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Chapter 43: Celeste... another woman who pushed me around
Chapter 44: Katie... the woman of my dreams

Chapter 45: Melody Lane... not my finest hour




CHAPTER forty-three: 
Written by Rick Archer




It was Monday, March 3.  I had not spoken to Mark since the disastrous Saturday night at the Farmhouse, but I had been worried.

I saw Mark in the hallway that morning.  All it took was one look to realize things had not worked out.  Mark was pale as a ghost.  How he made it to the office in this condition was beyond me.  It must have taken considerable effort.  When Mark looked up and saw me, he pointed at his office.  I followed him to learn the fate of the Love Triangle. 

I wanted to tell Mark my story about Manimal, but changed my mind when I saw how upset he was.  Mark needed me a lot more than I needed him.

Sad to say, Mark did lose both Sean and Mariah.  Over profuse tears, Mark said he couldn't take the neverending drama any more.  Mark had decided to move out of the house for a while.  His friend Randy said Mark could come stay with him. 

As I listened, I wished very much that I could say something that would help Mark in the same way he had once helped me, but this situation was beyond saving.  I had warned Mark that his lifestyle of casual sex had blinded him to the dangers of mixing sexual partners when actual feelings are involved.  However, right now I didn't see any point in reminding him of my warning.  So I just let him talk.  It hurt me no end to see my hero fall from grace. 


Mark was full of grief.  He kept shaking his head in bewilderment. 

"I don't know what I am going to do, Rick.  I just lost the two most important people in the world.  Everything has gone up in smoke. Right now I can't bear to see anyone from the group.  The group is going to have to find a new leader.  Those days are over.  No more Casa Mark and no more Farmhouse.  I will never return to the Farmhouse.  I never want to see that place again as long as I live."

I frowned when Mark said that.  No more Farmhouse for me either. 

Mark's plight reminded me of Icarus, the boy who plummeted to the Aegean Sea when the Sun melted the wax that kept his wings together.  No matter how much we think we know, sometimes we get bold and overconfident and reach for the sun.  That is when we get burned. 

My friend's life was ruined by his arrogant belief that he could overcome human nature.  Jealousy is a very powerful emotion. 

Mark cried his eyes out for about half an hour while I just watched.  I had nothing to say to make the situation better.  Nonetheless, I think Mark appreciated my presence.  Eventually he recovered enough to flash a wan smile in my direction.  I knew what that smile meant... life must go on. 

I went over and gave him a big hug, then went back to my office.


Strangely enough, this was the last time Mark and I talked at any length about the demise of the Love Triangle.  Things were never the same.  In the days that followed, I came to realize Mark preferred not to talk about what had happened.  He was a haunted guy who kept a wall around him.  The sparkle in his eyes was gone.  It was like the light inside had flickered out.  

Our talks became superficial.   Seeing me reminded Mark too much of his shattered life.   Consequently, from this point on, my visits tapered off.  I was hurt by Mark's withdrawal.  Maybe it was his pride.  Why did our friendship have to end just because his Triangle disintegrated?  Whatever, this cooling of our relationship was his choice.  If this is how Mark wanted it, I would abide by his decision.

Three months after the Farmhouse incident, Mark met a guy named Steve who helped him put his life back together.  Not long after that, Steve got a job offer in New York, so the two of them moved to the Big Apple in August.  I gave Mark a big hug on his last day at work.  In that moment, Mark let his guard down one last time.  We both had tears in our eyes.  I knew moving to a new city was what he wanted, but I would still miss him. 

I ran into Mark a few years later at the house of a mutual friend here in Houston.  Mark and Steve were in town for a visit.  I was pleased to see the two of them were still together.  Sad to say, the spark that he and I once had was missing that night.  We did not share a single word in private.  I didn't mind.  As long as Mark was happy, that was all that mattered to me. 

It was incredible to think Mark and I had only known each other for five months when things fell apart.  It felt like an eternity had passed in those five months.  The time Mark and I had spent together had been special for me.  I had learned so much from my friend.  There is a Hindu saying that the Teacher might not arrive in a form the student expects.  That holds true in Mark's case. 

I would have never guessed the Teacher who turned my life around would be an effeminate gay man half my size.  Indeed, Mark had played one of the most significant roles in my entire life.  He was my guide during the early stages of my Dance Path.  My only regret is that I was unable to help him in his crisis like he had helped me in mine.  Perhaps in our next lifetime, I will be able to return the favor. 

I never did tell Mark about Manimal.  The few times we spoke after the incident, Mark wasn't in the mood to hear my problems.  As always when coincidence is involved, I had to wonder if Fate had played a role.  The twin disasters at the Farmhouse were definitely on the eerie side.  It was ironic how a major chapter in both our lives had come to a simultaneous halt at the same place on the same night. 

From my point of view, the timing between my lucky break at the Rice volleyball game, the rupture of Mark's Triangle, and the appearance of Manimal one night later was no accident.  Knowing my tendency to procrastinate, the Universe slammed the door shut on my visit to another world the same way it had slammed the door on Colorado State.  There would be no looking back.

The timing was so perfect that it seemed like it was part of the Plan.  Everything was so perfectly synchronized that I could not help but suspect those Hidden Hands were busy manipulating my life again.  Manimal's attack was Supernatural Event #26, Four Star Rating.




After speaking with Mark, I returned to my office.  I sat down at my desk and reviewed the wild sequence of events. 

I was certain I had been involved in a Fated Event.  As I thought about how strange Manimal's attack had been, I suddenly realized there was a feature to Saturday night that I had overlooked.  This attack would have never happened if Mark, Lucy, Jill, and Mark's friends had been there.  It was their unexpected absence that had given Manimal his opening.  Although I am sure their absence had a Realistic explanation, it sure seemed odd that I was attacked the one time they were not around. 

I never did find out where everyone had been that night.  Mark wasn't willing to talk about it and I did not have Lucy or Jill's phone number.  Thanks to Manimal and the rupture of the Love Triangle, I had lost my three best friends in one stunning blow. 

With perfect surgical precision, my entire Gay Era had been cauterized into total oblivion.  It was almost like it had never happened.

Now I wondered what was next for me.  My mind immediately jumped to Celeste.  Celeste was the young woman who had invited me to play volleyball on Friday afternoon.  I had noticed Celeste smiling at me several times and made sure to smile back.  After the volleyball game, my new teammates invited me to join them for a beer.  We walked over to a campus pub known as Valhalla, the name for the lounge used exclusively by the Rice graduate students. 

Over several glasses of beer, Celeste and I became instant friends.  Celeste wasted no time exchanging phone numbers so she could contact me when the volleyball league started in a few weeks.  I was reminded of the time Rachel had asked to exchange phone numbers.  Very interesting.  I had a hunch Celeste knew what she was doing.  This simple gesture increased my confidence dramatically.

As Celeste and I chatted up a storm, it crossed my mind that my ability to talk to pretty girls had been magically restored.  I beamed with pride.  My confidence around women had finally returned.  Now that I could dance, suddenly I could talk to girls again.  Now isn't that interesting?  I swear I felt like a curse had been lifted.  It was nothing short of amazing how the Dancing idea from The Courtesan had restored my feelings of attractiveness.  At the moment, my Rejection Phobia was nowhere to be seen. 

If I didn't know better, The Courtesan was part of the Plan.  Look what that book had done for me.  If it was true that I had embarked on a Dance Path, then I needed to continue it in some way.  Unfortunately, with the Love Triangle ruptured and any further visits to the Farmhouse out of the question, my Dance Project seemed stalled out.  Where would I go dancing next Saturday night?   I definitely didn't want to stop dancing.  Not after all the work I had put in.  What should I do?

On a whim, I picked up the phone and called Celeste to ask her to go dancing with me on Thursday. 

Celeste didn't hesitate.  "Oh sure!  This sounds exciting!  I love to dance."

I got directions to her apartment and that was that.  I smiled.  Asking Celeste out had been ridiculously easy.  In fact, it had been so easy, the phone call played out just like one of my Magic Mirror fantasies.  That is when one of those eerie feelings came over me.  On the spot I had one of those "Life is but a dream and we are just the actors" kind of moments. 

Was I acting out some sort of Destiny?  I shrugged.  It sure felt like it, but how would I know?  It isn't like the Universe rings a little bell every time I make an accurate guess.  However, from either point of view, Realistic or Mystic, there could be no denying the events of the last few months were unusual to say the least.  The River Oaks Seven had been perfect.  Disco Dave had been perfect.  Mark had been perfect.  Gloria had been perfect.  Donna's Intervention had been perfect.  Juicy and Lucy at Casa Mark had been perfect. 

The Farmhouse had been perfect.  Even Manimal had been perfect!!  I was convinced that Manimal's attack was all part of the Plan.


The following Thursday night, I was excited as I drove to Celeste's apartment.  The time had come to see if I could finally use the dance floor as my Stage.  That had been the original plan all along.  I took Celeste to the Second Office Club, a dance club near Rice.  I had visited this place twice before, but it had been a waste of time because I had no courage to ask a girl to dance. 

Things were different now.  The moment I ventured onto the dance floor, I felt right at home.  Only five days had passed since the traumatic incidents with Mark and Manimal, but the Farmhouse never even entered my mind.  My days as the Stranger in a Strange Land were over.  I had been a visitor in another culture, but now I was back with my own kind. 

Celeste and I had a great time.  I don't think we left the dance floor once.  My night at the Second Office Club was a breakthrough.  Celeste became the first attractive woman to view my newfound dance skills.  Celeste was all smiles.  In fact, Celeste said I was the best dancer she had ever dated.  That was exactly what I wanted to hear.  At least some of the Phobia was gone, maybe all of it.  Now that I had my confidence back, I was no longer afraid to have a pretty girl watch me dance. 

I made an interesting discovery that night.  Back at the Farmhouse, I had become an above-average dancer.  But there were plenty of men at the Farmhouse who were way ahead of me.  They were unbelievable dancers who possessed the same natural ability as Disco Dave.  I was no match for these guys.  It was sort of like 'height' in basketball.  You either have it or you don't.  Although constant practice can take a person pretty far, I lacked the natural talent to be the best dancer.

However, things were much different here at the Second Office Club.  Now that I was back in my own world, I had no peer.  Compared to these clumsy, rhythmically-challenged white guys, I was a whirling dervish.  I was pleased to note I was the best dancer in the club. 

Since my initial Colorado State downfall in November 1973, it had taken me 16 painful months to push my Rock of Sisyphus back up the mountain.   The misery of Colorado State was finally behind me.  Tonight I had reached the Pinnacle.  I was not only ready to date again, I was certain my new dance skills would play a major role in my future.

I was ready to put Vanessa's evil spell to rest.  Vanessa had done me a favor by choosing Kenny over me.  I was grateful not to be stuck with that unfaithful wretch for the rest of my life. 


As a footnote to this story, I went ahead and played on the Rice Chemistry Department Intramural team throughout the spring.  When I first met my teammates, I had assumed the Chemistry Department had no chance.  However, once we started playing the other teams, I discovered that the other graduate students at Rice were equally mediocre. 

Why did I get the feeling that intelligence and interest in sports was negatively correlated here at Rice?  In their defense, I suppose the graduate students were far too busy with studies and research to actually care about volleyball.  To them, it was recreation.  As for me, let's just say The Beast came to play.

The upshot of this odd development was that I was the only person in the entire league with any serious volleyball skills.  Thanks to an imposter named 'Fred', the Chemistry Department would go on to win the Rice graduate division volleyball championship.  Even better, Fred was placed on the 'All Tournament' team.  I always wondered if the Chemistry students ever told Fred the service he had played in their success.

As for me, I learned an interesting lesson.

In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King.  

In the Land of the Nerd, the one-eyed Morlock is King.




Following my triumphant night at the Second Office Club, I suffered a serious let-down in regards to the Dance Project.  The whole point of the Dance Project was to get a girlfriend.  Now that I had Celeste, I had no further need for dancing.  I had my dance skills under my belt, I was rid of the River Oaks Seven, my nervous breakdown was over, I had my confidence back, and I had a new girlfriend.  Time to move on and live happily ever after, right?  Wrong. 

As I would discover, the Universe had more tricks up its sleeve.  As usual, whether I liked it or not, something happened to push me back onto the Dance Path.  The previous chapter of my life had ended with a phone call to invite Celeste to go dancing.  So I suppose it is only fitting that the next chapter of my life began with a phone call from Celeste to invite me to go dancing. 

After our sensational night of dancing at the Second Office Club, Celeste and I continued dating.  Celeste was certainly cute enough.  She was a short blonde of average build.  As one would expect from a chemistry graduate student, Celeste was very bright.  Unfortunately, we never clicked.  To begin with, her joy was chemistry and chemistry was my worst subject in high school.  Therefore it was no surprise to discover there was no chemistry between us.  My main objection was that the girl never stopped talking.  Half the time I could not even understand what point she was trying to make.  Seriously, Celeste baffled me at every turn.

Although suggestions from Christopher's Courtesan had vastly improved my ability to get to First Base with women, the book wasn't much use after that.  Second Base was my newest challenge.  My problems with Celeste indicated I didn't have a clue what to do next.  Now it was time for me to figure out how to make a relationship work.  Good luck with that.

Considering my long dry spell with women, one would think I would have been more willing to overlook my reservations about Celeste.  Unfortunately, no matter how much I tried, I was unable to develop any particular fondness for her.  To begin with, sex was an afterthought for Celeste.  I could not believe Celeste carried on a conversation while we made love.  Will you shut up already?

Celeste reminded me of an old Rodney Dangerfield joke. 

"My girlfriend loves to talk to me while she has sex.  Just the other day, she gave me a call and spoke to me between moans."

Hmm.  That joke gave me an idea.  Maybe I could hand her the phone and let her call someone and let me concentrate. 

Due to my considerable lack of previous dating experience, I readily admit I wasn't the most perceptive guy.  Little did I know Celeste had the same lack of enthusiasm for me as I had for her.  I think it was the second time that I spent the night that Celeste sat up in bed and looked at me.  She said, "You know, Rick, we don't have much in common, do we?"

How was I supposed to respond to a comment like that?  We talked it over for a while and I ended up agreeing with her.  Okay, so Celeste and I weren't headed to the stars.  She didn't come right out and say it, but I assumed that was Celeste's way of breaking up.   If so, that was okay with me.   I did not miss Celeste at all.  I much preferred making love to Gloria and skipping the small talk. 

However, Celeste did remain in my life.  She was a member of that Rice volleyball team I was on, so we spoke now and then.

A month passed. It was now April.  To my surprise, one afternoon out of the blue, Celeste called me at the office.  She had noticed an advertisement in the morning paper.  The ad said two people could take four half-hour Introductory Ballroom lessons for $5 a person.


Celeste said she wanted me to take these Ballroom dance lessons with her.  The lessons were offered at a franchise Ballroom studio over in the River Oaks shopping area.  

Celeste knew about my Saturday Disco lessons with David.  As she put it, I was the only man she had ever met who had shown an interest in dancing.  In fact, she still talked about our first date.  As she made her pitch, Celeste reminded me how she had told me I was a great freestyle dancer.  Here was my chance to be a great Ballroom dancer too.

I had serious misgivings.  Yes, I knew some Freestyle moves and line dances from my time at the Farmhouse.  However, I also remembered what a struggle I had undergone learning to dance.  Would I face similar difficulties with Ballroom dancing?  I never wanted to go through that nightmare again.

Celeste sensed my hesitation, so she turned on the charm.  Celeste said nonsense.  I was a great dancer!  Certainly my Disco skills would transfer over to Ballroom dancing.

I wasn't so sure about that.  My main objection was that Ballroom dancing did not interest me.  I recalled briefly watching those awful Lawrence Welk TV shows while channel flipping as a kid.  Featuring his signature Champagne sound, his Ballroom music was pure schmaltz.  I preferred the energetic Disco music.  But Celeste was right about my interest in dancing.  The Courtesan book had been very clear in its advice:

"If a man has the sense to learn to dance, there is no simpler way to meet a girl.  I suggest Ballroom dancing.  This is the fastest way on earth to get a woman you don't know to willingly place herself in your arms.  Just whisper 'cha-cha-cha' and watch her get excited."

I thought long and hard about Christopher's Fly Me to the Moon story where he had used his Ballroom skills to pick up a girl in a nightclub.  Freestyle dancing did not allow me to touch a woman the way partner dancing would.  I liked the thought of learning a simple way to get a lady in my arms.  Christopher had been right before, so maybe I should give partner dancing a try.  I resisted for a while, but finally gave in.  Maybe it was time to broaden my horizons and see what magic 'cha cha cha' might conjure up.




On a Monday night in April, Celeste and I began our four lesson package at Phoney Baloney Dance Studio.  No, that wasn't the name, but I prefer not to get sued.  I was uncomfortable from the moment we entered.  I tried to have an open mind, but this new place gave me the creeps.  Phoney Baloney reminded me of the bad vibes from the Gay Gauntlet from my first day at Dance City.  For one thing, the Baloney instructors here at Phoney Baloney were exceptionally well-dressed and groomed, so I assumed they were all gay.  Celeste of course fit in perfectly with her pretty dress and high heels.  And then there was me.  Staring at my blue jeans, the first thing I thought was here we go again.  I wasn't Paul Bunyan this time, but it did cross my mind I should have dressed better.

The receptionist took our $10.  Then she explained our first half-hour lesson would consist of one move to 3 different dances - Foxtrot, Tango, and Cha Cha.  I pointed out the ad said 4 dances.  The receptionist smiled and explained we skipped one dance each week.  Since the lesson ran 30 minutes, this would allow us to concentrate on three different dances for ten minutes apiece.

Let me step back for a moment and offer some background.  The very idea that a man can actually learn something in ten minutes is beyond ridiculous.  Of course no one told me that.  It would be several years down the road before I finally learned the truth.  The important thing to note is that I was doomed to fail before I even started.  The cards were stacked against me.

In addition, let us not overlook my difficulty at learning to dance.  It had taken me seven months to learn to Freestyle.  Let's do some math.  One hour class with Disco Dave per week.  Three hours per week of practice in the Magic Mirror.  Three hours of dancing at Casa Mark or the Farmhouse per week.  30 weeks times 7 hours per week: 210 hours.

Given this fact, how much Ballroom dancing could I expect to learn in four 30-minute lessons? 

Unfortunately, I did not have a clue that I had been set up.   While I stood there wondering how much Cha Cha could be learned in ten minutes, Celeste had concerns of her own.  Celeste was upset that Waltz would not be included in the first lesson.  The receptionist suggested that Celeste persuade the instructor to change the order.  That was my first clue that Waltz was important to women.  I should have paid better attention.  As we shall see, Waltz would one day cause me a terrible heartache.

We were introduced to Henry, our dance instructor.  Henry seemed close to my age.  Henry was not exactly a Macho Man.  He was actually kind of squirrely and nervous.  Although Henry was almost as tall as me, he was much more slender.  I never quite figured Henry out.  Noting that Henry was very well dressed, at first I thought he was gay.  Henry took one look at my blue jeans and sniffed with disapproval.  I was instantly reminded of the Gay Gauntlet.  I felt insulted by Henry's disdain and immediately bristled with hostility.  I also noticed Henry did not offer to shake my hand. 

There are dogs who growl at strangers for no reason.  That was me.  I disliked Henry from the moment I met him.  However, to my surprise, Henry was not gay.  I changed my mind about Henry's sexual preference when he showed an interest in Celeste that seemed to go well beyond the expected instructor-student relationship.  I might add that Celeste seemed to respond to Henry's interest.  I noticed a definite rapport.  Based on the eye contact, there were sparks there.  In fact, it looked to me like Henry was making a move on my dance partner and one-time girlfriend. Henry's aggressiveness really bothered me.  Celeste and I had stopped dating a month ago, but there was no way Henry would know this.  Where did he get the nerve to move on a woman in front of her partner without knowing their status?

I was reminded of the time David had propositioned me nine months ago.  Did dance teachers hit on their students automatically?  Oh well, look on the bright side.  At least I wouldn't get propositioned by Henry.  One glance at Henry as gazed into Celeste's eyes told me I was safe.  Indeed, Henry was not the slightest bit interested in me.  He was totally indifferent.  In fact, I think Henry disliked me, but I did not imagine why.  We had not even spoken yet. 

Henry started with Tango.  Without much warning, Henry pulled Celeste right up against his body to demonstrate a Tango pattern.  I was astonished at how close they were as they moved.  I also noticed that Celeste did not object to his intimate presence.  In fact, she smiled. I also noticed that Celeste seemed to know what to do without any instruction.  

My instincts said something was wrong, but I could not identify what it was.  A male instructor had no business pulling a first-time female dance student that close without asking permission.  Even if Henry had explained what he was doing ahead of time, he was still too close.  Women typically are very cautious about allowing a stranger to get close, yet Henry had not even hesitated to pull Celeste right up against him.  Nor had Celeste objected.  I had just been given a major clue, but missed it due to my ignorance of Ballroom dance.

After a demonstration that ate up two minutes of my ten minute allotment, Henry suggested Celeste and I try to dance the Tango together.  Henry showed me how to hold Celeste and showed me the basic footwork.  After I repeated the footwork on my own, Henry put on some music and off we went.  I did poorly.  For starters, I did not like the unusual accordion music.  Then I freaked out at having Celeste's body pressed right up against mine.  I had no idea how to guide her and lost my balance trying.  As I stumbled all over the place, I turned red with shame.

Tango was difficult!  I struggled mightily with this dance.  Less than a minute after we started, Henry took the needle off the record player.  I did not mind at all.  In fact, I was so frustrated I was ready to leave.   That is when I noticed that Celeste wouldn't even look at me.  Celeste's disappointment made me feel extremely tense.  Oh hell, let's not go through this again.  The frown on Celeste's face resembled the dirty looks of the River Oaks Seven.  I did not understand why Celeste was so impatient.  When it involved dancing, nothing ever seemed to come easily to me.  Making matters worse, I sensed that I lacked the commitment to fight through my Ballroom ineptness like I had with Freestyle.  Now that I had seen how awful I was at Ballroom dancing, there was no way I would dream of using Ballroom dancing as a way to meet a woman.  Freestyle dancing would do the trick, so what was the point of sticking around?

Seeing Celeste disapproval, I was upset.  I whispered to Celeste, "This is a waste of time.  I don't think this is something I want to do.  I want to go." 

"Absolutely not.  I am enjoying my lesson.  Stick it out.  You made a promise."

Henry had not overheard me, but he sensed my bad attitude.  Henry gave up on me immediately.  My miserable Tango effort was all he needed to pass judgment.  His expression was something close to pity.  When I realized he had decided I wasn't worth his effort, I bristled.  Bad move, Henry.  No matter how poorly I danced, there was no reason for him to be rude about it.

For fear of losing my temper, I retreated into a sullen silence and refused to dance again during the lesson.  I recalled doing the exact same thing at my first Disco Freestyle class nine months earlier.  The difference was that I had returned the second week.  That wasn't going to happen this time.  I had no reason to return. 

For Henry, I ceased to exist.  Instead Henry channeled all of his energy into sweeping Celeste off her feet.  Their dancing really clicked. Celeste glided effortlessly across the floor in his arms while I watched in consternation.  It seemed like Henry led several patterns that he had not shown Celeste.  Now I was really confused.  How did Celeste learn those moves so fast?

Here again, my lack of experience kept me from understanding the reason behind Henry's success.  In Ballroom dancing, if a man holds a woman properly, her shoulders receive a signal from his shoulders.  If the shoulders match, then the feet match.  This allows the man to lead moves the woman does not even know.  This explained Celeste's prowess, but I certainly never knew that because Henry had not bothered to explain the concept of leading to me.

The receptionist definitely had her math right.  In 30 minutes, Celeste and I did 10 minutes of Tango.  After I ceased to exist, Henry and Celeste did 10 minutes of Foxtrot followed by 10 minutes of Waltz at Celeste's special request.  At 29 minutes and 59 seconds, the lesson was concluded. 

How much had I learned?  Nothing.  I didn't understand the rhythm, I had no idea how to lead, and the footwork made little sense.  I disliked the music intensely and I could not tell a Waltz song from a Foxtrot.  Henry was rude and I did not appreciate Celeste's contempt.   Throughout the lesson Celeste had hit hard on my fear of looking clumsy while dancing.  This was one of my most sensitive nerves in my being.  To me, it felt like Celeste had slipped directly into the role of the River Oaks Seven.  Celeste really upset me.  I had just spent seven months trying to overcome my fear of women laughing at my dancing only to have Celeste rip that wound open again. 

Celeste was some sort of prima donna.  I had just gone through a miserable experience in this class, but Celeste was oblivious to my discomfort.  I could not believe I had actually met someone who was more self-absorbed than I was.  I would never treat someone the way she had treated me.  I wasn't even sure I liked her anymore.

Well, no matter, I was finished.  No more Ballroom dancing for me.

We had come in separate cars.  To be a gentleman, I walked Celeste to her car.  As usual, Celeste would not shut up.  She went on and on about how great the lesson was and how much she had learned from Henry.  Ballroom dancing was so much fun!!  Celeste was happy happy happy.

"Isn't Henry wonderful??"    

I wanted to say something very ugly, but I bit my tongue.  When we reached her car, Celeste turned to look at me.  "Rick, answer me a question.  How can you be so good at Disco and so bad at Tango?"

I was speechless.  Celeste was right, of course, but was it really necessary to point it out? 

"You know what, Celeste?  I have been wondering the same thing.  For one thing, I can't stand the music.  I don't like the dancing much either.  Ballroom just isn't my cup of tea."

"You aren't thinking of quitting, are you?  Rick, you promised to do this with me."

My heart sank.  I could not believe as bad as I had been that Celeste would expect me to continue.  But I could see she was serious.   Sure enough, Celeste made me promise I would return for our second lesson the following week. 

As I walked to my car, I was disgusted beyond belief.  This was not something I wanted to continue.  But guilt was a very effective way to manipulate me.  Like it or not, I had given my word.  Thanks to my Code of Honor, I would return the following week. 

It did not occur to me at the time, but Celeste had tied me to a tree just like the River Oaks Seven.  In the lessons to come, she would proceed to restore the Phobia to its full devastating extent.




I nursed a secret hope that I could overcome my jitters and figure this Ballroom stuff out.  I tried my Tango footwork in the mirror, but it was useless.  Unfortunately, my Magic Mirror could not save me this time.  Partner dancing required a partner. 

For our second lesson, Celeste and I again came in separate cars.  When I arrived, Henry and Celeste were already out on the floor dancing together.  I had no idea what dance they were doing.  Whatever the dance was, Celeste and Henry looked good together.  Celeste was happy happy happy.  She was laughing her head off.  

I had a hunch Celeste had come early on purpose.  Henry wasn't operating solo here.  He was getting encouragement from Celeste.  It takes two to Tango, yes?   Hmm, that's an idea.  Maybe that was Tango they were dancing.  No, the music sounded more like Waltz.  Whatever it was, Celeste liked it.  Why did Celeste insist that I come tonight?

Celeste was the first woman I dated since my failure with Rachel six months ago.  But it had not worked out.  Now as I watched Celeste flirt with Henry, I was more confused than I was upset.  Since there were no sparks between us, I wasn't jealous.  However I was mystified.  Watching Celeste appear to line up her next love interest, surely there had to be a more discrete way to do this.  If she wanted to chase Henry, fine, but why did she make me watch?  Try slipping Henry her phone number when I wasn't looking.  I'm sure that would do the trick.  Why rub it in my face?


When the song ended, Celeste came bouncing over to greet me with a big hug.  Feeling her hold the hug longer and tighter than necessary, alarm bells went off.  What was this all about?  I saw Henry frown at Celeste's big show of affection.  He was reluctantly tagging behind with his arms crossed.  If I didn't know any better, Henry was treating me as a rival.  Good grief.  Now I was really confused.  Was Celeste trying to make me jealous of Henry?  Or was Celeste trying to make Henry jealous of me?  What was this woman's game?  I did not understand Celeste at all.

Mark had taught me to confront friends when I was suspicious.  However, Celeste and I were not dating anymore, so I was unsure how to proceed.  In retrospect, I wish I had followed Mark's advice, but I was very afraid of confrontation with a dominant woman.  For reasons I will never understand, I let Celeste insult me in countless small ways.   I told myself these classes would end soon, so why bother saying anything?  That was a very poor decision.  Instead I let Celeste push me around me and ended up hating her.

At Celeste's request, this week Henry started with the Waltz.   That was the answer to my question.  Sure enough, Henry and Celeste had been Waltzing.  I had skipped Waltz last week, but this time I tried.  I was awful.  I could not get the hang of the Waltz rise and fall.  Plodding along, the second lesson was a repeat of our previous visit.  I was terrible, Henry didn't bother to hide his disgust and Celeste openly criticized my inadequacy.  Celeste kept telling me what I was doing wrong and it infuriated me.  I was so nervous when we danced the Tango again that I nearly amputated one of Celeste's feet. 

Celeste screamed bloody murder when I stepped hard on her foot.  Celeste immediately let me have it.  "Rick, you nearly took my foot off.  I'm not sure if I can even walk, much less dance.  Henry told you to slide your feet, but obviously you didn't listen."

"I'm sorry, Celeste, I lost my balance."

"Well, if you would pay better attention to Henry that would not happen."

Celeste's criticism backed me into a corner.  I have never handled negative criticism well and Celeste's sharp words cut through me like a knife.  I had not felt this humiliated since the days of Fujimoto.  My only solution was to quit trying again.

Meanwhile Henry stared at me with contempt.  Either Henry did not like me or I did not have enough ability for him to take me seriously.  Either way, I had ceased to exist.  While I watched in mute silence, Henry spent his time flirting with Celeste.  Henry clearly needed to learn some manners.  He was lucky I didn't simply deck him.  If the girl had been Rachel, a woman I actually cared about, Henry would have been impaled on the umbrella I had brought.  But since it was Celeste, I settled for trying to understand what could account for her strange behavior.  As Celeste giggled and preened with Henry, I thought it was rude for her to behave so shamelessly in front of me.  I still wondered if she was trying to make me jealous.  If so, it wasn't working.  Henry could have her.  Be my guest.  Hey, Henry, guess what?  I will trade you full rights to Celeste for permission to leave.

At this point, I was pretty fed up.  Why was I here?  I couldn't dance a lick and Celeste was weird.  I left in a very bad mood.  To heck with guilt and to heck with my Code of Honor.  I wasn't coming back next week.  




I told myself I wasn't coming back... but I did anyway.  Celeste was psychic enough to know I was planning to skip the remainder of the lessons, so she called me on the phone to ask if I was coming.  I said there was no way in hell I was returning.  That's when Celeste cheated and used the only two words in the English language that would persuade me to change my mind.

"But Rick, you promised!

Damn her anyway.  Why did I have to have a conscience?  Life would be so much easier without a conscience.  Then Celeste threw me another curve... she told me she would pick me up.  I immediately felt suspicious. 

"Celeste, it is not necessary for you to pick me up.  I give you my word I will be there."

Celeste insisted, so I yielded.  If it was that important to her, I would cooperate.   So we drove together.  The third week was an instant replay of the first two.  Henry gave me the least amount of attention necessary.  He showed me the moves, then played the music.  I did poorly, Celeste made fun of me, and I didn't care.  Let's just get this over with.

To my surprise, I did pretty well at Cha Cha.  This dance was much easier.  Plus I liked the music.   I didn't care for the saccharine Foxtrot and Waltz music, but I definitely liked Latin music.  It was lively and similar to Disco music.


This time I insisted on dancing with Celeste all three times... Foxtrot, Waltz, Cha Cha.  Taking a page out of my River Oaks Seven handbook, I did it just to irritate both of them.  The more I danced with Celeste, the less they could play their games.  

Celeste was quite surprised at my assertiveness.  This was the first time I had actually stood up for myself.  Celeste frowned, but cooperated.  It was obvious that she preferred dancing with Henry.  Nor did I blame her; the guy was an excellent dancer.  Most of all, I continued to wonder why Celeste was so insistent I participate in these lessons.  

As for my dancing, I won't say I was any good, but at least we were both standing at the end of each segment.   The moment the song ended for the third dance, I was ready to leave.  I assumed the ordeal was over.  Promise or no promise, I wasn't coming back for the Fourth Lesson.  I would inform Celeste on the drive back to my apartment. 

Before I could leave, Henry surprised me with a twist so bizarre I was caught totally off guard.  He called Celeste and me over for a meeting.  Now what?  Henry pulled out two Report Cards, one for me and one for Celeste.  Henry proceeded to pencil in a letter grade for each dance we had learned, then handed them to us.  I stared at my Report Card in open-mouthed shock.  I could not believe for a moment that Henry had the nerve to grade meWhat planet had Henry beamed down from? 

I got hold of my temper long enough to take a look at my Report Card.  I frowned.  To his credit, Henry was at least honest.  I got a C in Foxtrot, a C+ in Cha-Cha, a C- in Waltz, and a D in Tango.  I began to seethe.  This was an insult.

Meanwhile Celeste had gotten straight A's.  No surprise there; she deserved it.  Celeste yelped with glee and gave Henry a big hug of gratitude.  Ah, teacher's pet.  No doubt Henry would like to do some petting.  Henry was clearly smitten with his star pupil. 

Celeste asked Henry for a celebratory Waltz.  While they danced, I stared darkly at my newest 'D'.  Based on my Colorado State debacle, this was not a grade I was fond of.  Although I accepted I was as bad as my grades suggested, I did not see the purpose.  This report card stunt really upset me.  What possible motive could Henry have to grade me so candidly?  Okay, I was bad, yes, but why tell it to my face?  I thought teachers were supposed to encourage their students.

Not one thing about Phoney Baloney, Henry or Celeste made a bit of sense to me.  I hated Ballroom dancing, I hated the music and I hated the pretentiousness.  But most of all, I felt insulted by this report card.  In this business setting, would it be asking too much to allow the customer to keep his dignity? 

Mostly I hated my inadequacy.  I was angry because all my self-doubt about my lack of dancing ability had come flooding back in.  I could not understand why I had done so poorly.  I was a good Disco dancer and I definitely knew my right foot from my left. 

However Freestyle dancing and Ballroom partner dancing were two completely different games.  I realized my tendency to over-analyze everything had returned to haunt me.  I was a slow learner and this style of dancing did not come naturally to me.


The mysterious sexual overtones between Henry and Celeste had definitely contributed to my downfall, but most of all, it was Celeste's criticism.  I needed encouragement, but all I got from her was withering disapproval.  I hated being shamed and I was angry at myself for not having the guts to tell her to knock it off.  I was bewildered by my continued passivity. 

Once Celeste returned from her victory Waltz, I asked Celeste if we could leave now.  To my surprise, Celeste wanted to stay.  She replied, "Let's wait a moment." 

Celeste wanted to exult further.  Celeste immediately began talking to me about her report card.  The woman would not shut up about her straight-A Report Card. 

"Aren't you proud of me, Rick?  Straight A's!!  Whoopee!"

Proud of her?  I was ready to strangle Celeste.  Even though I agreed it was true, what possessed Celeste to brag like that?  I guess Celeste thought she was being funny and cute.  But she wasn't funny and cute.  She was rude. 

I said nothing in my defense.  That was a mistake.  I had not yet learned how to stand up for myself, especially around women my age.  I just let her walk on me.


Celeste's words really hurt my feelings.  By laughing at me, Celeste's teasing touched on that raw nerve again and again.  I could not believe this was the same woman who had complimented me on my Freestyle dancing.  It stung to have her ridicule me like this. 

"Okay, Celeste, I am happy for your good grades.  You made your point.  The bottom line is that you are great and I suck.  Can we go now?" 

I pointed to the Exit Door.  However, there was one problem... Celeste still refused to leave.

"Oh, Rick, not yet.  I think Henry wants to speak to us about something."




As Celeste stalled for some mysterious reason, there was something about the Report Card that bothered me.  I could not figure out why Henry had graded us in the Third Week.  Why not wait till our fourth and final lesson?   I was on guard now.  Something was up.  Furthermore, Celeste seemed to be in on it.  I watched with suspicion as the receptionist came up to Henry and whispered to him.  Henry turned to us and asked if we would follow him to the back.  He told us Derek the Dance Director wanted to see us.  My eyes grew wide.  The Dance Director?  Although I did not understand what was going on, I knew I wasn't going to like this.

I looked at Celeste and said, "It's time to go.  We can see the Dance Director next week after our fourth lesson."

A look of horror swept across Henry's face.  When Celeste saw Henry's face, she shook her head in disagreement. "No, Rick, let's go ahead and see what this is about."

I just stood there.  I was beyond incredulous that Celeste was making me do this.  I had asked her to leave earlier and she said wait.  Now I had just told her again that I wanted to go and she had contradicted me a second time.

Celeste's will or my will?  Which was it going to be?  Celeste got her way.  To this day, I am still not sure why I decided to cooperate.  It didn't matter that we had come in her car.  Phoney Baloney Dance Studio was only a half hour walk from home.  I think it was my curiosity that made me stay.  I had written Celeste off as a girlfriend, but as a student of human behavior, I was darkly fascinated to figure out what made her tick.  Nothing about her behavior made any sense to me.

Just now I could have sworn Celeste had taken her cue from Henry.  Were they in cahoots?  It certainly seemed that way.  Celeste seemed to know ahead of time that something was scheduled to happen.    As we walked down the hallway, I knew I was walking into a trap.  However, I had no idea what it could be and the mystery intrigued me.  Henry was in front and the receptionist was behind me.  It was pretty obvious they weren't taking any chances that I might skip out.  They must have had previous experience with this scenario because slipping away had definitely crossed my mind.  My eyes were focused on the rear door exit at the end of the hallway.

Halfway down the hallway, Henry stopped.  I thought strongly about moving Henry aside and continuing out the back door, but I changed my mind.  Let's see what this is about. 


Henry guided Celeste and me into a cramped room.  We were given two wooden chairs.  There was a giant desk between us and the door.  The desk was so large that when Henry pulled up a chair next to the desk, our exit route was blocked.  We were trapped.

We did not have long to wait.  A new man entered the room and greeted us with a big smile. 

"Hi, I'm Derek.  I am the Dance Director.  Thank you for meeting with me.  Let me get right to the point.  Here at Phoney Baloney, we have a very important dance competition coming up.  Earlier I passed by your lesson and noticed how well you are picking up the material.  You two have unusual promise as a couple."

I was incredulous.  Give me a break.  Derek had never seen me dance in his life.  Had this guy forgotten to coordinate his sales pitch with Henry?  I wanted to show Derek my report card and ask him to explain the incongruity. However, Derek droned on, so I bided my time.  


"Due to your unusual promise, the studio would like you to represent us in the upcoming contest!  We have a slot open in our Rising Star category.  You two would be the perfect couple!"

I stared at Derek in total disbelief.  This was absurd.  How on earth did Derek say this stuff with a straight face? 

Now Celeste spoke up.  "Oh, this is so exciting!" 

I was incredulous.  Oh my gosh, Celeste is buying it!!  Sure enough, Straight A Celeste was beaming with pride.  This was her big chance to become Phoney Baloney's star entry in the upcoming Big Ballroom Competition.  

Then I turned my gaze to Henry.  After that line about our 'unusual promise', Henry was deliberately avoiding eye contact.  He spent his time staring at a non-existent picture on the wall.  I read his mind.  'The things a guy has to do to keep his job...'

I assumed Henry was making a mental note to avoid giving anyone a 'D' just minutes before the next big Sales Pitch.  Just who exactly was the biggest moron, Derek, Henry or Celeste?   It was a real toss-up.  I still could not get over the disconnect between Henry's poor grades and Derek's bullshit.  I wondered if Derek had any idea that Henry had almost flunked me in Tango.  Unfortunately, no one was interested in what I thought.  No one looked at me.  Not Henry, not Celeste, and certainly not Derek. 

It was as if I didn't exist.  Oh my God, I was Invisible again.  Why does this keep happening to me all the time?

Paying no attention to me whatsoever, Dance Director Derek riveted his gaze on Celeste and continued his sales pitch.  He announced that his studio was counting on Celeste and her Invisible friend to fulfill their unusual promise and thereby help Phoney Baloney win the big dance competition.

Derek exclaimed, "We can't win the Rising Star without you!  However, in order for you to do well, you will need a little more polish!" 

Here it comes.  I braced myself for the final pitch.  Sure enough, because they desperately needed our help, Derek was going to make us a special offer.  Due to our unusual promise, Derek would give us a Large Discount if we would sign up right this minute.

Derek looked straight into Celeste's eyes.  "Celeste, it is very important that people with your kind of ability fulfill their dance potential!"

Celeste was in a hypnotic trance.  Celeste beamed back at Derek with an elation that bordered on reverence.


And with that, Derek produced a contract for Private Dance Lessons.  On the contract I could see the word DISCOUNT scribbled in bold letters.  The price was reduced from $2,000 to $979.  But only if we signed up this very minute! 

This sales pitch was so absurdly pathetic I had to fight to keep from bursting out in laughter.  If I had heard this correctly, Derek said they were desperate for our help and it was going to cost us $979 to help them.  Interesting logic. 

Derek was the first hard-sell person I had ever seen in action.  However Derek was not smooth.  Not only could I see that he was nervous, I imagined any used car salesman or a hustler selling fake watches would have displayed more skill.  

I was amazed at Derek's audacity.  Does this stuff actually work with anyone?  




I have a confession to make.  I was glad I had stuck around.  I had guessed some sort of sales pitch was awaiting us and I wanted to see how it was delivered.  This had been a darkly comical Theatre of the Absurd

However, at this point my morbid curiosity was satisfied.  No person in their right mind would cooperate with an approach this stupid.  I was ready to leave again, but that is when I noticed Celeste's glazed eyes.  Oh shit.  Celeste was born to be a star and this promise of Ballroom glory was right up her alley.  My attitude was 'help yourself to happiness.'  Celeste had actual talent, so let her pursue her dreams.  But I wanted to go.  I leaned over from my chair and touched Celeste's arm to get her attention.  "Celeste, this doesn't interest me.  Let's go."

Celeste put her hand on my arm to calm me.  She whispered, "Wait, Rick, I'm not ready yet.  Let me handle this."  

My eyes grew wide.  Had this woman just told me to wait for a third time?  Again, my curiosity got the better of me.  Celeste's behavior during this three-week sequence had me totally bewildered.  She had been bossy from the start, but this was different.  Celeste had some sort of agenda, I was sure of it.  The entire situation smelled of collusion.  I wondered if I was being set up to take further dance lessons.  That was the only thing that made a bit of sense.  I half expected Celeste would forge my signature.

But that theory had contradictions.  If I was the patsy, then why had Celeste and Henry been so damn mean to me?  No woman had ever ridiculed me to this extent.  Nor had any woman ordered me around like this.  Celeste had needled me about how superior her dancing was to mine.  If she wanted me to continue, then why hadn't she offered to help or show some patience? 

Either there was something clinically wrong with this woman or there was a plot brewing.  Curious to see if I could solve the mystery, I sat back down.  Now Celeste took control of the interview.  She chose a negotiating style best described as 'cute them to death'.  I had never seen this particular ploy used before, but it bordered on the ridiculous.  Celeste laughed and joked.  Then she made one excuse after another why we couldn't sign the contract.  Each excuse was more inane than the previous one.

 'We don't have enough money.'

 'we are kind of busy right now.'

 'we don't know much about dancing.'

 'not sure if this is right for us, couldn't we think about it?'

 'how about if we let you know next week?'

As Celeste kept up her happy chat, I stared at her incredulously.  What kind of negotiation was this?  This was exactly how Celeste behaved when we had sex.  She just yapped away about nothing.  And now she was doing it again.  Maybe this was foreplay to her.

I was starting to lose my temper.  In my mind, Celeste was prolonging the torture.  Say yes or say no, but quit fooling around with these guys!  Why I held my tongue is beyond me, but there I was, the Invisible Man, gaping in astonishment at the absurdity of this meeting. 

From this point on, no one looked at me and no one spoke to me. 

Meanwhile Dance Director Derek was practically drooling with excitement.  No doubt Celeste's foreplay had turned him on.  He seemed thrilled that Celeste was matching wits with him.  To him, it appeared like she was negotiating.  If so, that was exactly what Derek wanted her to do.  This is what he lived for.  Derek was the Closer!

Derek let Celeste do most of the talking.  As far as I could tell, Derek was waiting for Celeste to tire out.  It was like fishing.  Let Celeste yap yap yap while he tugged on the fishing line till she wore down.  If that was his strategy, Derek was making a big mistake.  Celeste could talk about nothing all night long.  I wasn't mad at Derek, just impatient.  In fact, now that I realized this was how he made a living, I felt sorry for the man.  I imagined a job pulling bubble gum off movie seats would offer more dignity than this gig.

However, once this charade reached thirty minutes, I couldn't take any more of this.  That's right, thirty minutes.  Now even Derek was getting impatient.  He started to pressure Celeste to sign the expensive thousand dollar contract.

Celeste acted like she didn't hear him.  Not once did she lose her patience.  Celeste smiled, laughed, and joked the entire time.  Happy happy happy.  I was getting more confused by the minute.  I tried to analyze what her goal was.

Possibility One: Celeste doesn't want the lessons.  

Analysis:  If Celeste didn't want the lessons, then why are we still here?  Why does it take 30 minutes to say no?

Possibility Two: Celeste does want the lessons.

Analysis:  If that's the case, then why doesn't Celeste say yes?  I could understand dickering about the price, but first one needs to at least acknowledge an interest in buying.  Not once did Celeste ever say she wanted these lessons.

Neither possibility fit Celeste's behavior.  So what exactly did Celeste want?  I had no idea. 

Celeste seemed to be saying no, but not very forcefully.  Back in the days of Yolanda, I gave a lot of thought to women who say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'.  However I thought that was reserved for sexual situations.  Celeste's mouth said 'no', but her body language said 'yes'.  She was leaning forward, not away.  Her arms were uncrossed and her hands were on the desk to indicate openness.  Her smiles and animated gestures showed she was eager and fully involved in the process. 

If forced to guess, Celeste wanted to take the lessons.  So why didn't she say so? 

Despite my growing impatience, I was darkly fascinated by the unfolding drama.  This woman was one of a kind.  Like a ping pong match, the conversation bounced back and forth.  Derek would give a reason to take more lessons, Celeste would parry and think of a reason not to.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Dance Director Derek pressed on and Celeste didn't seem to mind a bit.  Despite the pressure, Celeste appeared totally unfazed.  She showed absolutely no sign of nervousness.  Whatever Derek said, Celeste answered it with the same broken record...  'too broke, too busy, let me think about it, blah blah blah'. 

I found it remarkable that with all this talk, there was never any mention of me.  While Celeste kept giving excuses, Derek the Closer watched like a hawk for an opening.  My disgust for Celeste's behavior grew by the minute.  When is this ever going to end?

For the life of me, I could not figure out Celeste's strategy.  And then suddenly I got it.   Celeste was smiling.  You only smile when you are having fun.  That is when the answer came to me... Celeste was enjoying the attention.  Derek wasn't keeping Celeste on the hook, Celeste was keeping Derek on the hook.  Celeste was toying with Derek.

As strange as it sounds, the word 'tease' crossed my mind.  Was it possible that Celeste was stringing them along just to amuse herself?  That was the only answer that made sense.  Celeste's main goal in life was to get attention!  This was a game to Celeste… make them invest time in her and get them excited.  I began to nod.  The only question is whether Celeste would satisfy their desire or break their hearts. 

I decided I didn't care to stick around to find out.  I stood up and said, "Gentlemen, we are done here.  Would you please permit us to leave now?" 

The two men were shocked... but they didn't move.  Unless they moved, I could not get out of the room.  So I got angry.  "Did you not hear me?  I said I want to go."  Staring down at the seated men, I gave them a look that said I meant business.

Henry turned white.  He knew I was aching for an excuse to get physical with him.  He was more than ready to get out of the way when Celeste spoke up.  "Wait, Rick, we aren't through yet!"

I was incredulous.  This was the fourth time tonight that Celeste had crossed me.  Did she really expect me to sit back down AGAIN?

I lost my patience.  I snapped at Celeste, "Sit down?  What for?  I have no intention of signing this contract.  You can do whatever you want, Celeste, but I'm finished here.  Henry, I want you to get out of my way."

The room fell silent.  To my surprise, Henry refused to move.  Thanks to Celeste's unwillingness to yield to me, the two men decided not to cooperate.  For her part, once Celeste saw the two men had decided not to let me out of the room, she started talking to them again as if nothing had happened. 

This was unbelievable.  I had spoken up, I was standing while the others were sitting, and no one acknowledged me.  Maybe I really was the Invisible Man.  As I stood there looming over them like the Colossus of Rhodes, Derek and Celeste began chattering away as if I wasn't there.  As far as they were concerned, it wasn't over till it was over.

Well, guess what, guys, it's over, at least for me it was.  I may have been the worst Ballroom dancer in history, but I was also a muscular six foot, 200 pound athlete and these softies were not remotely in Manimal's league.  Considering my mood, I doubted they would try to stop me. 

"Gentleman, I wish to leave.  Either get out of my way or I am coming across the desk."

That did it.  With obvious resentment, Henry begrudgingly stood up and moved aside to let me pass.  I stared at Henry as I passed.  This was a very tense moment.  To my surprise, Celeste threw in the towel.  Celeste got up to follow me out the door.  That is when I put my hand up to stop her. 

"Celeste, do what you want, I don't need a ride and I don't want a ride.  Just leave me alone."

Celeste turned pale white.  I think the strength of my anger scared her. 

Before I left, I turned to glance at the two men.  From the exasperated look on their faces, these two men had believed they had a real chance of making a sale.  In particular, the disappointment on Derek’s face was so obvious that I actually felt a little sorry for him.  By leading him on, Celeste had actually gotten Derek's hopes up.  I imagined sales were few and far between for this man.    

As for Celeste, the woman should have been ashamed of herself.   Even a moron like Derek deserved better than a nasty tease like Celeste.

And with that I was out the rear exit door.

Incidentally, that thud I heard was the Rock of Sisyphus landing back down in the valley below.  I had reached a pinnacle at the Second Office Club in March, but Celeste's bizarre antics had put me back at Square One.  As I walked home, I was bitterly disappointed. 






   1975: April   Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   1975: March   Visit to Rice (25), Celeste, Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
   1975: February   Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice University
   1975: January   Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle, River Oaks Seven vanquished
   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)


   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene





Written by Rick Archer




I never saw Celeste again.  She dropped off our Rice Chemistry Department volleyball team.  I have to believe that Celeste and Henry were dating.  Given her behavior, nothing else makes sense.  However, I never did figure out what her main angle was in the contract negotiations.  I think Celeste wanted me to sign up for more lessons, but her contradictory messages left room for doubt.

Celeste did untold damage to my self-esteem.  My poor performance was a major setback for me.  Prior to this Ballroom dance fiasco, my Dance Project had been the one shining light in my life.  Now I was upset to see the confidence I had gained from Freestyle dancing totally erased by my Ballroom struggles.  I felt like for every one step forward, it was two steps back. 

My self-esteem and feelings of attractiveness had become linked to my dancing.  It seemed like my confidence rose and fell based on my dancing fortunes.  Unfortunately, I was flabbergasted by my problems with Ballroom dancing.  Keep in mind that I had been set up for failure, but I did not know that.  The upshot is that I blamed myself.  No matter what I did, nothing worked in those three Ballroom lessons.  I had done this Ballroom dancing to please Celeste only to see it totally backfire.  Due to my struggles, I felt ugly and clumsy again. 


I could not get Celeste's behavior out of my mind.  For a woman who claimed to be my friend, Celeste was the most covertly treacherous woman I ever met.  It was weird how a woman who laughed and smiled all the time could cut me to shreds with her off-hand comments and inexplicable flirting with Henry.  In addition, her refusal to be direct with me about her goal with the dancing and her insistence on ordering me around took their toll.  However, what bothered me the most is that I let her do it.  I was completely ashamed of myself.  I didn't even like this woman, so why did I let her push me around like that?

I felt humiliated by my lack of assertiveness.  I stood there helplessly while Celeste made a fool of me with Henry.  Why didn't I confront her like I should and ask what she was doing?  Why did I tolerate her rudeness over that idiot report card?  Why did I allow her to dictate whether I could leave or not?  I felt so weak around women.  It felt like every woman I met ended up walking on me... Vanessa, Debbie, Yolanda, Rachel, Celeste.  The list just kept growing.  

I knew what my problem was.  I was so insecure, I was afraid of confrontation.  I let Celeste push me around because I did not know how to stand up for myself.  I paid a heavy price for my lack of backbone.  To my dismay, the Phobia returned.  With my confidence damaged, that fear of rejection kicked backed in.  I refused to go to a dance club.  I knew I was still a good Disco dancer, but the thought of asking a pretty girl I did not know to dance terrified me anew.  Once Celeste poisoned my mind, I was certain the next girl would say 'no' or laugh at me the way Celeste had.  I was disappointed to realize how fragile my confidence was.  However, since I wasn't in the mood to risk another rejection, I decided to skip heading to the nightclubs until I figured out what had gone wrong in this Ballroom class. 

My failure at Phoney Baloney was followed by an unexpected setback.  In May, without warning, I showed up at Dance City only to find Disco Dave was gone.  He had moved to San Antonio to be with his boyfriend.  Poof, just like that, my Saturday morning Freestyle class was gone.  I had hit a total dead end.   I didn't want to visit a nightclub, I had no interest in the Magic Mirror, and there were no further dance classes to take.  My beloved Dance Project had stalled out. 

One might ask why I did not put my Freestyle skills to good use.  Two reasons.  My time with Rachel had made it clear that without a career, I would never succeed with talented women.  In other words, what was the point of finding a girl when I was sure to lose her?

The other reason is that Celeste had renewed my feelings of inferiority.  I felt like it was pointless to go searching for women until I got my confidence back.  

With Dancing completely gone from my life, I slipped into a blue funk.  Every night I played basketball or volleyball, then came home feeling miserable.  The humiliation I had received courtesy of Celeste initiated the Lost Years.  This was a time when I more or less just wandered around.  I went to work, I accomplished nothing, I played basketball, I went home, I felt sorry for myself.

Next day, same thing.  My life was going absolutely nowhere.




Following my Ballroom debacle involving Celeste, I did not dance again for three months.  This was a very lonely time for me.  Ever since the Love Triangle Rupture, I did not have a single friend other than Gloria.  However, Gloria wasn't exactly the nurturing type.  Without Mark, Jill or Lucy to cheer me up, it was back to me against the world. 


In June I picked up a magazine advertising classes through the Sundry School.   The Sundry School was an adult education program affiliated with the University of HoustonThis program offered courses in topics such as Spanish, cooking, creative writing, art appreciation, and so on.  As I leafed through the pages, I noticed a course in Ballroom Dance. 

My problems with Ballroom Dancing still had me rankled.  I thought I was a pretty good dancer until my problems with Celeste and Henry convinced me otherwise.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why learning to dance gave me fits.  Due to my problems with Tango et al, I wasn't pleased to see my rosy opinion of my hard-won Disco dance skills contradicted.  I still cringed at the memory of Celeste's scream when I stepped on her foot. 


I thought long and hard about taking that Sundry School Ballroom class.  Lately I had begun to suspect that jerk Henry had set me up for failure.  Another Ballroom class might cast more light on my suspicion.  I was also dimly clever enough to sense a Ballroom class might have a few single girls in it.  So I signed up.  It was time to quit feeling sorry for myself and try again.




The Sundry School Ballroom class was held on the University of Houston campus.  My six-week class started in mid-July.  Jack was my new instructor.  He was 50, twice my age.  Jack was a pleasant, easy-going guy who was good at demonstrating the patterns.  Jack was easy to understand and I liked him a heck of a lot better than my nemesis Henry. 

I got there early and stood by myself.  As I watched the people arrive, I was disappointed to see no prospects.  So much for my non-existent love life.  Now I began to wonder who I would dance with.  As the people arrived, they were all older than me.  Everyone was between 35 and 60.  Some people came as couples and the women who came alone gravitated to the men closer to their age. 

There were 25 people in the class.  Right now we had 12 couples and I was the odd man out.  It looked like I was out of luck.  No one else was coming.  Perhaps my odd man out status was due to my age, but naturally I felt rejected nonetheless.  I assumed these women had guessed they might lose a foot if they chose me.  These were not good times for me and I took every reversal much too hard.

Our first night covered Swing Dancing.  Jack said he liked to move his dance class pretty fast.  His class was only an hour long and Jack said he wanted to cover as much ground as he possibly could.  I glanced at the Swing syllabus Jack handed out.  I could see he intended to cover six different patterns in just one hour.  Henry had covered three patterns in thirty minutes, so I guessed ten minutes per move was a standard pace.

Jack and his lady partner Nancy put on a brief Swing dancing exhibition.  Jack could really dance.  I had never heard of Swing Dancing before, but I liked what I saw.  Not only did it look like fun, Swing Dancing was similar to some of the partner dancing I saw kids do back at the high school dances.  I was encouraged because this was the kind of partner dancing I had wanted to learn ever since high school.  Unfortunately, I wasn't going to learn much without a partner.  Thinking how Fred Astaire used to dance with a broom, maybe I could ask one of the chairs to dance with me.  With my luck, it would break a leg.  Ha ha ha.


Ten minutes after class started, the door opened.  When a pretty girl my age walked in, I nearly had a heart attack.  There before me stood the prettiest girl I had seen since Rachel eight months ago.  Oh goodness, I could not take my eyes off of her.

It was love at first sight.  I was so excited I could hardly see straight.

My poor little heart did twenty flip-flops at the sight of her.  My eyes instantly shot to her hand.  No ring!  My pulse raced.  What should I do?  Of course Phobia kicked in on the spot.  I was scared out of my wits.   Every demon in my troubled psyche emerged to warn me this girl would surely hurt me.  Did I have the guts to pursue her?  Would she reject me?  Would she break my heart?  Would she dump me for someone else? 

Typical me.  I was so insecure.  Every negative thought known to man had just crossed my mind and I had not even spoken to her yet.  I told myself to calm down and act steady.  How was I going to approach this new girl?   Well, she didn't have a partner, so I had an obvious opening.  I walked over and introduced myself.  The young lady smiled. 

She shook my hand and said her name was Katie.  I promptly asked her to marry me.


No, I didn't ask her to marry me, but I thought about it.  Ah, fair Katie.  You are so beautiful.  Make that beyond beautiful.  I didn't know why I felt this way, but it was probably her warmth.  From the moment I met her, Katie exuded kindness.

Katie was tall, maybe 5' 9".  Katie immediately told me how glad she was that I was also tall.  That would make it much easier for her to dance with me. 

Was our matching height enough reason to propose?  My feelings were intense. 

Katie was very graceful.  She carried herself like a model.  She was tall and slender with a model's thin waist.  Katie wore some sort of vintage WW II dress that first night.  I was mesmerized by her long, slender legs.  I had the biggest crush on her. 

Katie had light brown hair cut short and brown eyes.  She had the kindest face.  There was a real softness to this young lady.  She seemed remarkably classy and gentle.  I compared her to my past loves.  Vanessa had been voluptuous beautiful and Rachel had been Princess beautiful.  Katie was down to earth beautiful.  I liked that.  Katie seemed very approachable. 

Katie and I were a natural pair.  We were 'The Swing Kids'.  Although several of the men looked longingly in Katie's direction, I had no trouble keeping her as my dance partner throughout the evening.  Katie loved the class and enjoyed my company.  She joked how nice it was not to worry about getting hit in the head by some short guy's arm.

As for me, I worried about making a fool of myself.  I had really bombed out in my class with Celeste, but so far I was doing pretty well.  I had a knack for making Katie laugh and I was surprisingly good at this Swing Dancing. 

At the end of the night, Katie said farewell.  Then she paused.  With a smile, she added, "I enjoyed meeting you, Rick.  See you next week!" 

I didn't know if I could wait that long.




Katie was the one, no doubt about it.  I spent the entire week daydreaming about her.  Loneliness will do that to a man.  I was not doing very well right now.  I was still angry at myself for my mysterious passivity with Celeste.  Why I had allowed that nutcase to walk all over me was beyond understanding.   With my confidence at low ebb, Katie scared me to death. 

I had never wanted to ask a girl out as much as I did Katie, but how?  My Rejection Phobia had me paralyzed right from the start.  Where would I find the courage to risk rejection?  I spent hours thinking of ways to ask her out, but my fear was off the charts.  Only once... Arlene... did I have the courage to make the first move with a pretty girl.  Given my recent track record with pretty girls, I didn't have a lot of confidence in my ability to interest Katie. 

For one thing, I kept expecting some guy to show up in Week Two at Katie's side.  Or perhaps Katie would announce she was engaged.  I was too scared to allow myself to hope.

To my undying relief, Week Two came and no man showed up to accompany Katie.  Katie was apparently taking this dance class by herself.  Furthermore Katie showed instant loyalty by walking straight over to me when she entered. 

Okay.  Not bad.  There was no competition to speak of.  That meant I had an exclusive window on Katie's attention for tonight and the next four classes if I played my cards right.  I crossed my fingers and prayed Katie didn't have a boyfriend.  If she did, she never mentioned him.  Actually, Katie never mentioned anything.  I didn't know where she lived, what she did for living, or where she had gone to college.  I did not know her last name or anything she was interested in.  Katie always came late and left immediately.  And since the class moved very fast, there was little time for any idle 'get to know you' talk.

In Week Two, Katie and I learned Cha Cha.  What a neat dance!  Jack said not to worry too much about the Cha Cha hip motion, but Katie seemed to figure it out on her own.  I had trouble breathing when she moved.

Like the previous week, Jack taught six more patterns.  Although I handled the patterns pretty well, I was curious why we didn't review Swing.  However I was so preoccupied with the fast pace of the Cha Cha class I quickly forgot about Swing.

This was the class when Katie began to help me.  If I had one word to describe Katie, it would be 'gentle'.  Whenever I had a problem with a move, Katie would try to explain what I had done wrong.  In a sense, she was criticizing me, but it didn't feel like criticism.  As we know from the Celeste experience, I did not handle criticism well, especially regarding dance where I had a thin skin.  However, when Katie said something, it never hurt.  She never once said that I had done something wrong, but rather maybe it needed a little polish.  Katie had a very light touch with me.  She obviously didn't want to hurt my feelings.  Her tactful style felt more like offering suggestions. 

"Here, try this instead, Rick.  See if it works."

I wondered if Katie was a teacher of some sort.  She had the skill and the patience for it.  Due to her gentle nature, I let Katie correct my mistakes without getting defensive.  Not once did I come up with an excuse for my mistake or snap back at her.  Instead I tried to follow her advice and it usually worked.  Katie had the magic touch with me.

Katie was full of constant encouragement.  She always praised me when I got it right.  There was something about Katie that was so extraordinary.  I wasn't afraid to make a mistake because Katie would simply say, "Don't worry about it, Rick.  You are a beginner and beginners are supposed to make mistakes.  So stop apologizing.  Rather than beat yourself up all the time, let's just try again!"

Katie was without a doubt the most special lady my age I had ever met in my life.  I mean that completely.  Katie exuded boundless warmth and positive energy.  I could not help but notice the vast difference between her encouraging style and Celeste's mocking style. 

Given the way people approached me in those days, I had two personalities... Puppy Dog and Porcupine.  Due to my thin skin, if someone needled me, I turned sarcastic, moody, and defensive.  Celeste brought out the Porcupine, but Katie totally bypassed that side of me.  Katie had a way of calming the Beast in a way no other woman had ever done.  And don't think I didn't notice.  Deep down, I was a decent, caring, loyal person.  But that part of me stayed hidden.  Most people saw the moody, prickly side in those days... except Katie.  When Katie was around, she brought out my Puppy Dog side and I loved her for it. 

We were becoming friends.  If something funny happened in class, we would exchange smiles.  We danced together and became teammates of a sort.  As I got to know her, I realized Katie was one of a kind.  My only problem was that I didn't know how to bridge the gap between 'friend' and 'girlfriend'. 

At the end of Week Two, Katie said, "See you next week, Rick!"  And just like that, she was gone before I could say a word.




Week Three was Tango.  The moment Jack said 'Tango', a bolt of anxiety shot through me.  Unlike Swing and Cha Cha which were pretty fast, this dance was slow and I was supposed to hold my partner close.  I was nervous for several reasons.  Tango had been my downfall back at the Ballroom dance studio.  Would it be my downfall again?  

Let me add that I trembled when Katie allowed me to hold her practically hip to hip.  We were so close it took every ounce of fiber to play it cool when inside I was melting.  As I wrapped my arm around her, I wondered if she could sense my pulse was racing . 

Katie wasn't just pretty, she was a sweetheart.  Katie was friendly and cheerful.  What a difference she made that day!  Unlike Celeste who demanded to know why such a great freestyle dancer was such an inept clod at partner dancing, Katie didn't seem to mind my mistakes.  Whenever I made a mistake in Tango class, Katie would simply offer a suggestion on what I could do to correct it.  That was exactly the right approach for me. 

"Rick, it's okay to mess up.  If you already knew everything, you wouldn't be a beginner, now would you?  Why do you always get so angry at yourself?  Relax.  Have fun.  Come on, cheer up, let's give it another try.  I have an idea... why not slide your feet?  That way you won't be quite so afraid of stepping on my toes."

Katie was so infinitely patient with me.  I was completely in love with her.  But did I tell her?  C'mon, guys, this is me we are talking about.  I was paralyzed with fear.


Week Four of the class was Rumba. 

For the past three weeks, there had been little time to talk.  At the end of class, Katie never lingered.  I simply watched Katie leave.  I would wonder if she liked me or not and try to guess why she never stuck around.  I began to wonder if she had a babysitter watching a child.  Why else would she run home?

I believed Katie liked me.  I know this sounds silly, but the fact that she kept showing up was a good sign.  I imagined if I upset her, no doubt she would simply disappear.  Now I had to figure out a way to bridge the gap.  Prior to class, I spent the entire week thinking of ways to ask Katie to go out with me.  I guess my biggest problem was her lack of encouragement.  Each week I kept looking for some sort of hint that she wanted to see more of me, but Katie never said a word.  She always came late to class and left immediately.  The fact that she always left so quickly aggravated me because I had no chance to look for an opening.

What I should have done was intercepted Katie and asked her out.  However, that would have taken confidence.  I had none.

Prior to Katie, my biggest fear was having a girl I didn't know tell me to shove off if I approached.  That would mean I wasn't attractive enough to bother with.  However, with Katie the stakes were far higher than that.  Katie had plenty of chances to see the scars on my face, but she kept smiling and returning the next week.  So my looks were not an issue.  This meant if Katie rejected me, it was because I wasn't someone she cared to get to know better.  That would hurt.  That would hurt a lot.  That would mean she had seen through the mask and realized how weak I was inside.  Given a risk of this degree, where was I going to find the nerve to ask her out? 

In Week Four, Jack began class by announcing Graduation Night.  Jack said if we would like a chance to practice our dancing outside of class, he would meet us at Melody Lane Ballroom for their regular Friday Night Ballroom Dance.  In other words, we would have our sixth and final class on a Wednesday as usual, then meet as a group the subsequent Friday over at Melody.

This was the chance I had been waiting for.  I asked Katie if she was going to Graduation Night. 

Katie didn't hesitate.  She replied, "Sure, Rick, that sounds like a good idea.  We can practice what we learned in class and hopefully get the hang of it."

Now that Katie had committed to Graduation Night, I decided not to ask Katie out ahead of time.  I knew Katie liked me.  I was more sure of it now that she had agreed to Graduation Night.  I just didn't know how much.  I worried that if I asked her out and she said no, then I might lose her as a dance partner.  Maybe she would not come back next week.  Since I didn't want to take that chance, I decided to wait for the upcoming Graduation Night to make my move.  Surely there would be plenty of opportunities to chat with her and evaluate where I stood over at Melody Lane.




The weeks had flown past.  Week Five was Foxtrot.  Sure enough, this lesson saw me trying to learn six more patterns to a new dance.  At the end of the evening, Katie told me I had learned each pattern just fine.  I was no master, but I handled the material presented fairly well.  Jack taught his class using a 'show and tell' method.  Jack had Nancy, his lady dance partner, demonstrate the lady's footwork while he demonstrated the man's footwork.  None of these patterns by themselves were particularly difficult.  All we had to do was copy their footsteps while Jack and Nancy demonstrated them to music.  This copycat method was effective. 

The footwork was not difficult at all.  Some patterns used back steps.  Other patterns used step-together-step, the major footwork of many line dances.  The Box Step in Foxtrot, Waltz and Rumba was certainly not difficult to learn.  Swing used a form of step-ball-change, once a major nemesis, but no longer a problem.  All these footwork patterns were similar to something I had mastered long ago back in Disco Dave's Freestyle class. 

Katie commented that I was definitely one of the best men in the class.  I raised an eyebrow at the compliment.

"Since we never switch partners, you have never danced with anyone else other than the teacher a couple times.  How can you be so sure where I stand?"

"I can tell just by watching.  But whether you are the best or almost the best doesn't matter, Rick.  The point is that you are doing really well.  You pay close attention and you take it seriously."

This was a compliment I took great pride in, especially considering what a miserable failure I had been in Celeste's class a few months earlier.  My current class had restored much of my confidence in my dancing ability.  When I danced the patterns with Katie, I did just fine.  Katie's encouragement was music to my ears.  Furthermore, I believed her.  As I looked around, it did seem like I was doing pretty well compared to the other guys in class.  I kept quiet about it, but inside I was very proud of myself.  Katie had a way of bringing out the best in me.  I was such a puppy dog around Katie, always wagging my tail because I was so happy to be near her. 

What a difference the right girl makes.  I could not get that thought out of my mind.  I could climb mountains with Katie beside me.

However, despite Katie's praise, I had several nagging thoughts.  I wondered why I was doing so well in this class after doing so poorly in Celeste's class.  I was certain now I had been set up to fail by Henry.  However, there were some nagging problems that bothered me. For one thing, our lack of review upset me.  The footwork was not a problem, but remembering all the moves we had learned was a huge problem.  I could learn the move just fine, but I couldn't seem to remember how to do them the following week. 

For example, the Swing and Cha Cha moves from the first two weeks were a total blank.  If there was one thing about myself that I believed in, it was my memory.  I had a great memory.  Yet try as I might, the moves from the earlier classes seemed to have evaporated.  This worried me a lot. 

If I had any common sense... which I didn't... I would have asked Katie to stay after class to help me review the earlier material.  Or even better, I would ask if we could meet somewhere and practice.  That would be a graceful way of testing if she was interested in me.  If she gave a lame excuse, well, at least I hadn't offended her.  But that simple opening never crossed my mind. 

There was something else that bothered me.  I did not know how to connect the patterns.  Jack rarely put two moves together back to back.  He simply taught each pattern individually.  Okay, I have six patterns on this sheet of paper.  How do I link them together?  How was I supposed to bridge from one pattern to another without stopping?

I voiced this concern to Katie.  She laughed.  "Rick, you are so silly.  You connect the patterns using the leads Jack is showing you.  Each move has a signal to show me what you want me to do next."

"Yes, I know that, Katie, but I don't know when to give those signals unless I am watching Jack.  When I am alone, I can't figure out how my footwork to one pattern links to all those different patterns."  

"I see your problem.  I am so glad I don't have to lead."

Lead?  That word bedeviled me.  'Leading' was some sort of Black Magic.  It recalled how Henry's Leads had allowed him to dance moves with Celeste she claimed she did not know.  'Leading' had driven a wedge between Celeste and me because it allowed Henry to demonstrate his superiority time and again at my expense.  I had no idea how Leading worked.   No one had explained that Leading is a physical thing that involved nudging or pulling the lady in the right direction at the right time.  My understanding was so superficial I thought it was a system of signals where all I had to do was stick my hand in the air at the right time.  It bothered me I could barely remember the Foxtrot signals from tonight.  If I couldn't remember tonight's move, there was no way I could remember the signals for Cha Cha or Swing from previous classes. 

Leading was so complicated!  There was a lead to get into a pattern.  Then there was the footwork within the pattern.  Then there was a lead to get out of the pattern... but what pattern was I supposed to go to next?  I was getting really worried.  I could not remember the moves from the earlier classes, I had no idea how to do two patterns in a row, and I was completely lost when it came to Leading. 

This made no sense.  How could I simultaneously be the best dancer in the class and be so lost at the same time?  I went home and studied my notes.  Then I caught myself inadvertently staring at the Magic Mirror.  I let out a bitter laugh.  I actually wished the Mirror would leave the wall and come dance with me.  A wave of futility surged through me.  It was no use.  Without someone to practice with, there was no way to practice partner dancing alone.


During the Fifth Week Foxtrot class, something happened that made my heart ache.  Katie left class to use the restroom.  A older lady came over and asked me where my girlfriend had gone.  "Oh, Katie?  She'll be back.  She just went to the restroom."

The lady smiled and said, "I never get to talk to you because the two of you are inseparable.  How long have you been going together?"

My eyes widened.  In my dreams!!  "Oh, no, she's not my girlfriend.  Katie and I are just dance partners."

"Well, you should ask her out.  You two are perfect together.  I love watching the two of you laugh."

I swear that woman's words broke my heart.  I knew she was right.  I thought the same thing.  After Katie returned, I thought more about what the woman had said.  We were both tall and slender.  As long as Katie didn't mind my battered face, we were well matched for looks too.  As this woman pointed out, it looked like we belonged together. 

The last girl I had cared about was Rachel.  As far as I was concerned, Rachel had been way out of my league.  However, Katie was not out of my league.  She recognized I had talent.  Yes, I had my problems, but Katie had a way of bringing out the good side of me.  There was all kinds of potential here if I could just screw up the courage to ask her out. 


Unfortunately, my Phobia was giving me fits.  I was so scared that Katie would shoot me down.  If only the girl would give me some sort of sign that she was interested!!   Otherwise I just couldn't seem to make myself overcome my fear of rejection.  Not only was I unable to take action, my mind seem dulled as well by the fear.  I kept missing obvious openings like the idea to ask her to practice. 

I needed an Intervention.  I needed someone to twist my arm or tie me to a tree until I screamed in pain and confessed my true feelings for Katie.  Unfortunately, there was no one here to rescue me.  I was on my own this time.  As always, I said nothing.  Instead I used Procrastination, my perpetual dodge.  'Not now.  If I wait longer, maybe Katie will give me the perfect opening.'  

However, in five weeks, Katie had yet to give me that opening.  We were running out of time.  It was up to me to say something.  Just then, Katie interrupted my thoughts to talk about next week's Graduation Night.  I was surprised that Katie brought it up before I did.

Katie wanted to make sure I was going.  Are you kidding?   I was ready to go over Niagara Falls in a pickle barrel for Katie if she asked me to.  I told her I would definitely attend this event.  If I had a brain... which I didn't... I would have offered to pick her up.  That idea never occurred to me.  It never once dawned on me that perhaps Katie had just given me exactly the hint I had been hoping for! 

As far as my crush on Katie was concerned, I wasn't doing very well.  My inexperience with women caused me so much heartache.  I cannot imagine what kept me from seeing these simple openings that other men would have picked up on long ago.  I had real problems asking for what I wanted.  My passivity was eating me alive.

I decided to put all my eggs in one basket.  I would make my grand move during Graduation Night next week at Melody Lane Ballroom.  My plan was to meet Katie at Graduation Night and put my new-found Ballroom dance skills to good use.  It seemed like a good plan.  After all, I had done very well in Jack's Ballroom Class.  Surely these moves would transfer over to a fun night of dancing.  If things went as planned, I would ask her out that night.


Week Six was our final class.  It covered the Waltz.  Katie was particularly excited about the Waltz.  She said it was her favorite dance.

Katie explained that the story of Cinderella makes every girl wish to Waltz at her wedding.  Katie exclaimed, "Waltz is so graceful and the music is really pretty.  I always close my eyes and pretend that I am Cinderella."

Her statement had me worried.  The only Waltz of my life had lasted all of one minute with Celeste.  After that, Henry decided I was too pathetic to waste any further time.  Somehow I doubted my version of the Waltz would remind Katie of Prince Charming. 

I asked Katie how many times she had Waltzed before.  She laughed.

"My father used to Waltz with me when I was a little girl."

I could see this was a happy memory for her.  If I had any sense, I would have asked her to speak more about it.  Katie assured me that she didn't know much more about Waltz than I did, so I left it at that.  

After the lesson ended, I made sure to double-check with Katie if she was still planning to come on Friday Night.  She smiled and assured me she would be there.  And then she was gone.  Friday was two nights away. 

I crossed my fingers.  If things went well on Friday night, I might have a chance at romance with my very own Cinderella. 






   1975: July   Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April   Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   1975: March   Visit to Rice (25), Celeste, Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
   1975: February   Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice University
   1975: January   Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle, River Oaks Seven vanquished
   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)


   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene





Written by Rick Archer




It was August 15.  This was my big night.  I knew I was counting on this evening far more than I had a right to, but I couldn't help myself.  It was obvious that Katie liked me.  The question was how much.  I prayed things would go my way.  

I arrived before Katie.  To my surprise, Melody Lane turned out to be the same place as Dance City

The name change must have taken place recently.  Back when I took my final Disco class from Disco Dave three months ago in May, the name had been Dance City

Ballroom studios typically held private dance parties on their own premises.  However Melody Lane was a major landmark on the Houston Ballroom dance scene.  Al Marks and his Band held a popular Friday night Ballroom dance that was open to the public.  Jack must have chosen Melody Lane for this reason.

Recalling my Dance Class from Hell had taken place here just one year ago, this did not seem like a particularly good omen.  Was the Universe sending me another test? 


As I walked into the building, my memory of the Gay Gauntlet greeting committee came floating back.  An eternity had passed since then... Disco Dave, the River Oaks Seven, the Magic Mirror, Mark, Rachel, the Intervention, the Farmhouse, the Love Triangle, Lucy and Jill, Manimal, Second Office Club, Celeste, and Henry.  It was amazing how much had happened in just one year.  I wondered if I would see the River Oaks Seven here tonight.  I doubted it.  They were far more likely to be dancing at their exclusive country club than hanging out at some place open to riff-raff plebeians like myself. 

I was very nervous.  I tried to remind myself to stay calm, but it did no good.  I noticed I was the youngest person at the dance by a good ten years.  This was clearly not my scene.  I didn't like the music, the dancing still seemed foreign to me, and I wasn't used to wearing a coat and tie.  But if this was the path to Katie's heart, then I would do my best to follow it

When I found the table reserved for Jack's group, I noticed that only ten brave souls from our Beginning Ballroom class of 25 had shown up.  Jack was there, but not Nancy, Jack's lady friend who demonstrated for him.  Recalling the predatory instincts of David and Henry, my previous instructors, I wondered if Nancy's absence was deliberate.  Now that Jack was a free agent, perhaps he was on the prowl.  Watching how Jack surveyed the room, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.  Jack looked very confident in his fancy tuxedo.


I was pleased when Katie appeared ten minutes after me.  She was clearly looking for me.  Katie smiled and waved.  Katie was wearing that wonderful vintage Forties dress again.  It was probably no accident.  Katie knew how much I liked that dress because I had commented on it when I met her.  As she approached, I took a long look at her.  Katie was too darn pretty.  I let out a huge sigh.  Please let this night go well.  I had never wanted anything so much in my life. 

I stood up and offered Katie the seat I had saved for her.  Since there were only 11 of us, our group banded together for courage.  This place was very intimidating.  We were all beginners, so none of us dared join the people who were out on the floor.  Everyone we saw was experienced at Ballroom dancing.  Watching them, I was hit by a bolt of gut-wrenching fear.  I had the terrible sinking feeling that Jack's Graduation Event was over my head. 

Well, too late to turn around now.  The show must go on.  A song came on and Katie looked at me hopefully.  I gulped and asked, "What do I dance to this song?" 

Katie replied she wasn't sure.  I would have asked Jack, but he was already out on the floor with a woman from another table.  So I asked the guy next to me.  He said he didn't know either, but if I found out, would I be nice enough to tell him?

Katie guessed it was a Foxtrot.  I watched the men dance and decided she was right.  We got out there and I immediately froze.  I didn't remember a thing!  We had just covered Foxtrot 10 days ago in Week 5.  Then I remembered... Box Step! 

I danced the Box Step and I was so proud of myself.  I tried a couple other moves like the Back Step and the Walkaround move, but Katie didn't have a clue what I was doing.  So I returned to the Box Step move and finished the song without further mishap.  All in all, a good first try.

My good feelings ended the moment we got back to the table.  Katie seemed disappointed. 

"Rick, what happened to the other Foxtrot moves?"


I told Katie I had brought my six sheets with the dance patterns listed.  So Katie and I reviewed the Foxtrot syllabus.  It bothered me that I wasn't able to remember the other Foxtrot patterns on the list... Traveling Step, Twinkle, Conversation, Parallel.  I groaned at my shaky start.  I couldn't figure out why I had done so well in class, but now I was having so much trouble here at Melody Lane. 

Thinking back to the River Oaks Seven, I grimly wondered if this place was cursed for me.

The next song came on.  I didn't have a clue what kind of dance this music called for.  Jack had returned and said it was a Waltz.  I looked down at my syllabus.  Box Step again!  I looked up to ask Katie to dance only to realize she was already out on the floor with Jack.  I watched the two of them dance with growing suspicion.  Jack not only led Katie through all six patterns from class, he began leading her into moves I had never seen before.  Katie looked sensational.  I wondered where she had learned all those moves. 

I got suspicious and began to suspect Katie knew more about Waltz dancing than she let on.  Katie's grace was the proof I had been looking for.  Why had she fibbed to me? 

As I watched Katie effortlessly glide across the floor, I was consumed with jealousy.  And more doubt.  Part of my bitterness came from watching Henry perform the same magic with Celeste.  I never did figure out how Celeste had danced so many Waltz moves, so I suspected Henry had been working with her on the side.  What about Katie?  Had Katie been taking lessons from Jack without telling me?

I felt a dark foreboding begin to take over me.



Feeling distrustful, I confronted Katie when she returned.  "Katie, you were doing all sorts of moves that weren't covered in our class.  You told me you had never had Waltz lessons before.  So where did you learn all those moves with Jack?  Have you been taking lessons from him?"

Unfortunately, there was a real bite in how I said it.  When I saw a flash of pain cross her face, I realized I had hurt her feelings by doubting her. 

"I meant what I said, Rick.  I have never had a Ballroom class in my life.  I told you my father danced with me when I was a kid.  I don't know why you don't believe me."

"Well, c'mon, Katie, I don't think your father taught you all those moves.  They had to come from somewhere."

"Jack leads those moves.  I just keep my feet moving in time to the music and Jack puts me here and Jack puts me there.  I don't have a clue what I am doing.  All I have to do is follow his lead.  I am telling you the truth!"

Katie's words went right over my head.  It was like describing the color red to a blind man.  Frustrated and confused, I clammed up.  Now we sat and watched the dancing in awkward silence.  Jack and some pretty woman from another table whisked by doing some dance I did not recognize.  With Jack in his tuxedo and the lady in her long gown, they really looked sharp together.  Despite my foul mood, I could see why women would enjoy dancing with a guy like Jack.  These two were straight out of a Fred Astaire movie. 

I turned to look at Katie.  She was mesmerized.  Looking at Katie in her unusual Forties dress, I recalled the heyday of Ballroom dancing was back in the Big Band Era.  Based on dance scenes from World War II movies, I visualized Katie in the arms of a handsome GI in uniform.  What I wouldn't give to be that guy. 

Then my eyes returned to Jack as he guided that woman effortlessly around the floor.  Jack made every woman he danced with look good.  How did he do it?  I decided to speak up again.


"Katie, you said that you let Jack lead you.  What does that mean?"  

"A lead is how the man guides me where to step next.  I don't have to know what I am doing to follow him.  Jack just puts me in his arms and off we go."

'Lead.'  There's that awful word again.  To me, the word 'Lead' was synonymous with 'Voodoo'.  Leading was some sort of dark magic that made absolutely no sense to me.  I had not seen Jack giving that woman any hand signals, so I was clueless to understand what Katie was talking about.

"Look, Katie, I'm sorry I doubted you, but I am still lost about how a lead works.  I cannot understand how you can dance moves you don't even know.  What exactly does Jack do?"

Katie replied, "When Jack holds me, there's something about the way his shoulders work that doesn't give me much choice.  When his shoulders go forward, my shoulders go back and so do my feet.  When my shoulders go forward, so do my feet.  I don't have to think about it, it just happens.  The way he holds me, I don't have a whole lot of choice.  I know instinctively where to go.  It is really fun to dance with him.  Half the time I am spinning around and getting dizzy and the rest of the time I feel like I am floating."

Just then, Jack reappeared.  Jack said to Katie, "Would you like to Rumba?"

I fumed as Jack led Katie out on the floor.  A flash of hot anger raced through me.  Katie had me convinced that Henry and Jack had withheld information on the importance of leading.  Whatever had gone wrong over at Phoney Baloney seemed to be happening again.  I didn't worry about losing Celeste to Henry; he could have her.  But Katie was a different story.  I felt like Jack was playing the same trick on me.  As my sense of panic rose, I wondered how I could ever impress this beautiful young lady if I didn't know what I was doing.

I felt so damn helpless.  I remembered the night back in college when Connie and her two girlfriends had laughed at my dancing.  I had asked Connie to Freestyle dance with me.  I was so awkward out there that I was became a joke to those girls.  Now I felt like the same thing was happening all over again.  By not properly explaining how to lead, I felt like Jack had set me up by ignoring an important skill.  Not only that, he was using this skill to gain a considerable advantage in pursuit of Katie.  Jack was no fool.  Katie was far and away the prettiest girl in the room.  What man wouldn't want to have a woman like Katie in his arms?  Right now Jack was stealing my girl and making me look terrible the process. 

The words to the Courtesan raced through my mind. 

The best place to meet women is any venue where a man shows his superiority.  Since the beginning of time, women have been attracted to successful men.  Every man needs one place where he is the clear choice as the Alpha Man in the room.  Therefore every man needs to identify his Stage, the place where he can demonstrate his ability and look his most confident.  A man's Stage is where he will be attractive to women.

I was so lost in my thoughts I didn't realize Katie had returned.  Katie was still upset over my accusation. 

"Rick, what made you think I was taking lessons from Jack?"

"Katie, I am sorry I snapped at you.  I lost my temper because I didn't understand how you suddenly knew ten times more moves than me.  I am sorry I said what I said.  You took the same class I did.  You learned the same moves I did.  So why are you suddenly the star out there but you can't you do the Foxtrot steps we learned in class when you dance with me?"

In a frustrated voice, Katie replied, "You don't know how to lead those moves!  Out here, I can't remember what the steps are or know when you are going to do them.  Everything happens too fast.  But with Jack, I don't have to know anything!  All I have to do is move my feet in time to the music and it works."

I believed Katie was telling the truth, but I was still bewildered.  How did Jack make Katie look so good? 

Now a different song came on.  It sounded kind of bouncy and it sounded Latin.  Even I could tell that much.  What was I supposed to dance to this song?   Rumba or Cha-Cha??   I was angry that I couldn't tell what dance went to what song.

Katie said Cha-Cha.  Okay, good, that had been one of my favorite dances.  I looked at my syllabus and remembered the Basic went forward and back.  Rock Step Cha Cha Cha.  I asked Katie to practice with me a couple times by the table.  Yep, I had it.  We went out and danced the Basic for the entire song.  I didn't make one mistake, so I hoped Katie would compliment me like she always did in class.   A little praise would go a long way towards helping me lighten up.  Thumbs up or thumbs down??

Thumbs down.  When we returned to the table, Katie seemed more frustrated. 

"Why are you upset, Katie?"

"I don't want to make you feel bad, Rick, but what happened to the other five patterns on that list?  We didn't do the Flirt Step or the Walkaround."

I bit my lip with regret.  In other words, one move to the entire song wasn't going to cut it, especially when that damn Jack was leading Katie through all sorts of complicated patterns.    Katie looked so disappointed in me.  She seemed to be bored out of her mind with my limited knowledge.  But what could I do?  I could remember the names of the patterns, but once I was out on the floor I had no idea how to go from one pattern to the next.  Making a transition from one move to another was out of the question.  I hung my head.  I was a one-note wonder.  I could do a Box Step basic.  I could do a Cha Cha basic.  I could do a Swing basic.  But that was my limit.  My sense of futility was eating me alive. 

I pulled out my Cha Cha syllabus and stared at the missing five Cha Cha patterns.  Yes, I saw the names of the patterns, but they didn't mean anything to me.  I asked Katie if she remembered how to do those moves.  Katie shook her head and reminded me, "I can't remember either.  I just let the guy lead." 


LEAD!  I swear, if Katie said that word one more time, I was going to scream.  I became very discouraged.  This Ballroom business was a lot more complicated than I had been led to believe.  Right now I was so angry at Jack I could spit. 

Speak of the Devil, at that moment, Jack came over to our table and invited Katie back onto the floor AGAIN.  It seemed like the man asked her to dance every other song.  Katie responded with a smile that evoked acute jealousy. 

I sat there fuming as Jack and Katie danced.  There she was spinning and floating again.  I watched in utter disbelief.  Not only was Katie doing more patterns than before, she never stumbled and she didn't appear remotely nervous.  Katie was laughing her head off.  As long as she danced with Jack, she was having the best night of her life.  My heart sank to untold new depths. 

I ruefully thought back to how proud I was when Katie said I was the best guy in the class.  What a cruel joke!  I was getting hammered by one problem after another while Jack swept Katie off her feet.  I dared not ask what Katie thought of me now.

A very dark thought crossed my mind.  The more I watched them, the more suspicious I became.  Was Jack making a move on Katie?  At first I thought Jack just enjoyed dancing with her, but there was a new wolf-like expression on his face. 

Why would he do that?  Katie was half his age.  Katie could have been his daughter.  Hmm, he wasn't dancing with her like she was his daughter.  They were dancing a Tango hip to hip.  I felt another unbelievable pang of jealousy. 

Here we go again... the Jealousy Monster.  Rachel had shown me that jealousy was the fastest way to lose a woman.  I could not let my jealousy show.




"Women seem wicked when you're unwanted. 
  Faces look ugly when you're alone."
                              - - The Doors, People are Strange

My dark thoughts were interrupted when an older woman named Brenda came up and rudely poked me in the ribs with her finger. 

"How about you and I dance?  I am getting sick and tired off sitting here."

Brenda was in just as bad a mood as I was.  Truth be told, Brenda had a point.  There were eight women and three men.  The other two guys were just as lost as I was, so they were glued to their seats.  With Katie getting every other dance with Jack, the rest of the women stared glumly out at the floor.  The only two people in our group who were having any fun were Katie and Jack.  This night had turned out to be a giant mistake for all of us.

Something warned me that dancing with this woman was not a very good idea.  Brenda was twice my age.  Thanks to a steady stream of bourbon and coke, the whiskey had turned Brenda into a bully.  Based on the way she demanded I dance with her, I was reluctant to accept.  However I couldn't think of a graceful way to say 'no'.  For lack of a face-saving excuse, out on the floor we went. 

I asked her what dance this was. "This is a Tango, right?"

Brenda frowned. "Aren't you supposed to know?"  She rolled her eyes in disgust and then barked, "Yes, Tango."

As Brenda and I got into dance position, she pressed her body to me much closer than I was comfortable with.  She told me she had taken lessons before and this was the correct way to dance the Tango.  Maybe so, but she reeked of bourbon.  I was repelled by her closeness and her breath.  In addition, Brenda was large and very unsteady on her feet.  I soon realized I was responsible for keeping her upright.  Dancing is supposed to be fun??

'Forward Forward Tang-o Close.'  I remembered this much from the notes.  We did the pattern once.  We did it again.  We did it a third time.  We did it a fourth time.  I was proud of myself, but that didn't last long.

Brenda barked at me, "What about the Promenade?"  

I cringed.  I remembered the pattern being listed on the syllabus, but I couldn't remember how to do the Promenade and told her so.  Brenda jerked our bodies into the Promenade position only to find I wasn't sure what the footwork was.  But after two tries, I remembered, so onward we went. 

Now I faced an avalanche of suggestions.  "Do the Fan!"  "Do the Flare!"  "What about the Cortez?"

I stared at her with a baffled look.  Brenda rolled her eyes and began to lead the Fan herself.  I was unable to keep her steady and we both lost our balance.  We looked like such fools out there.  At that point Brenda began to insult me.  "Didn't you take the same class as me?  Why don't you remember anything?"  

Brenda was in a bad mood and I was an easy target.  I was feeling much too insecure to stand up for myself.  Consequently I put up no defense as she teed off on me.  I was under so much pressure that whatever Tango I did remember was long gone.  Finally the song ended.  I told Brenda I was sorry I didn't remember the other moves, but I did the best I could. 

Brenda snapped, "Next time maybe you should pay better attention in class." 

Brenda's criticism really stung.   It reminded of Celeste had treated me.  I almost lost my temper, but said nothing.  A wave of despair washed over me.  This was a time in my life when I was having a terrible time standing up for myself. 

Katie and Jack had just returned from their own Tango.  When Brenda saw Jack, she turned her back on me in disgust, grabbed Jack's arm and hauled him out on the dance floor.  Despite my dark mood, I actually smiled a bit.  Jack never knew what hit him.  Brenda immediately chewed him out for neglecting her all night.  The look on Jack's face was priceless.  I could see he was appalled to be stuck with this woman for an entire song.  Good.  Served him right.  As for me, I probably could have used some of that bourbon myself.  My nerves were shot.  I could definitely see why everyone else was drinking at this event.  The entire evening was a disaster.




Seeing Brenda jerk Jack away from her, Katie did a double-take at the angry woman. 

"Rick, what was that all about?"

"That woman is hostile because she came here to dance and no one wants to dance with her.  Plus she was mad at me because I couldn't remember the moves from class.  Katie, I am having a rough night.  I can't tell a Tango from a Waltz.  Plus these syllabus notes are worthless.  I can only do one step to each dance.  And now that nasty woman just bit my head off.  So much for being the best dancer in the class, huh?"

Seeing me slump in my chair in defeat, a flicker of the old Katie appeared.  Katie tried her best to cheer me up.  "Rick, why are you always so hard on yourself?  You're a beginner.  You just need more practice and you would do fine."

I smiled wanly.  I had wanted so much to impress Katie and please her, but I felt like a fool.  Just then another song came on.  It was Swing, the dance I had liked the best.  I smiled as I remembered the night I met Katie.  We were the Swing Kids having fun on that magical first night.  Could Swing restore the magic? 

Katie looked at me hopefully.  I screwed up my courage and said okay.  Only one problem... I had not danced a lick of Swing in six weeks.  I could remember the names of all six moves on the list, but that did not transfer to the dance floor.  If I was lucky, maybe some of the moves would come back. 

When we got out there, I said, "I think remember the Basic Step."

I put my right arm around Katie's back and took her hand.  We did the Closed Basic together.  About a minute into the song, Katie exclaimed, "Swing me out!"

I looked at her blankly.  "Katie, I don't remember the signal.  I don't know how to do that pattern."

So Katie lifted my arm and swung herself out.  Then she swung herself back into my right arm.  While I stayed in one spot, Katie initiated each move.  Katie bounced in and out of my arms doing her Swing Out and Swing In.  Katie danced around me like I was a metal pole.  I felt so humiliated.  I had really liked this dance when I first learned it.  It upset me no end that I had forgotten everything.  I cursed Jack.  Why didn't Jack ever review the Swing?

The moment I saw the disappointment on Katie's face, I fell to pieces.  It was no use.  Her look of disappointment sent me spiraling into oblivion.  When we returned to our seats, I felt the same curtain of darkness descend upon me that I had felt in the car the night Rachel told me about making love with Aaron, the Rice professor.  When I get too frustrated, I retreat into my shell.  Katie was not even remotely mean to me, but in a way that hurt worse.  I was utterly ashamed of myself for my incompetence tonight.

The moment the next song came on, Jack ditched Brenda in a nanosecond and returned to ask Katie to dance again.  Katie practically jumped out of her chair.  Her enthusiasm said it all.  Katie couldn't wait to dance with Jack again.  My heart sank as I watched her face light up with excitement when they began dancing another elegant Waltz.

I had made a terrible mistake tonight.   Too bad Katie had never seen me on the volleyball court.  Katie would have seen a tall, powerful, athletic guy full of confidence and dominance.  Instead I had foolishly chosen to make my move on the Ballroom dance floor where I was clearly out of my element.  The sad thing is that I should have known better.  The Courtesan had said women are attracted to confidence and competence.  For something as serious as asking Katie out, this had been the absolute worst place to make my move. 

All I had shown Katie tonight were apologies, accusations and memory failure.  We were no longer equals.  Katie was the star and I was the clown.  My pride was utterly shattered.


I grimly thought back to The Courtesan.  The title of this book referred to the days of the French court at Versailles.  King Louis XV was a legendary womanizer.  During the lavish Balls, Louis would pick a woman from the crown that he wanted to sleep with.  It mattered not that these women might be married or they had been escorted to the Ball by a French nobleman no doubt smitten with her. 

As the King took the arm of his choice for the night and led her to his chambers, the forlorn look on the men's faces was surely identical to the look on my face.  King Jack had seized my woman and I was helpless to prevent it.  I was sick with disappointment. 

The book had said women will always be attracted to the flashiest guy in the room.  Therefore, in any social setting, the men who display the most skill and expertise will get the first shot at the prettiest girls.  I could see Christopher was absolutely right.  Jack was the clear winner.  Jack had won the right to dance with the prettiest girl in the room all night long.   Sad to say, back when I was planning to make my move tonight, I never saw this coming.  Once Jack moved in, I never stood a chance.

In my fantasy, that was supposed to be me out there tonight.  I had been successful in class, but I was completely lost in this new situation.  I wanted to ask Katie out on a date more than anything else in the world, but the unfortunate events of the evening had drained me of courage.  My failure was unbearable.

As I watched Katie fly around the floor, I still could not believe how well she danced with Jack.  I noticed she had her eyes closed and guessed that she was pretending to be Cinderella.  Katie had the happiest look on her face. 

That was the way I wanted to remember her. 


Should I wait for Katie to return and talk about getting together?  No.  I cringed at the thought of seeing the pity in Katie's face if I stuck around to ask her out.  A bitter thought crossed my mind... 'Desperation isn't sexy.'  Given the way I felt, it was useless.  My heart sank with the realization that this evening was far past the point of rescue. 

So I waited till Katie and Jack reached the far side of the floor.  Then I got up and swiftly left the building.  There was no point in sticking around.  My pride was far too wounded by the night's events to risk making a further fool of myself.  I wasn't very brave around girls to begin with, but tonight's Melody Lane horror show had gone well beyond anything my low self-esteem could tolerate. 

Regrettably, when I walked out the door, I relinquished any chance of ever seeing Katie again.  There was no follow-up to this Ballroom class nor did I have Katie's phone number.  I had no idea where she worked or what she did for a living.  I didn't even know her last name.  The pain from my latest defeat was absolutely searing.  I went home and cried my eyes out.

In Love, for all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these:  "It might have been." 

-- John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), American poet

For my love of Katie, it might have been.  But it wasn't, was it?  This was as bitter a blow to my heart as any I had ever suffered.  

Having lost all dignity, I had just walked away from the woman I wanted to marry.  I obviously wasn't ready yet.






   1975: August  Katie Disaster at Melody Lane
   1975: July   Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April   Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   1975: March   Visit to Rice (25), Celeste, Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
   1975: February   Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice University
   1975: January   Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle, River Oaks Seven vanquished
   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)


   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene


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