You know Spring is on its way when the days start ending in a slow kind of fade instead of dying abruptly like they do in December.
Friday night. The evening is announced with gold and purple bleeding into an English sky that’s actually visible for once. The usual mass of grey is noticeably absent, the sun has made an appearance and what a difference it makes. There are tenebrous-looking clouds dotting the sky here and there but it is on rare evenings such as this one that the very special luminosity of Turner’s paintings come to life.
I get to the party on time (early), for a change. Which would seem strange as I’m known (almost famous) for my tardiness but I don’t really want to be there, so it makes perfect sense—the sooner I arrive, the sooner I can leave.
I take in the crowd and it’s exactly what I imagined, I expect to have to go through many “and what do you do?” before the ordeal is over — I’m bored to tears already. The lawyer isn’t here yet because we agreed to both come directly to the venue and obviously he would never imagine I could arrive on time.
A glass of champagne is handed to me and I observe the way the bubbles race each other to the surface as somebody drones on about equity laws. I have no idea what they’re talking about so I smile and nod my head at regular intervals because sometimes, even I have to blend in and hide my unusualness. I don’t do it very often and only for people I care very much about.
A solid feeling of middle class confidence hangs above the room. The women are polished and the men all wear that same satisfied smile. They are where they want to be in life, or maybe they are very skilled at deluding themselves. I’m not sure, but the atmosphere is stifling and now is one of those moments I wish I could be just a little more normal, I wish small talk wasn’t so difficult. I have a sudden desire for the ceiling to come down on top of all of us just to see all those people being ruffled and react in not quite such a contained way. I am a horrible person—they can’t help being who they are and neither can I.
I make my way to the bar visualising shots of tequila waiting for me, neatly lined up, slices of sunny lemon and a small mount of salt.
This is what I want but cannot have for fear of the act slipping. Just as I get to the bar, a man approaches. He makes eye contact and I know what’s coming next. The fact I sigh only inwardly shows how good I’m being tonight, my patience is being tested and I’m winning this fight. So far.
“Hi, I’m Mike” he says, taking my hand before I’ve had time to react and shaking it enthusiastically.
There are dozens of other bottle-blondes in this room, did he just pick the first one he noticed not huddled in a group? The one gazelle isolated from the crowd? I have a feeling he might have, so that means I am a random choice and even though I don’t give a fuck about this guy in the skinny suit, it still irks me. What a depressing thought.
I’ve been too good an actress and now this guy is doing his charming flirty act and I’m clearly expected to trill like a bird and feel flattered.
Oh, he has no idea!
Luckily for him, I see the lawyer across the room, making his way towards me. I watch him assess the situation from afar, he quickens his steps. In no time at all, he’s at my side and a lovely scented kiss later, the skinny-suited guy walks off looking dejected. He thinks the lawyer putting his arm around me in a proprietary way meant that I was being rescued, when the reality is that he was.
“I saw that look on your face, I arrived just in time, didn’t I?”
“I have no idea what you mean” is my wide-eyed innocent reply.
He laughs—he always does when faced with my “failings”. He’s not annoyed with me as he could be—as others would—he appreciates the fact I agreed to be his plus-one at this function and even wore a predictable black dress, even it is accompanied by vampire jewellery. He knows “this” isn’t me, he knows I’m trying and he’s grateful that I am.
“One hour and we’re out of here, okay?”
I readily agree because, why wouldn’t I? We all want to be accepted and loved for who we are, especially when what we are is that weirdly-shaped piece of the puzzle which has never quite managed to fit in anywhere.