Home Alone

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CC Image courtesy of Norma Desmond on FlickrThe lights come up on the floor just as the DJ puts on a cheesy slow song.  Matthew and his team dance to it, arms round one another’s shoulders.  All except Ben, who looks on in disgust.

‘I hate this track,’ he says.

I smile.  ‘I never asked, how was your holiday?’

We chat about his recent trip.  The song comes to an end.

‘Errr Ben, can I ask – no… errr….’

His expression is one of polite enquiry.  I look over at Matthew.  He’s helping one of his more worse-for-wear colleagues up from the floor.  It’s now or never.

‘… what’s the deal with Matthew?’

Ben frowns.  ‘Well… we work in the same department?’

‘Nah nah nah,’ I say, laughing.  ‘I know what he does, and that’s not what I meant.’

He permits himself a small smile.

‘Well, so far as I know,’ he pauses, as if to allow me one final moment of blissful ignorance, and innocence, ‘he has a girlfriend.’

‘OK!’  I stare across the room for a few seconds.  Not a convincing impression of someone who doesn’t give a shit.

Ben looks sympathetic.  ‘But I don’t know if he’ll stay with her!’

‘Ha.’

‘Sorry,’ he says.

‘No, it’s fine, I thought – I mean – I thought it might be – I’d heard – something a mutual friend said….’ I break off.  ‘Well, I think I’m going to go,’ I say, gesturing towards the exit.

‘What – on your own?’

Well I sure as hell aren’t going home with Matthew!

‘Well, yes.’

‘Oh.’  He frowns.  ‘But – you shouldn’t go home alone.’

I feel a surge of affection towards Ben.  A man hasn’t shown this much concern for my welfare since, well, I can’t remember when.

‘It’s fine,’ I say.  ‘It’s a safe commute, and it’s not too late.’  I glance at my watch. ‘I’ll get the last tube.  But, thank you.’  We hug.  ‘Bye.’

I cross the room to retrieve my bag and cardigan.  Matthew comes over.

‘You’re going?’ he says.

You bet.

‘Yep.  I’m going to get the last tube.’

‘Where are you going back to?’

I tell him.

‘You?’

Different directions.  We joke about our respective neighborhoods.  The security guard at the door clears his throat and I turn to see that the room has emptied.  We slip out, retrieve our coats, and join the others on the pavement.  Matthew starts to roll a cigarette.  I shoulder my bag and make as if to leave.

‘Are you going?’ he says.

‘Yes.’ I glance at my watch.  ‘I need to get the last tube.’

He looks disappointed, hurt even.  ‘OK, well…’

‘See you soon,’ I say, hugging him, ‘and thank you for the dance!’

I turn, and walk away.

CC Image courtesy of - reuben - on Flickr



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