Paths More Travelled

Entry by: jaguar

22nd September 2017
The syrup strings of the last dance sound and my mates peel off like World War II bombers, targets in sight, blazing fire and fury through the strobes. I don’t follow them, avert my eyes as Stu gets a shake of the head from the best-looking girl, her nostrils twitching at his audacity. Pete has better luck randomly selecting a girl from the middle of the pack, she’s so surprised she accepts and they clutch at each other like neither can believe their luck.

Andy sways around the group as if he’s stuck in a current until a forward little thing asks him. I make a note of that tactic, not that I’m ever going to use it myself, not that I’d want one as hard as his looks, all elbows and eyebrows. I note it for someone who'll want every detail, who might just be able to kid themselves they were here too if I tell them everything.

I don’t even glance at who’s left, there’s no point, I took a group photo at the beginning. Stu launches himself on to the floor with the best-looking girl’s friend. It makes me smile how Stu still thinks he's making an impact despite the size of his undercarriage. The friend keeps peering over her shoulder to see what accepting Stu has done to her status in the group. Best-looking seems faintly crest-fallen as her expected partner selects someone else. She raises her chin and stares at me. She’s got to be kidding, once bitten twice shy. I still haven’t forgotten the mouthful she gave me last week.

All I’d done was refuse her kiss. She actually snorted at me. ‘For God’s sake! Have you learnt nothing? You’re a real paths more travelled type, aren’t you? You’re acting like we’re still sixteen. This is 2017, it's OK for a woman to kiss a man.’

Well that left me a bit flat because I’ve always thought of myself as an innovator, a guy who does things differently, who isn’t anything like all the rest. I definitely don't think I'm sexist like she implied. I know only too well a woman can do things much better than a man but I'm no follower. These school disco nights were my idea, a way to try and get Stu , Pete and Andy back on the social scene after their divorces. I thought it would make them feel more comfortable if it was less about profiles and side-swipes and more about luck like the rest of life.

I have to confess I was a bit nostalgic myself, kept thinking about the weekly disco where I met my wife, Sal. Eyes meeting in a crowd for weeks on end, shuffling gradually towards each other and how comfortable it felt when we finally did get to dance. Sally made it all so easy for me, it was like we'd known each other before but neither of us could remember where or when. I took my leather jacket off that night, wrapped it round her shoulders and that old, cool image never really went back on.

Did I truly appreciate my luck? Glorious butter-yellow hair, winsome grey eyes the size of saucers just before I kissed her that first time. Those lips the colour and warmth of diluted blood. Her chin tapering to such a fine point I love to stroke it, teasing her its sharpness cuts my fingers. She's fierce though when she needs to be. Five foot two of determination. But why would I fight her when she only wanted to make things right?

Even now she wants the best for me. She insisted I came these last few weeks, was adamant I should have the full experience. She’s got it into her head she wants to vet the next wife. She says widowers tend to remarry within a year and she needs to know I won't make a mistake. I said I’m not even a widower yet, you never know I might never be. She says I’m being an ostrich, burying my head in my hands rather than the sand and we must be practical. We have to face reality, choose our path through it.

I go and get my coat, ignoring the stare from the best-looking girl, woman actually, she must be in her forties. I don’t want to be here, I won’t come again. I’ll go home and sit on Sal’s bed. I’ll try and make her laugh describing Stu’s rejection and Andy’s new tactic. I’ll tell her the one she’ll need to vet is Andy’s new squeeze in case she eats him alive.

No I won't be bitchy about the women, Sal wouldn't like that. I won't tell her it was like walking into a wall of need, all those eyes darting, that fear of being left alone as palpable as it used to be. I won't say it moved me because I feel it so strongly myself, because I'm petrified that Sal can't fix things anymore. I can't even tell her because it wouldn't be fair.

I’ll reassure her that I do know she’s dying but I can't give in to it, not yet. I'll face it only when I have to and even then I won’t take the path most travelled. I've thought about it, of course I have. I could do what Andy, Stu and Pete are doing - hoping fate will fill a gap in themselves with someone who will do. But I can't stand the thought of being with someone else. I'm going to keep my gap because it's Sal-sized.