Frank Dancing

When I was in eighth grade, probably fourteen, I had this pretty nice room in the house in Port Washington that I think I’ve told you about. It was a brick mansion with two white pillars out front, a swimming pool, a pool table, and an indoor squash court. It overlooked the Long Island Sound. My mother and stepfather moved into that house fighting, and he, not long after, left her there. I would say that the atmosphere of the place was dominated by anger and tears, and eventually it was overrun by deep, deep sadness and fog.

The kids, though, we had some fun. Many famous lines from my childhood came from that time: “Make me spaghetti.” (Ian, at two in the morning, while watching “Reel Camp.”) “You’ve got all the shit to put on shit, but none of the shit to put it on.” (Ian’s friend Joe Teitler, while peering into the refrigerator, stoned, also in the middle of the night.) “Who’s going to be my teddy bear tonight?” (Another of Ian’s friends, talking to me and my bestfriend Rhona. We thought he was a jerk.)

Anyway, I liked this room, on one of the walls of which I hung a large American flag. One day, I was lying on my bed listening to Jimi Hendrix’s song “Freedom,” when Ian’s friend Frank Malatino, probably sixteen at the time, appeared. Needless to say, Frank was Italian, and overweight, but he was smooth: he wore tinted aviator glasses, sported a shag and a little mustache, and often wore paisley and fringe. He was gregarious and funny, and was nice to me, even though, for another year or so, I would still be the little sister (despite my potential as a teddy bear).

So on this day, Frank came in and, without saying a word, started to dance in the middle of the room. (You gotta hit the play button on this video to really get this.) It was flat out: Hands, arms, legs, feet, hair, head, all flying in all directions. Half the time he wasn’t even on the ground. The floors were wood, and as Frank danced they bent and sunk and sprang back. Nothing like that had ever happened in my room: it came alive. It shook, for God’s sake. Frank’s dancing wasn’t a performance; it was an experience of complete abandon. He couldn’t know that it was a gift I would carry with me for all these years.