The Dance

Oh, Michelle was full of plans that day, on the fast track, with no time, she told me, for distractions – especially men. But she knew how to laugh, brightly and easily, and I noticed she didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to get back to the office. And there was something else, a glimmer that danced across her round, dark eye whenever I looked at her, the slightest hint of uncertainty, as if, deep inside, she knew how fragile things really were, and that if she ever let go, even for a moment, all her plans might quickly unravel. That touched me somehow, that trace of vulnerability. I wanted to know that part of her.

For the next several weeks, we saw each other every day, in the law library or the cafeteria or at one of the many outings that law firms organize for their summer associates to convince them that their life in the law will not be endless hours of poring through documents. She took me to one or two parties, tactfully overlooking my limited wardrobe, and even tried to set me up with a couple of her friends. Still, she refused to go out on a proper date. It wasn’t appropriate, she said, since she was my advisor.

“That’s a poor excuse,” I told her. “Come on, what advice are you giving me? You’re showing me how the copy machine works. You’re telling me what restaurants to try. I don’t think the partners will consider one date a serious breach of firm policy.”

She shook her head, “Sorry.”

“Okay, I’ll quit. How’s that? You’re my advisor. Tell me who I have to talk to.”

Eventually I wore her down. After a firm picnic, she drove me back to my apartment, and I offered to buy her an ice cream cone at the Baskin-Robbins across the street. We sat on the curb and ate our cones in the sticky afternoon heat, and I told her about working at Baskin-Robbins when I was a teenager and how it was hard to look cool in a brown apron and cap. She told me that for a span of two or three years as a child, she had refused to eat anything except peanut butter and jelly, I said that I’d like to meet her family. She said that she would like that.

I asked if I could kiss her. It tasted of chocolate.

-Excerpt from Family, The Audacity of Hope.

Barack you are the man. You showed us how it is done.

Oh where is that dancing glimmer, that slight hint of uncertainty, that trace of vulnerability that I’m yearning for?

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