I’m moving through the glass doors of our church fitting well into a group of raucous and haphazard teenage boys and girls after another church activity. Each of us is talking at once and thinking that the others are listening. We’re well into winter now and the cold nights welcome dark earlier than they used to. As I push open the second in the set of doors leading to the outside, whatever silly sentence I’m in the middle of dies in my throat and is forgotten. The chatter of the others is a muted noise, for here in the early darkness of winter, the streetlamps of the church have turned on to light our way and are providing a magical glow to thousands of fluffy, grand snowflakes as they float gently from heaven.
This is the sort of scene that captivates my mind and always will, the sort that speaks to my heart and makes me giddy and stoic at once. In wonder, I descend the steps and stand under the street light. I turn and see Ryan with me. The others, the noisy ones, are somewhere yelling about the snow, catching it on their tongues, building it into balls and throwing it at each other. Ryan is watching me watch the snowflakes fall.
“Can you ballroom dance?” I ask, because I know that the question will be endearing to him, if a little frivolous.
“I know the box step we learned in elementary school,” he says.
“I wonder if we can still do it,” I say, and the next thing either of us knows, his hand is resting on my hip. For the first time ever, my hand is held gently in his hand. Our feet start moving as though we do this all of the time, and I feel like I’m Ginger Rogers with some lovely white evening gown all feathery at the bottom that blends with and brushes the snowy ground until it looks like I’m floating on air.
I stop counting my steps, he stops thinking about which foot goes forward and which goes back. Dancing together is too easy. We look up and we watch the snowflakes, large as coins, but light as air, simple and intricate as the notes in a composition as they grace our ballroom floor. The streetlamp is a spotlight to their dancing and to ours.
Then we look at each other. As quickly as the crystalline flakes land and disappear I seem to glimpse memories of us.
I see myself in my school classroom, opening my folder to find a note from him.
I see myself standing nervously on his doorstep holding orange juice wrapped in a bow the day I found out that he was home sick with the cold that I had just recovered from.
I see him tell me that I look like Demi Moore from the movie Ghost and insist we watch it together.
I see our friend Jerry pull me aside and say, “You like him. We can all tell.” “We’re just friends,” I answer. “Maybe for now,” Jerry insists, “but you’ll get together someday.”
I see Ryan looking at me, attracted, and telling me that I’m wearing his favorite sweatshirt. The one that makes my eyes look extra sparkly. “I’m going to have to call you ‘Sparky’,” he says, and I know whenever he calls me that thereafter, that he’s noticing my eyes.
These memories of my friend, my neighbor, my “fiancé” are falling on me like magic. They fall on my shoulders, on my hair and in my lashes and they make me see him. I see him as he is- the most brilliant thing in this wonderland. I think I even see a glimmer of him as he will be, though at 15 years old there’s no way of knowing that your soul is whispering a memory to you.
It’s only minutes that we dance this way before one of our leader yells to all of us that it’s time to get in the car. Even as we let go of each other and move to the parking lot, I’m still drifting in that evening gown of mine. The car fills up fast and there are more of us than there are seats. Ryan offers his lap, and I accept. The noisy ones are crammed around us now, but I still don’t hear a thing. Reality tries in vain to remind me of my determination to remain friends, of the awkwardness of this physical proximity if we are only friends, but just for tonight, it could no more rob the sparkle from my eyes than it could rob the snowflakes from the sky.