Short Back Quick Step

“The dancers, they always fall in love with each other!”

“Yeah! It must be all that contact!”

“They fall in love, always.”

“That Russian dancer on Strictly Ballroom, she has fallen in love with her last three partners!”

I was informed of this by the other barber, via the mirror, as I grinned up at him, my slightly burned face wrinkled and lined, looking like a gargoyle’s as the other barber dragged the clippers through my hair. I tried to imagine the plastic blades as a girl’s fingernails, and was suddenly in need of contact myself. And to fall in love.

I felt tense, tension in my grin and shoulders, would like someone to massage that out. I worried that my bike was to be stolen from the railings, and glimpsed someone speed by on a black bike in the sunlight outside.

After tipping my customary pound coin, giving thanks that he didn’t give me a two pound coin in the change, I headed out and retrieved my bike.

Back at the flat, I jerked open the back door and went into the garden, sat on the wooden chair, listened to the wood pigeon and the crackle of my cigarette.

I came back inside, and undressed, the phone and keys acted as ballast and dropped my trousers to the floor. I wanted to call her, but was too afraid of the echoing electronic silence of the gaps between the burr of the ring tone, afraid of the woman announcing that this is the [insert mobile operator] voice mail service. I couldn’t let that shatter my fragile summer hope and evening reverie.

So I had a shower. After the sick heat of the trickles of hot water rolling down my face, I swung the tap to cold and got the life-giving blast of cold high pressure water. I had a shave. I washed the shavings into the water. When the water drained, they stayed there, a designer stubble on the interior of the newly-gleamed bowl. My landlady is coming round this week. Mental note to sort that sort of thing out. What does she expect, though? A single man lives here.

I slumped down on the white sofa, letting its fabric dry me a bit, and grabbed Viz comic. As I leaned back into the shade I thought I had predicted this moment. A feeling of being about to head out into the balmy night, this exact action foreseen. Deja vu? Or do I just do this often?

I read a couple of crude definitions in the Profanisaurus, then go into the bedroom and look in the mirror inside the cupboard door. Wow. I look fantastic! That haircut, that sharp shapely line shorn aside the swath of short stubble, that soap-tight skin and gleaming eyes, the look of surprise.

I’m going out tonight. I’m going to listen to jazz, and dance with a dance teacher, I’m going to dress like Gatsby, throwing shirt after shirt onto the crisp cool bed, wondering if I can pull off a straw hat…

I think I can. I feel its dryness, hear its crackly sound, lean it at a rakish angle, smile at myself with a slight question playing on my lips, pick up my phone and step into the golden evening.


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