velvet and glitter and white kids dancing to soul music.

The middle school dance is a kaleidoscope of weeping under the water fountain.

The middle school dance is a school of fish that are getting their friends to get his friends to ask him to dance.

The middle school dance is a faith.

The middle school dance is a pin in the wrist, a bone corsage.

The middle school dance is from 4-8 pm.

The middle school dance is a drag.

The middle school dance is a fold in the very fabric of time on the ample rump of the middle school’s front office secretary, Pamela Hadler.

The middle school dance is framed by chaperones.

The middle school dance is, contrary to popular depiction, completely punchless.

At the middle school dance cans of warm soda and travel-sized bags of chips are for sale for $1 to benefit the cheer squad’s newest set of uniforms.

The middle school dance is on its tiptoes, peering into the backyard of the high school, where it is still only afternoon and the marching band and the football team vie for practice field space as in cars high schoolers vie for each others’ skin under their thin jackets.

The middle school dance shivers.

The middle school dance is so ready.

  Illustration by Annie Mountcastle

Illustration by Annie Mountcastle

The middle school dance walks across the practice field to the high school on Mondays and Wednesdays for Calculus.

The middle school dance is weeping in the bathroom stall while its girlfriends whisper through the thin metal It’s okay, I had a hamster who killed himself, too.

The middle school dance won best dancer in the whole entire 7th grade for twisting the night away. It didn’t even know it was entered in the competition.

Someone had entered the middle school dance as a joke.

The middle school dance is a belly digesting.

The middle school dance is a crossover hit.

The middle school dance knows whose parents are smokers and whose are late and whose are separated and asking around about if Stephanie McMannis’s recently widowed mother is ready to “get back out there.”

Whether or not it is dark at the end of the middle school dance depends on the season.

The middle school dance folds up easily to transform back into a gym.

Therefore the middle school dance has a climbing rope but no one quite knows where it comes from, if it descends from somewhere or if someone makes his way to the rafters and ties it in place.

The middle school dance is highly legal, in fact, encouraged, as it helps keep kids who like to dance off the streets.

The middle school dance is growing older as it pulses. Sometimes it dares to think of itself as a cabin by the sea.

—Laura Eve Engel