Red solo cups dotted the white tablecloths. Except for my table. My table of seniors featured multiple travel coffee mugs, a few soda bottles, and my own Starbucks cup. My friend Cassie and I had just made a run back to my house to refill all of our alcoholic beverages. Living conveniently five minutes from the venue for our ballroom end of semester party was convenient for maintaining my buzz through the endless executive board campaign speeches and the lecture from the outgoing President.
The senior slideshow had us all laughing as Joey, Whitney, and Josh talked about all of the seniors in turn. Joey and Whitney said surprisingly nice things about me, and I was still sharing a smile with CJ, who was across the table from me, when Alison's slide appeared.
"Alison is amazing!" Joey practically shouted, "Everything I just said about CJ goes double for her, except she's NOT A DICK!"
The entire room erupted in laughed, none of it even as close to as loud as mine. Alex and Cassie were on either side of me, and the three of us, as CJ's best friends, were absolutely loosing it. I caught Joey's eye, and he gave me a nod that clearly said 'that one was for you.' If I wasn't wearing glitter eyeliner, I would have probably cried with some combination of laughing too hard and gratitude for Joey just calling out CJ for being an asshole in front of the entire ballroom team.
And with the final slide, the tables were pushed back and took the floor for the famous last rumba. The last rumba is supposed to be an emotional thing, many tears have been shed, but when Joey through in the new move we learned in our lesson earlier that day, I said "we should try that again," and it felt like we could be at practice.
"We would end up using our last rumba to actually practice," Joey said with a smile as the song ended and we hugged.
Another rumba started, and I was barely out of Joey's arms when someone else took my hand.
"I get your second dance?" I asked as I settled into hold with CJ.
"Best friend privileges," CJ smiled just a bit. We spent the entire next few minutes looking each other right in the eyes, as was the nature of the rumba, but many unspoken things passed between us. When the song sounded like it was going to end, CJ dipped me and then pulled me in close, "I'm so proud of you. You've gotten so much better this year, and I'm glad I got to be apart of it," CJ whispered as he hugged me, "And I'm so sorry, about everything. There aren't words to tell you how bad I feel, you are the last person to deserve what I did to you. You are my best friend, you've become this amazing dancer, and every time I think about you I just feel so awful, and I miss the hell out of you."
"I miss my best friend more than anything," my whisper quivered, "I wish it didn't have to be like this."
"Me neither," CJ said, and we hugged for a second more.
"See you at Alex and Joey's after this?" I asked.
"Yeah," CJ nodded and I turned around to go back to my table.
If my life was a movie, this would the moment where we literally kissed and made up: where the boy would grab my hand as I turned around and kiss me and it would all be ok. Everyone would smile and applaud and know that all was right with the world if CJ and Kaitlyn were on good terms again.
But my life isn't a movie and in real life, you don't get a second chance for the same mistake.
I felt the strangest sense of deja vu: at the ballroom welcome week party at the start of the semester, CJ and I found ourselves in the corner of the ballroom house sharing a cup of straight vodka. It was the night where CJ nearly cried when I brought up why he didn't talk to me all summer.
Four months later, we were in another corner of the ballroom house. I had a cup of rum and root beer in my hand, and CJ had tears in his eyes, "And I'm supposed to go see her at MIT this weekend and I just can't see any way it's going to end good."
"Why are you going then? You've only got two more weekends here with all of us," I gestured around the party.
"I don't know ok, I'm just trying to get back to where I was before I got depressed," CJ insisted, not looking me in the eye.
"Don't keep people in your life who bring you down, and I've not heard you say one good thing about Sarah this entire semester. Just keeping it real," I shrugged, taking a sip of my drink.
Drunk CJ didn't bother trying to defy gravity, and it felt natural when we seemed to spend the entire party together. And by spend the entire party together, that meant I yelled at him for being an idiot and he couldn't tell me that I wasn't right. But something about our physical proximity felt good. It was like I didn't have to try and be someone I wasn't, and that person was still friends with CJ Anslow. We might not be as close as we once were, and there was no way we were going back to being more-than-friends, but there is something about chemistry that can't be denied. And despite all of the deliberate attempts to alter that chemistry, destroy it completely even, it just couldn't go away.