Tuesday, 30 April 2013


He must have danced with a dozen different girls that night, at least; plucking them from the obscurity of the crowd (or group – the venue was really too small for a crowd) and spinning them out into the limelight of those few metres he’d claimed for his dance floor.

The band was playing jazz, and swing, in several languages and styles, and he leapt and twirled and spun and ducked in response. And the girls did too, all seemingly transformed in his hands – as if each had been his partner for years, not minutes.

Some he kept for a few songs, others just one. Some he spoke to, others twirled in enigmatic silence. Some got smiles, others just his full-on eyes.

All looked happy, relaxed, vital. Even watching, I felt myself wrapped in his spell, fascinated by each swirling sequence, unfolding too fast for my mind to match – so only my eyes could keep pace, no space for thoughts.

At first I wondered if they minded, the girls – being picked up and discarded like that. But they didn’t seem to (not that I could know), and he did it all so gracefully, with such apparent purity of intent.

By which I mean, he didn’t seem to be looking for anyone in particular (though there were those few he spoke to, danced with longer, even followed briefly back to their corners – and once I heard him respond, “Oui, je suis français, bien sûr”). He seemed mainly to just love dancing – no, more than that, to have it in his bones.

To judge him, or demand he behave any differently, seemed beside the point. He was simply doing what he had to; how could he not dance, and how could he dance with just one, or two, when he had enough energy, more than enough, to transform the entire room?

Anna, my Anna, was one of those girls. She wasn’t mine, of course; I loved her, but she didn’t know. Or maybe she did, but it’d be another year before I told her, and then three weeks more before she decided, in her own sweet time, to end my suspense.

I feel like saying it broke my heart to watch her dance with him. And in a way that’s how it felt, but not how you think. Not because (or not just because) I was jealous. It’s more that she looked so perfect – I mean they did, together. So complete. And so utterly strange to me. As though I was fully seeing this person I thought I knew so well, and she was someone else entirely.

The singer’s voice was all husky and teasing; I forget the song. They smiled, a little, and danced very lightly, spinning round and through each other’s arms without pause. Then he pulled her in close, and they jived playfully back and forth. So easy! As if they’d known each other half their lives!

The song ended, they bowed, he slipped away and she turned with glazed eyes, towards me. She smiled vaguely, but I don’t think she could see anybody just then. I reached reflexively, for something – my drink, empty. And I blinked, dazed too.

I left early, so I don’t know if he did eventually settle on one perfect partner. I never really asked her, either, how it felt, to be danced with like that. I mean, it sort of came up – the night, the place – in conversation a few times. But I kept the reference cursory. Anxiety, I suppose, my own insecurity making me unwilling to hear her answer, to see her eyes light up, in memory.

But again, this isn’t quite (just) jealousy. I think I’m also scared of destroying my own memory, or blowing away the dreamdust I’ve gathered around it. It’d be too harsh, too cruel, to have it all levelled out to the mundane. I’d rather keep the poetry, the magic, even if I maybe know it’s of my own.

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