Better go dance with her
You are someone who must be forgotten. A drink to be gulped down under cover of dark; an empty bottle pushed into the bin in the morning, stuffed down deep under sheaves of junk mail and squashed cans.
The other girls he’d admitted to with pride: the right clothes, schools, families. When you met his family, the one poised to follow you was already there, elegantly reclined into the chaise longue. Clearly a young woman to be lingered over, held in the mouth, considering top notes of violets, black cherries. Barely a wobble when you arrived.
‘Better go dance with her,’ he said, and left you where you stood, but she was too busy breaking into pirouettes, doing the swing, the conga, the merengue, the waltz, tango and foxtrot, partners galore: she refused.
Even when not there she loomed large.
And you, shrinking small, dwindled further by the whirling bodies, the unfamiliar food. Forcing down pate like catmeat salty on the tongue, pretending to like it. Your presence tolerated with blank-eyed lassitude.
You realised it might be better to leave right then and there. If only you had.
Instead, you invent a new move.
Pas de deux, you sweep her off her feet into an overhead lift, drawing all eyes—her body arched into the same arabesque she’d been holding, but for the first time she sweats.
Let’s dance, girl.
Her fouetté turns falter, turn into piqués, wander sloppily across the floor, lead her slinking off stage left with no partner to lean on, and the followspot swings towards you. You are now her. Over this impossible brightness you can’t see him. It was never about him.
The other girls fill the audience, as you curtsy low with a gracious smile, and the applause and flower throwing begins.
Sharni Wilson is an Aotearoa New Zealand writer and a literary translator from the Japanese. Her work, including this piece, has appeared in a few places before. @sharniw sharniwilson.com