Guys dressed as cowboys and firemen, and women who look like Sunday school teachers crowd the sidewalk, grasping their two-dollars, waiting for entrance. I’m wearing my brother’s pleather jacket and an old pair of jeans. The guy collecting the cover charge looks like a dancer straight out of Saturday Night Fever. He buzzes the door, and Rick pushes it open.
The smell of cigarette smoke and sweat blended with cologne is oddly inviting. A song plays, and Rick, a former dance teacher at Arthur Murray’s, pulls me to the packed floor.
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston places me in a trance and allows me to dance publicly for the first time. The connection with the magic of her voice inspires me to let loose. Rick passes me a bottle of poppers, sending me into further ecstasy. Two guys next to us take off their shirts and tie them through their belt loops. I pass them the poppers, and the bearded-one kisses me. This night couldn’t get any sweeter.
It seems odd when Rick decides to wander through the bar and encourages me to go on my own. This never happens in the movies, at least between Bob and Carol, but I guess it’s what men do. I buy a beer and land in a quiet section behind the bar, allowing me to check out the entire club.
A guy sitting next to me rubs his leg against mine. Is this cruising? I like his nice guy eyes and bushy mustache. He says something to me, but I can’t hear over the disco version of the “I Love Lucy” theme. As I move closer, a flash of gold grabs my attention. A knife? Some other weapon? His face is expressionless. I look around, but no one else seems concerned. I jump up and search for Rick, never expecting George’s to be dangerous. Everyone seems so nice.
I push my way through the crowd, but keep looking back, thinking this guy must be following me. If I screamed for help, no one could even hear me.
Rick is drinking a beer and dancing alone at the edge of the dance floor. I tell him we have to go. He doesn’t want to. But I leave and don’t wait on him, even though he drove us the eighty miles to get here.
As I grab the exit door, I notice a tray of George’s Disco branded matchbooks printed in black lettering on a gold background. What the hell have I done? He was lighting a cigarette.
I turn around and find Rick behind me. I grab his hand and guide him back to the dance floor as Thelma’s masterpiece plays once more.
Years later at our wedding, the DJ plays “Don’t Leave me this Way” as we toast with glasses of Riunite on ice. My nephew brags to his date that we’re listening to early Queen Latifah, and my Karen-inflicted sister rolls her eyes as she feasts on the chocolate fountain.
Rick and I laugh and dance, looking forward to whatever the future holds.
Jeff Harvey grew up near Memphis TN and now lives in San Diego CA. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, Queerlings, The Daily Drunk Magazine, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @JeffHarveySD.