(Continued from Let’s Dance (Part I))
‘I got you a prosecco,’ he says, wielding a glass.
I take it in my free hand, drink from the beer bottle in my other. We… ‘talk’ may be an overstatement. We say words, which roughly make sense. I don’t mention the girlfriend, though I am thinking about her. I wonder if he is.
I look at my watch. ‘There’s not long left – I’m going to go dance.’
He drains his drink. ‘Am I the one you’d choose to… dance with for the last half an hour of the party?’
I give him a look. ‘It seems to be a tradition.’
‘Yes.’ He laughs. ‘I look forward to seeing you at Christmas!’
‘I – I would very much like to see more of you before then.’
I turn to face him. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea, is it?’
‘Because….’ I glance in the direction of the dance floor. ‘Oh, let’s dance.’
We danced to Bowie’s classic at Christmas and I listened to it for weeks afterwards. They’re yet to play it tonight.
Matthew and I are dancing. Nothing untoward. He’s spinning me (he was complaining earlier about how his girlfriend doesn’t get it when he attempts to turn her) – it’s basic rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t see it coming. An older colleague I don’t know very well passes by, engages him in conversation. They start dancing. I’m doing a solo spot. In my naivety I think, he’ll be back in a second. Seconds become minutes. I see Colleague on the balcony, go over to her.
‘We need to have a word, missy.’
‘It’s fine!’ I say. Which invariably means it isn’t fine at all. ‘He’s got a girlfriend, and I’m emotionally distanced.’
‘Ooook.’ She doesn’t look convinced. ‘What are you doing then?’
‘What?! We haven’t kissed or danced in a grinding way – it’s fine! He has a girlfriend!’
In the space of the next, what, two minutes, my mood undergoes a startling transition, from light and cheerful to blind rage.
I glance in the direction of the floor. They’re still dancing, Matthew and Older Colleague. ‘What’s he fucking doing?!’
Colleague gives me the most annoying look of sympathy. ‘He’s so drunk.’
‘That doesn’t make it OK!’
The next time I look, he’s nowhere to be seen. I entreat Colleague to join me on the floor. Just as she does, the song changes. I try not to listen to the words, try not to scan the room for someone who isn’t there.
‘I think I might cry!’ I say. ‘Mattthew and I danced to this at Christmas!’
We laugh and she hugs me.
The next time I see Matthew, he’s on the balcony, smoking with Older Colleague. I’m fuming to a wasted Ryan, then I’m fuming to Colleague (‘They say that,’ she says, ‘then three years later they have a baby together!’), then I’m leaving. Matthew is standing near the exit. I could have ignored him. I should have. But instead, for a moment, I put my hand on his arm. I want him to see me, and once he’s seen me, to say something, to apologise, to vow to leave his girlfriend. Yes, probably that. I think he turns, but I’m not sure. He doesn’t come after me. My last view of him is cycling away – incredibly in a straight line – down the road. I get out my phone, say a little prayer that there’s a message from VP waiting for me. But instead there’s a weird screen I haven’t seen before, some kind of system error. I turn the phone off and back on. ‘I really need you to be here for me!’ I say. Yes, I’m talking to my phone. There’s nothing. I’m not surprised, or particularly sad. It feels like a punishment of sorts, for following Matthew, for dancing with him, for not walking away when he spoke about his girlfriend the way he did. For letting myself believe, just for a moment, that it was real.