Sexy. That’s the overriding impression. And one hell of a dancer, so let’s call him Patrick.
For the first three hours, we don’t have much to do with each other. Someone tells me I should dance with him, because he’s really good, but it’s for exactly that reason that I don’t. He’s intimidating, awesome, and he must have women falling over themselves to dance with him – and there are more approachable, more generous partners on the floor.
I’ve swapped my flimsy ballet pumps for boots and am looking around for the host. It’s getting on for 2am and I have an epic bus journey ahead of me. Patrick is passing, and stops and makes some remark about the speaker system, which is playing up. We exchange basic information: name, job, how we know the host.
‘So,’ I say, ‘what’s your dance history?’
I don’t make a habit in social situations of asking questions which belong in a job interview, but then I don’t often find myself talking to the Patricks of this world. When I do, speech itself is an achievement.
He doesn’t bat an eyelid, but gives an answer which covers both questions: the one I asked, and the one I meant, namely, how come you’ve got such incredible moves?
He winds up, ‘I want to learn salsa.’
‘Yeah, that’d be cool.’
I like to think if he’d said he wanted to learn, say, basket-weaving or book-binding, I’d have responded differently.
I go on, ‘I’m learning tango, but you can probably let your hair down a bit more doing salsa!’
‘What’s tango like?’
‘Err… well… you want me to show you?’
‘Yeah.’ So there, in the hallway, we do tango basic.
Someone’s making merry hell with the music. Patrick looks over at the perpetrator, puts his hand briefly on my waist, then walks off to see what’s happening. I follow. Minutes later, Cuban-style music comes on. He takes my hand and we start to dance. For someone who wants to learn salsa, he’s pretty damn good.
‘This music is actually merengue,’ he says, ‘but I don’t really know what the difference is!’
And anyway it’s not long before our salsa has morphed into something less PG, which is fine by me.
This is typically when things go to pot. I mean, this guy is like, ripped (yes, this is MBE writing, and no, the blog has not been hijacked). And, confusingly for someone so beautiful, he seems nice, which I really don’t know what to do with. But going back to the whole ripped thing, I feel like I need to be less blatant about wanting to dance with him, and only him (see above, about women falling over themselves). This would be easier if there were other people on the floor, but everyone else appears to have done a runner during the dodgy DJ-ing phase. As a man, he can just grab someone and dance with them, create the impression of not putting all his eggs in one basket, but for me, it’s a bit more difficult. Also, when I like someone and they’re a good dancer, I become really really bad at playing it cool. And, well, I’m shit at it anyway!
So, when I see him out of the corner of my eye dancing with another girl, I decide it’s time to call it a night. Not least because 2am has been and gone, and for all I know Patrick was dancing with me out of mere politeness (I don’t actually believe that), or as one dancer to another (more likely). I find my jacket, pull it on. A quick glance in the direction of the floor brings Patrick into view. He’s coming over.
‘Are you leaving?’
‘Yes. I’ve got a bit of an epic journey ahead of me. Night buses…’
‘Oh, right, yeah.’
‘It was nice to see you again. And, thank you for the dance!’
I say that a lot, and it’s never what I mean.
We kiss on the cheeks.
‘Yes, it was nice to see you.’
‘I hope it goes well in China.’
He’s moving there for work shortly. Another red flag, literally.
‘I’ll hopefully see you before then – I’ll come to the next one of these,’ he nods in the direction of the host, ‘if he has another.’
It feels like now is the moment to kiss or hug or something, but we’ve done that. He shakes my hand, then we bump fists, ironically I think, though it’s hard to be sure.
I laugh. ‘That’s way too cool for me!’
What I mean is, you’re way too cool for me. Which he is.
Seventeen minutes until the bus is due. I pull out my phone, run the old Facebook search. He really is beautiful. The minutes fly by. The bus arrives; I board, and find a seat at the top. Out comes the phone again, flashing bright white with a notification. It’s getting on for 3am so this surprises me.
Not half as much as what’s waiting for me. It’s like one of those Twitter quotes: ‘how great it feels when the guy you’ve just been looking at on Facebook, adds you‘. I grin, and hug my coat tighter around me. Now to see if he bucks the trend.