from A Squandered Life / White Rock '68
I had a brief reunion with my convertible blonde girls. Strangely, one was in hospital (a different one) and we agreed to rendezvous there. Graham had heard about them (from me) and was keen to meet them, so he drove me over on the off chance. The girls looked every bit as magical as when I first saw them except that Amanda was bed-ridden and fed up. We reminisced on our short journey together like old friends. We touched upon the chastity of our relationship, and Amanda, through her fed-up-ness, couldn't resist adding, “I don't think you're really as innocent as you seemed.” She clearly knew the lascivious nature of the average male mind. Graham suggested we all go clubbing on Friday at a place he knew. Greta was immediately up for it but Amanda wasn't sure she would be out of hospital. We had to go but agreed to check up again mid-week to see what the situation was. Hugs and kisses all round as Graham and I left. “They're beautiful”, he said and I remember feeling a surprising twinge of possessiveness.
We rang through later in the week to discover that Amanda wasn't going to be able to come along, but Greta was still keen. “Why don't you ask Joy,” said Graham helpfully. “Who's Joy?” asked Greta rather sharply over the phone. Joy was a rather sour young woman I'd been unsuccessfully pursuing at one of Stuart's parties. I stuttered moronically on the phone, caught between Graham's disingenuous but insistent presence at my elbow and Greta's sharpening enquiry on the phone. I blathered some rubbish which concluded with “Okay, we'll come and pick you up Friday night.” without specifying who would be accompanying whom. Feeling more than a little railroaded, I called Joy and the deal was done. Graham was very pleased.
Our double date commenced with me sitting in the back of Graham's car with Joy as Graham got out and did the honours with Greta, escorting her back to the car and holding the passenger door open as she got regally into the front. At the club Graham parked up and darted round to Greta's door before any of us could blink. In we went, Greta on Graham's arm and Joy on mine. We got a table on a balcony overlooking the dance floor and began to chat and drink. Graham asked Greta if she'd like to dance and off they went. I asked Joy but she, rather sourly, declined. We watched as Graham and Greta appeared on the dance floor below and Joy asked me, “Who is she?” as if we'd been married for years.
Feeling strangely defensive and guilty I explained that she was “just a friend” I'd met hitching. After a couple of drinks, Joy began to mellow and it turned out she did like me but didn't believe in sex before marriage (yes, there were still a few of them about in those days, but this was in the midst of my time of extreme need). We finally got up to dance as Graham and Greta were coming back to the table. Out on the floor we jigged about for the fast numbers and got close for the slow ones. I'm a shit dancer anyway, but Joy felt brittle and inflexible when we danced close. Perhaps she thought she might get pregnant. We returned to the table where the other two were in animated conversation. As we approached I caught Greta flicking a subtle up and down glance of assessment at us. We sat down and joined what was actually a rather mundane chat. After a few moments, Greta turned to me, fixed me with her blue Nordic eyes, and said, “Would you like to dance?”
There was a moment's silence at our little table as each of us absorbed and attempted, from our own unique perspectives, to interpret and assimilate this latest development. For myself, I rapidly concluded that there could be no possible harm in this and that I was probably being over-sensitive if I thought there was. Greta and I got up, nodding to the others, and wound our way down stairs to the dance floor.
We jigged a bit until, almost immediately, a slow one came on. Everything went into slow motion as we stepped across the cavernous divide between us and into each other's arms. We embraced gently but completely, like a pair of old lovers, reunited after years apart, and started to sway. She moved languidly and luxuriously. She made me feel that I knew how to dance. With her head on my shoulder, she started talking softly to me. Why hadn't I been in touch? How could I have left her? What did I think I was doing? I felt a blood rush that nearly lifted me off the floor. Then I felt myself falling into that familiar abyss, that place where a dizzying head and a trembling heart take you when they know you've made full and unimpeachable contact with that lush and welcoming current running in and out of all our desperate lives – that thing called love. But I wasn't just falling. I was totally immersed, engulfed, and floating effortlessly through what seemed like an uninterrupted eternity of slow numbers. Holding her, moving in perfect, natural, relaxed symmetry, inhaling her proximity, I drifted, we drifted, like a night-lit cruise ship in a calm and temperate sea. Something about the setting, the build up, the unexpected immediacy of this beautiful woman's relaxed attention fired me into a zone of maturing acceptance of my place and my worth, even for someone as patently stupid as me, in the unravelling cosmos.
But it couldn't last. Moments later I spotted Graham and Joy steaming across the dance floor heading towards the exit on the far side. Graham was gesticulating like marionette on amphetamines and I gathered that we “had to go”. I looked into Greta's blue eyes as our bubble slowly melted around us and, like defeated troops, we began to make our way across the dance floor. When we got out to the car we found that Joy had parked herself in the back so it was clear that we had to revert to standard formation. It was a bit tense going home as Joy refused to speak, Graham seemed a bit bemused, and I (and I assume Greta) were recovering from our tremors. We dropped Greta off first, with perfunctory kisses for both Graham and myself, but she whispered “call me” in a receding ephemeral whisper as she drew away. Even more perfunctory kisses from Joy as we dropped her off. As we drove away I was just about to give Graham some serious grief for breaking my bubble when he said, “Gee, I'm really sorry about that. We were watching you from the balcony when Joy just suddenly stood up, said, “Take me home” and left the table. We even abandoned a round of drinks on the table.”
I never saw Greta again. I called her and we had a long chat (apparently she was born in Iceland!) but it was clear she was on another journey. It seems that when she and Amanda got back to Vancouver her boyfriend proposed to her and she had accepted. Before I could kill myself, she added, “I knew it was a mistake as soon as I said yes, but now I feel caught up in the machinery.” For me, this crystallised and anchored our brief but overwhelming encounter on the dance floor. I felt re-attached to the cosmic stream of love but strangely unwounded by the complete and utter absence of future. I loved her then as much as I had ever loved any woman, but without the carnal trappings. It was curiously detached and uplifting and beneficial.
Greta, may he have brought you everything your generous heart deserved.
As life and circumstance would have it, I now found my happy life in White Rock marred by the vengeful but determined Joy. She appeared at every party and outing and managed to eclipse my every burgeoning opportunity with her close attention. It was clear that she still had no intention of undressing for me, so there was nothing to do but suggest to Chris that we quit our jobs and head for the mountains. I'd mentioned Younberg and the promise of the Okanagan Valley so he was up for it. We said our farewells to Stuart and Graham and drove east.
© 2012 Deacon Martin