Slow Dance

I don’t feel comfortable in this dress. My friends forced me into it after they saw the floaty summer dress I had been planning to wear, but my chest feels constricted and I’m pretty sure if I bend over my knickers will be on display. They wanted me to go commando, but I have my limits.

I am part of a group of peacocks. We are showing off our feathers with our tight dresses and hair-flicks and faux-lesbian dance moves. I pour more and more vodka into my drink because I am worried about not feeling anything. I am not flattered when the guys puff out their chests and boast loudly about their sexual exploits. One of them jokes that I am so uninterested he should spike my drink. I don’t want to drink any more after that.

The first time I throw up, it stings. It’s probably the vodka, but the only thing I’m thinking about as I slouch with my cheek on the cold porcelain is how extraordinary it is that I have anything inside me to expel. I unzip the dress all the way down and exhale in relief.

The summer dress goes back on. I splash my face with water and do my ‘winning smile’ in the mirror after reapplying mascara. It feels hollow.

I plunge back into the crowd with enthusiasm. This is the last time, I tell myself over and over again, This is the last time you have to deal with this crowd. It helps, and I’m chatting and flirting and I even go to the drinks counter to get a bottle of beer because my friends are having a go at me for not drinking and I figure I can just plug the top with my thumb. I’m reaching for a bottle when a pair of warm hands touch my waist.

“Here, let me.”

Heat rushes through me as she reaches easily to the shelf and passes me a bottle.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” She starts and looks at me again, more closely. “You changed.”

“What?”

“You changed your dress. It’s nicer than the other one.”

“Thanks,” I say.

There are a lot of things we don’t say. I marvel at how I used to think I was the wise one out of us both, but now I just feel like a small child caught out in a lie. I remember telling her I couldn’t be her friend any more, but I don’t ever remember telling her it was because she was the mirror that reflected a side of me I didn’t want to see.

I’m standing with my mouth slightly open and it takes me a few seconds to realise she’s walked away. I don’t even know what she’s doing here, it’s not exactly her crowd, but then I realise she doesn’t need a crowd.

She’s dancing by herself. There are people pointing and staring but that never embarrasses her anyway. My face heats up when I realise she’s been in my peripheral vision all night, dancing by herself to ska or hip hop or 90s pop and the only time she stopped was to help me reach the alcohol I don’t even want.

A slow song comes on and I feel his hot breath on my neck. It smells like alcohol and peppermint, and I guess I should feel grateful that my semi-regular end-of-the-night partner has chewed some gum for my benefit, but the thought of repeating the awkward grabbing and unenthusiastic kissing we’ve been doing for a few months on and off just makes me feel nauseous again. He pulls me around and we’re dancing close, too close, and his hand is straying towards my bum and I can’t even muster the energy to push it away.

She is still dancing by herself. She has one hand across her stomach and her suit jacket is moving gently as she sways. Her eyes are closed and there is a smile quivering about her mouth, as if she knows the punch line to a joke we’re all still playing out. I rest my head at the edge of his shoulder and angle our bodies so I can see her and I realise it’s my first proper slow dance, and I realise he’s not who I want it to be with.

I close my eyes and it’s her shoulder I’m leaning on. I’m dancing with her.

Tags: