The New Me

An avid reader of romantic fiction and a growing dissatisfaction with work makes me feel that life is passing me by, or am I passing life by? Whatever, I need adventure. Perhaps not a torrid love affair, well, I can only dream that. Where on earth in this my home town, my mundane nine to five, am I going to find the man romantic fiction is made of? I have to be realistic otherwise my dream will remain just that. Adventures only come to heroines in books and on the screen, Life just isn’t like that - but it has to be! If I continue to look in the mirror and watch the white hair cleverly mask the brown, an old woman will eventually stare back at me and blame me for having done nothing, gone nowhere, not changed the world, never mind that, not changed me. Whose fault would that be? Not the old woman in the mirror but the old woman in me.

Can I give up my job? Go after pastures new? What if the grass isn’t greener? So what if it isn’t? If I carry on like this I will regret the not trying, the not knowing.

My grandmother’s voice pops into my mind “Go for it!” But there’s nothing to go for, nothing that really takes my fancy!

My trouble is I love to dream in the comfort of my bed. If anything different comes along I can think of one hundred and one reasons why I can’t, why I shouldn’t do it!

Leave the security of my job? I am lucky to have a job! My comfortable home, what would become of that if I no longer had income?

Comfort, security, that’s half, or is it all my problem?

The time has come when I, at thirty, should have been and gone and done something, something more than this. 30 going on 60! What do I mean by 60? My parents, 65, have joined clubs, gone dancing every week, doing all those things they wanted to do but couldn’t. They seem to have more of life than me. Me, an old maid lost in the dust of the shelf, wanting to be down on the ground, but too frightened to jump!

Stella and I have been friends for years but we started clubbing just after her divorce. If she sees me tonight she’ll be amazed and irritated that I haven’t asked her; I’ve come out on my own! All I want to do is dance, she won’t understand. The desire to dance hit me last week when we were out together; there was something in the music that was bigger than me. My eyes closed to the world, feeling the rhythm through my feet, being lost in the beat… so I have come, bringing only a small purse that sits neatly in my pocket. I danced ‘till my mouth was dry, ‘till my limbs ached and my ears pound and I sleep and dream of nothing. Now I am going regularly. I am intoxicated by the music. I feel myself a part of the dance itself.

Things happen when you least expect them or because you least expect them. I go on my own, I leave on my own but, perhaps because of a strange sense of chivalry or an unwritten code that a woman should not be dancing on her own, I find that I am seldom short of a partner. Oh! the days I went in search of them! An irony don’t you think?

As time goes by my motive changes, I suppose it grows, develops. I still go for the dance but I have become fascinated by the other dancers and their movements. I have also begun watching. I still dance, still get lost in the music but I rest too. I watch the lights. I watch the music swaying, jarring, jumping this way and that. I watch each gesture and its mood changes. As I watch I begin to hear. Across the room a couple fall out. She leaves her drink and it takes to the dance floor. He follows. Her body moves out of sync with the music. He tries to take her waist, to turn her around but her eyes refuse to meet his. He turns away, hands stuffed in his pockets.

Raucous laughter from the table next to mine. Theatrical gestures of amusement insisting that they are having a good time, that they are the in crowd.

I begin to hear the words of the songs too. Too often, too loud but I begin to hear them none-the-less. Music which had only spoken a beat begins to take a different shape. I become critical. The words dance in my brain as the music dances in my body. A new light begins to force its way through my mind.

Stella suggests we go dancing and I say, “Yes, why not?” But she suggests there. I feel myself stiffen. No, I think, that’s my place. It wouldn’t feel right going with her but what can I say? Well, maybe I will see it with a fresh pair of eyes, I think.

The evening has arrived. Our twosome has become a foursome with two other girls we haven’t seen for ages but whom Stella bumped into the day her car went in for its service. I am glad of it.

Ray’s welcome at the door has it usual good natured warmth. Stella notices, raises an eyebrow at me and smiles as if to say, “Your luck’s in!” Well, how’s she to know? It isn’t packed, too early on a Saturday evening. We find a table and I get the drinks.

“ Glad to see you’ve brought some friends,” Gregg smiles, “We were beginning to worry about you!” he winks as Samantha baits:

“Come off it Greg, you would only worry if Jo stopped coming!” Samantha as usual, looks stunning in her turquoise blouse. I wonder if blond hair is a prerequisite for all barmaids. She smiles. Oh! A perfect set of teeth too!

Much of the first hour is spent catching up: Have you seen? What became of? Did you know? Never! We dance and chat as if we are at school again and it comes as almost no surprise when two more faces from the past look down at us.

“Josephine Parker, isn’t it?” My heart misses a beat but now it is racing. I recognise Tony straight off even though he’s changed but, how he’s changed. Broad shoulders, tall, that nice looking boy has turned into a very handsome man.

“And Stella… weren’t you a couple of years below?” Tom is grinning. I never paid much attention to him; he was just Tony’s friend.

“Yes, and I’m Amanda. Amanda Bryce and this is Gillian.”

I try to stop staring; he is introducing there other friend, Andrew. He hadn’t been at our school.

More chat ensues, more catching up. He smells delicious. I find myself watching and listening again. The other three have become animated. They have so much to say, appearing to have done so much, so interesting.

After the initial pleasantries my last 14 years have flown by and melted into nothing very much. My mouth dries up. What can I say that isn’t dull or mundane? So I sit back. No, I can’t share that; not that I am ashamed but I don’t think they will understand so they’ll be silent, or worse, they’ll laugh, perhaps not to my face. People seldom see as valid those things which they cannot relate to themselves. Imagine Stella going to a nightclub just to dance, talk pleasantly with a few people, no pressure or ulterior motive.

Stella has sprung into action. I remember that she had also fancied Tony from a distance. Well, there is no distance between them now.

We get up to dance. I can see Stella eyeing up the situation. Three blokes and four girls. Perhaps I should tell her that this is not a problem, they know me there. I dance to the slow music just as happily on my own as with any one else, better even. On the floor I am free. I don’t have to desperately search for things to say. I close my eyes. Never mind Tony, Stella has made her mind up. She is no longer the girl of 5R looking longingly from a distance.

I smile, the beat is taking over. I open my eyes, Tony is smiling at me. Ah! blown it I think, the colour rising in my face. I am thankful for the dim lighting.

“Tell me more.” Tony says as we sit down. I look at him wide-eyed. “You sit here timid as a mouse until you get on to the dance floor and then…” he is looking at me intently, his eyes smiling. I feel my heart racing again. …

Despina

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