Extract from my forthcoming book Utterly Undiscovered.
Rebuilding my life, I arrive at the Friday Night Club ready to tap into the ‘singles’ scene:
Nonchalantly joining the check-in queue, as if I had a lifetime’s experience of this sort of thing, I gave my name and address and one pound fifty to a brittle-looking woman with upright hair sat in a cubicle with rows of coat racks and hangers, beyond which was a dark cavernous room normally used for conferences and training. Desperately needing a pint of anything, and another, but knowing my security for the evening was the option to drive away if I didn’t like it, I settled for an orange juice and lemonade, and shuffled off towards the round, twelve-seater tables. If this had been a conference, and the room brightly lit with water jugs and tumblers, and everyone had tidy name badges and an agenda, I’d have felt at home, ready to trigger conversation with the delegate lucky enough to sit next to me. Right now, I sensed it was going to be a long, dry evening.
On the opposite side of my sparsely occupied table, too far away to speak, were two people of indeterminate sex – not hermaphrodites as such, just it was too dark to tell. I sat alone, rehearsing the opening gambit I might use once someone was close enough.
‘Do you come here often?’ No – they might have heard that before.
‘Is this your first time?’ No – they might think it a bit forward, or pervy.
‘Hello-oo – is there anybody there?’ No – they might think I’m taking the piss, or ill.
I feel more alone than before I arrived. There’s something end-of-wedding about the place – a handbag and a couple of half-pint tumblers looking lost on the white table cloths, and a scattering of folk who’ve run out of conversation and aren’t sure when to leave. From what I’ve seen, there are four women to every man. That perks me up but it also feels unnatural, even threatening. At least the apparent age range of thirty five to fifty appeals, and there are plenty arriving.
‘If I come again, I must get here later,’ I think.
After a few conversational skirmishes, I’m escorted to the dance floor by a posse of women, thankfully more gentle than Downy and her mates all those years ago. The group dancing seems very jolly. The ageing DJ works the crowd, emptying the floor with progressively undanceable stuff then fostering a surge from the tables with a winning song. Since you can’t see or hear properly, conversation between dances is fraught. I come away from the club with Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks ringing through my head, to which we’d all joined in the chorus. By golly, I had a darn good time.
Paul Costello © January 2013
You can read more of my ‘singular’ experiences in:
Utterly Undiscovered Out spring 2013
Fineleaf Editions www.fineleaf.co.uk