Wednesday, 1 April 2009

On The Groove - Short Story

While living in Norwich I used to go to discos quite a lot and do mad dancing with a couple of friends which we called 'hyper-dancing'. I think it was a trend in the early 1990s but where we went we were the only ones who used that term. Dancing at discos was something I did to pass the time because I was no good at chatting up women. I would simply ogle them from a distance wishing I knew what to say. However, I did come to find the abandon of dancing to be really fun and so this story was aimed at capturing that pleasure and trying to communicate it to others.

The disco which features here was a scene of another blunder with a woman. This was Gabrielle who I had known in West Germany and ended up living in Norwich at the same time as me. She had had a boyfriend when I first met her but he had treated her badly. In Norwich she dated housemates. However, she and I used to do domestic things together like shopping for homewares and going for tea, I effectively became a 'female' friend of hers. The one evening I left the pub too late, even though I had only been listening to some dreary Swiss man droning on and got to the disco when it was too busy and decided to go home. That evening Gabrielle was there and arguing with her boyfriend walked home alone. At the time I wished I had been there to at least walk her home if not take things further, though now I imagine it would have been the very worst time as at best I would have been a rebound boyfriend. So, anyway, this story caught a time and a place and an activity and mixed it in with wishful thinking. Perhaps if I had spent less time pounding the floor in some kind of faux-rave mode then I might have had a happier time, perhaps not.

As to the title, in those days, despite the arrival of CDs, records were still the only form of recording used in discos.

On the Groove

He paused, gently tapping his fingers against his loose trousers and sweeping his sweaty hair back from his face. Around him the crowd were hesitating too, as the first few bars of the record began to emerge from the speakers. He barely saw them. His eyes were turned inwards to identify the sound to set him off on the pattern that he would dance to this particular track. In his mind, he reviewed the combinations he knew, plus what he had taken in tonight, from those around him. He was never too proud to acknowledge that someone else had some neat moves. It was just the question of merging them with what you already knew and coming out with something fresher.

The air was heavy, and sweat was hanging in it. The mist was thickened by the breaths of the panting crowd and mixing with the beer on the floor to make the surface slick. He had picked a good little corner of the floor, not too close to the speakers or to the edge of the floor where there was a constant traffic back and forth. He had enough room and yet could still keep his eye on the group over to the side, they were moving well, pounding the floor with their bright white, deep soled trainers, their baggy tops flapping rythmically as their arms thrust back and forth pummeling the hot, moist air. From here too, he could keep his eyes on that woman, herself lost in the sound, though form time to time he lost himself in the contours laid out by the tight black clothes she wore.

He recognised the intro, this was a favourite, not so purely dance as the tracks of the last half hour. This had words, ones he would run through his mind as he dressed tomorrow morning and would whistle on the way to the newsagents. For now he was going to give it his best. He began with a few sidewards slides of his feet, easy across the polished floor, not too wide a reach, to keep on balance. His hands began flicking farther from his sides as the rhythmn picked up. As the main beat came in, he jumped up on his toes, his arms cannoning downwards as if helping him thrust from the floor. The lads in the corner were already thumping the floor when the melody was laid over the top. He too pushed down on the arches of his feet, the soles of his shoes taking much of the force, but he knew tomorrow there would be a tired ache beneath each of them.

He was moving fast now, tracking back across his patch of floor with bouncing feet, his arms wrapped back and forth over his chest and waist as fresh doses of sweat flowed back into the damp patches of the dark teeshirt and ran down the thickening strands of hair, sticking together on his head. The track was into the second verse, and he was feeling fatigue flowing with the sweat, he needed a rest, forty minutes non-stop of this was breaking him.

This was one of his tunes, this was one he had to move to, it was ritual, everyone had their favourites. Pete did too, wherever he had sloped off to. She liked this one as well, he could see her broad smile as she threw back her hair as it came loose from the black band which had held it. He eyed up her company, she was looking at them, but he knew she was only dancing in their space, not really with them. Unconciously his steps took him closer.

His movements softened as the lyrics held back. He moved off the beat to mimicing the soaring notes of the front tune, sliding in long stretches. The beat built up once more, hurrying his heart, telling his body that it had to hang on for just moments more, hanging on between exhaustion and his pride. He had to finish the job, leaving the floor half done would leave him unsatisfied. He just prayed she could see him. It was more than the usual vanity that somewhere amongst the mob, there was someone impressed by his moves.

He looked up again. He knew what his feet and arms were doing but there was always the natural action to watch them at work. That was the real vanity, sealing your senses into watching your own body moving, breathing in your own scent and have only the music coming in from the outside.

He gave a last few stamps on the dance floor as the music died and came to a proper stop. Heat flowed to his face and forehead, and up his throat too. His arms and feet ached but it was done. As he stepped into the dark off the floor his sweat chilled quickly, but now he had another objective, he tailed her slim form as she slid between the people milling around the edge, towards the bar.

No comments: