In the beginning there was nothing but hardwood and open space. The passage of time brought with it gouts of sweat and layers of wax and thousands upon thousands of awkward pubescent feet, with all the attendant scuff marks. It was on this gymnasium floor that I found true love – bruised, gasping, and caked in vomit.
Sam had never been popular in school, and was, by extension, a pariah at its monthly dance. Sam was known for many things – unruly, frayed hair, a penchant for violent outbursts in the classroom, and a splotchy perennial acne that one could only assume was the result of some dark blood-borne poverty. Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, Sam was best known for a pathetic but unshakable persistence, and it was this very quality that found me standing alone at the Spring dance, watching that unruly mop cutting back and forth through the crowd, like some dandritic shark with a nervous disorder. I took a sip from my punch and a drag from my cigarette and stood there in quiet awe at the ruthlessness of this great and terrible beast.
I saw Sam shrugged off by the cheerleaders. I saw Sam derided by preppies. I saw Sam laughed at by the chess club, and wordlessly waved away by the ESL class. I saw the special needs students cower in fear, and the parental chaperones politely decline his advances. And then, dozens of rejections later, I looked down to see Sam staring up at me. He gritted his teeth, steeled his resolve, looked past my name tag, and swallowed his pride.
"Mr. Hartley," he choked, "may I have this dance?"
"Why Sam," I stuttered, "I'd be delighted."