This is how it goes. You spend at least seven days before each Friday night deciding on what to wear. You might borrow from your sisters, the ones who are closest in size. You might even spend a little of your hard-earned money on a new blouse, a fawn coloured thing out of synthetic silk so that it washes readily in the machine. It has tulip shaped sleeves and comes out at the waist before flaring over your hips.
The pleasure lies entirely in the anticipation. The event itself is always a disappointment, but you never tell yourself beforehand. Beforehand you tell yourself, tonight will be the night when you meet the one.
I had heard from my friend which were the best places to visit, places where young men and women might meet for the first time to fall in love. Not quite the cattle sale of yesteryear. Women in the late seventies convinced themselves that they were as active in the manner of how they might meet a man as were the men, not like in my mother’s day, fifty years earlier, when men did the work and women were left to weep.
I drank too much. It gave me Dutch courage, the sort I needed to be bold. ‘Would you like to dance,’ I said to a man whose appearance reminded me of one of my older brothers, tall and high browed with a sarcastic look on his face that seemed so familiar as to be a comfort.
The Anchor and Hope was filled that night, bodies jostling for space, and no room for serious dancing. Not that I could dance seriously, not the way we were taught to dance at school, the taller girl, me, taking on the role of the boy. I worried then that I would have trouble allowing my partner to lead, but in the modern style of dance I need not have worried.
When he asked me to come home with him it was easy to slip away from the girl friend with whom I had arrived.
‘I wouldn’t go if I were you,’ she whispered, as I took my leave.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I’ll be fine.
The man of the high brow lived nearby in an upstairs flat, which we entered through a gate coded with numbers only he knew. I could not catch them as he punched in the code. No matter. I was too drunk and jolly to imagine I might be anything but safe.
There was a huge dog in the garden. It wagged its tail as we spun through the gate. We climbed upwards on stolid grey wooden stairs, weathered with age, as if we were entering a tower.
The man shared this place with a friend who was already at home and the three of us went into the kitchen for a final drink. By now I was ravenous. They offered cheese and stale biscuits, which helped sop up the wine.
You might not believe this, but as far as I know nothing happened in bed that night. We three were all too drunk. I say we, because the three of us flopped onto the bed together and in the morning when I woke and sunlight streamed through the windows, when I had lost all my Dutch courage and all that remained was a thumping head, I climbed over the man lying on my left nearest the door and tugged my skirt back over my knickers; my blouse over the top of my bra; my shoes on my feet and asked to take my leave. The man of the high brow led me past the dog down the stairs and out onto the street, where I waited at the tram stop and contemplated my fate.
If I were to keep this up, I too might weep.