Norma Lee and the Dance, teen steam punk girl
Norma Lee Almen
" Norma Lee Almen, Norma Lee Almen, you quit this right now!", the teacher was screaming. Norma Lee just kept dancing until the Mrs. Jobe grabbed her arm. The snickers turned into loud laughter as Norma Lee came out of her trance. She stumbled forward a little and Mrs. Jobe caught her as she passed out.
That was so many years ago in 1968. I was in Norma Lee's 8th grade English and Art classes. She was such a distant minded girl. Very smart, but would often gaze out through the large 8 pane class room windows. I sat right next to her in English class and would often notice that she drew angels in her note book ."How strange", I thought, that the little angels always had folded wings.
Norma Lee always wore long black dresses and walked through the halls with a haunting grace. She almost never spoke and would immediately look at the floor when spoken to. I remember one day, outside, she pulled back her long jet black hair with her hands, away from her bright jade green eyes and asked me, "Are you writing?" Startled that she spoke, I said " Huh? " She just looked away and softly whispered, "Never mind", and walked around me to the door.
One could say that Norma Lee Almen was Goth, long before Goth was even heard of. Always dressed in black, silver bracelets on her wrists and a necklace dream catcher made out of wire. She was so far removed from the other girls and she really didn't seem to care. I saw her walk by little gatherings of girls many times and the girls would hunker down to whisper while pointing at her.
The boys pretty much ignored her and just thought of her as being weird. She was pretty but it was hard to tell, mainly because she kept her face hidden with her hair and looked away from people, when approached. Either we were darkness and she was light, or she was darkness and we were light. Some kids even nicknamed her "Norma the Vampire." Her very light complexion and dark makeup on her eyes seemed to promote the name.
I saw Norma Lee smile twice. We were in Mrs. Harnesbargers Art class. I held up the worst picture of a monkey ever drawn. Mrs. Harnesbarger chuckled and said, " Tom, if that is a self prortrait, you get an A+, but if that is what I think might be a monkey, it's a D -, fella ! " Every one bursted out laughing and I caught Norma Lee out of the corner of my eye with a big smile. Sadly, only a memory now, one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.
Junior High school was finally over and the last day was like stepping off of a long train ride. Just before I got on the bus, I noticed Norma Lee waving and looking up at the third floor windows. I looked hard, all across the windows and there was no one there. She finally turned and walked across the school yard to her bus. I muttered out loud to myself, "She just might be a Vampire?"
I saw her in the halls and in a few classes we had together throughout High School. Her black dresses got a little shorter and she looked a little weirder because she also wore white red ball tennis shoes with black shoe laces. Maybe we all just got use to her. Maybe the 1970's "Dawn of Duh", just ignored who she was.
A few years after high school, I was at an afternoon party on Poor Farm hill. Local bands were playing in one of the Fair buildings. I was just drinking a beer and hanging out by my car when I saw Norma Lee Almen sitting on the grass, under an old maple tree. I decided to walk over and say Hi. The closer I got to her, the more I could see that she had become a beautiful young woman.
She had on a lacy black mini dress and her hair was tied back with a purple scarf. She had her legs bent and was reading a book in her hands, proped on her knees. I walked up and shyly said , " Hi Norma Lee." She looked up without expression and said, " Oh, hi...Tom?" I grinned and said, "Yes, been a long time, huh? She laid the book down and positioned herself sideways with her right hand on the ground and said, "Yes, a while, it has been a while."
I looked and saw the title of the book was, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" and I said, " Jules Verne, wow, you like Jules Verne?" She picked up the book and said, "He's my favorite, always has been." We went on with a little small talk about school days and I asked her about the time when she was dancing in the gym and passed out.
She looked down and twirled the grass within her fingers and told me the story. She said, "I didn't even want to be at that silly boy and girl dance thing that Mrs. Jobe drummed up. I just stood there and nobody would ask me to dance. All of the other girls were dancing and there were three extra boys. I found myself dancing and it was the most beautiful dance in the universe!"
With what I am sure was a blank look on my face, I said, "You were dancing alone, and it kind of looked like you had one hand on a shoulder and one stretched ot to another hand, it looked pretty weird to all of us." Instantly, I felt like an idiot as she looked down and sadly said, "Yes, I know." She looked back up at me, right into my eyes and said, "You couldn't see my partner, but he was there."
I thought I would amuse this insane conversation and ask the question, " Who was there, who were you dancing with?" She got the biggest smile on her face, even her eyes smiled as she said, "God, I was dancing with God, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to dance...I said yes! "
As crazy as it sounds, something in her voice and eyes made me believe that she was telling the truth. She went on saying, " I was just so lonely in the eight grade. God was the only friend I had to talk to. Nobody would dance with me that day and I felt such a sadness. God was there. He was 14 years old and had long curly red hair, and he had the most beautiful green eyes.... green eyes, just like me."
By this time, I was totally engrossed in her story and asked, "When you passed out, why did you pass out? " She had gotten a small tear in her eye and softly said, "He kissed me and told me I was pretty...that's all I remember." I couldn't swallow and I had to turn away for a moment to keep from crying. Breaking through the silence I heard a male voice say, "Norma, time to split, the gig is over." A guy was walking up with a guitar in his hand and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
Norma Lee grabbed her book and stood up. She told the guy that we were old school mates and introduced us. I can't even remember what he looked like at all. He was obviously her boy friend. After a few words, he shook my hand, we said goodbyes and they walked towards an old blue Ford panel truck.
I turned and walked towards my car. Half way there, I heard her yelling ," Hey Tom! " I looked back at her and she grinned and shouted loud, " Are you writing? " I nodded my head yes, even though I still had no idea what she meant? I watched the old blue truck drive down the hill and I never saw Norma Lee Almen again. I heard once from a friend that she had moved to LA.
I can only imagine what she is like today. She is probably dressed in a Steam Punk outfit, reading Jules Verne, sometimes dancing with a 14 year old boy who has green eyes and red hair. I hope she is safe and well.
God, how I love the unique people of life!
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