hummingbird music camp—summer, 1997
Mariama J. Lockington
i step out onto the dance floor wearing my new lime green skirt with the purple butterflies on it and a matching purple tank top. the group of girls who had mocked my afro in the mess hall the day before stop their gossiping by the punch bowl to watch. i ignore their eyes and instead look up at the rec room stage where the trophy for best dancer sits on a table. the trophy is nothing more than a tin pie can decorated with glitter and stickers and a few orange streamers but it is the most beautiful trophy i have ever seen. i glance around me. there are only a couple of other campers swaying nervously on the sidelines. a group of exhausted-looking counselors stand in another corner sipping cokes and talking.
i am tired of waiting for some white boy to ask me to dance. for the other girls to leave their drama of who kissed by the campfire. i am twelve and i’ve been at sleep away camp a whole week. the longest i’ve ever been away from home. each day has been filled with going to piano lessons. making neon-colored lanyards in the craft hut then sitting with fellow pianist emily at the “cavity shack” to share a snickers ice cream bar after dinner. but this is the last night and nobody seems to care. the boom box starts playing men in black and I KNOW THIS SONG my head screams. i feel the bass humming into my hips. i pat my hair then smooth my skirt and before i know it i’m in the middle of that floor shaking my bones loose. i’m in the middle of that floor not giving a goddamn what those girls are saying or who those boys will or will not dance with.
THE GOOD GUYS DRESS IN BLACK REMEMBER THAT i scream along with the track as i do a series of dips twirls and off-beat two-steps. then i launch into some really sophisticated moves at the bridge. i freeze and then along with the line LET ME SEE YOU JUST BOUNCE WITH ME BOUNCE BOUNCE WITH ME i booty-pop my way to one corner of the room and freeze again. JUST SLIDE WITH ME SLIDE SLIDE WITH ME i two-step slide my way to another corner of the room then put on fake glasses and strike a pose with my hands crossed over my chest. then finally LET ME SEE YOU JUST WALK WITH ME WALK WALK WITH ME. and i walk like the funkiest egyptian you have ever seen.
for my grand finale i run back to the center of the dance floor and strike a charlie's angels pose aiming my gun-hand right at those girls while screaming NOW FREEZE! then. noticing a group of boys and even some counselors who have joined me on the floor i yell MOSH PIT right as the track fades back in. and we just go crazy then. jumping up and down like popcorn in the pan.
Mariama J. Lockington is a writer, nonprofit educator, and transracial adoptee who calls many places home. She is the founder of the womanist project the Black Unicorn Book Club and is published in a number of journals and magazines, including BuzzFeed News Reader, the Washington Square Review: Issue 36, Prelude Magazine, and Bodega Magazine. Mariama lives in Michigan with her partner and their dapple-haired dachshund, Henry. You can find more of her work at www.mariamajlockington.com.
Illustration by Andres Guzman.
PSSSST! This story will be published in Paper Darts Volume Six. Be on the look out for pre-orders soon.