Dancing Without Music
I don't know where she came from, but, as I trudged against an icy wind that scattered dead leaves across the old town square, I found her tugging on the sleeve of my overcoat, searching my eyes for a sign of recognition. I had never met her before, I was sure of it. But she was adamant, interrogating me about my movements and habits and acquaintances.
"You're so familiar," she said. "I know we've met before. I know you, I know you. I know I know you."
The situation unnerved me. I wanted to get away from her, to stop her clinging to me. The stirrings of panic played in my head, as though there were an orchestra inside me and it had begun to tune up.
She offered to buy me a drink. I never can refuse the offer of a drink. Perhaps she did know me after all.
We took a table by a frosted windowpane and I stared into the glass, the blurry outlines of people passing by. A draught gnawed at my neck and I pulled my muffler tight around me. We sat in silence. The beer was good.
Suddenly animated again, she said. "I've got it! Didn't you play the euphonium in the City Players Dance Band? You did! I know you did!"
I told her I wouldn't be able to identify a euphonium, let alone play one. She looked crestfallen and, with that look of disappointment tempering the harsh lines about her eyes and mouth, I recognized the woman at last. It was Mathilde, my wife!
Memories assailed me like starlings flocking to their roost: dapple-shaded boating trips and picnic blankets festooned with cold meats and cheese, bread and fruit, wine bottle nestling in the bank licked by the cool flow of the slow river; the wheeling lights as we turned about the dance floor on the rise and fall of a Viennese waltz, Mathilde's eyes shining, the most graceful of dancers, so light of foot and with a smooth and gliding step; the unbounded excitement of a day at the races, Mathilde leaping up and down to shout her horse home, crushing my neck in an embrace as her jockey steered his mount to victory. So many memories. Such a different Mathilde, a different me. We had been in love, we had been happy, once. Perhaps we could be so again, I thought.
"Come," I said, placing my hand in hers, "let's go."
On the street outside it had begun to snow and, turning my face skywards to watch the flakes swirl down from invisible clouds, I never noticed when our hands became separated. Mathilde was gone and I was alone again. Alone and wandering the quiet, snow-mossed pavements in a blizzard soft and white.
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