Couples slow dancing at the pubMusic leaks out of the building as the group of photography students approach the pub.

Liz complains, “I don’t know about this, guys, we’ve got a nine a.m. lecture and I am just not a party girl.”

Boris says, “Aw c’mon, Liz, it’ll be fine. You don’t have to stay late, but you have to go out at least some of the time. You’re supposed to get rounded.”

Natasha gushes, “But Boris, Dahhlink, Liz IS rounded.” Liz feels a blush rise to her cheeks as Jake and Boris laugh.

Natasha gathers her friend in a hug. “Just try it, OK? It isn’t like high school where you have to smoke up or drink yourself cross-eyed to be cool. You might hate it but maybe you’ll have fun. It isn’t a party, so there is no social commitment. You can stay ten minutes or two hours. It’s up to you.”

“It’s hanging out,” says Jake.

“Unwinding,” adds Boris.

Natasha grins. “Socializing”

Liz nods. “Okay, okay.”

They go in and the music is loud, although not as bad as Liz thought it would be. Boris and Natasha lead the way through the crowd to a group of tables at the back. From here Liz can see the dance floor but the speakers aren’t right in her lap either. Looking around, she recognizes a few of the faces.

One of the catchier Beatles songs is blasting; Natasha mimes dancing to Boris, who nods and they head out to the dance floor. As Liz and Jake settle, they watch Boris and Natasha step on the dance floor just as the song ends and the high energy dance number is replaced by the notes of a slow tune as the jukebox changes over. They keep on gamely, although Boris glares darkly at the jukebox, maybe hoping to frighten it into a song with a faster tempo.

Clearly Boris and Natasha have never slow danced together, and Liz knows all too well what that’s like. Still, she can’t help but smile as she sees what a hard time Boris has trying to figure out where to put his hands while Natasha manages to stay just far enough out of range to ensure they don’t accidentally wind up in full body contact.

The pub’s terrible acoustics mean that she only hears snatches of song lyrics over the hubbub. Something about dreams and desires. As if on cue, another couple she recognizes from Fyfield House dance through her view. In stark contrast to Boris and Natasha’s awkward circling, Eric and Elsie are engaged in a sinuous mating dance. As this couple sways in perfect unison it is clear Eric has no trouble knowing where to put his hands. Moving easily together, their synchronous movements appear almost choreographed as they float across the room. It would be a kick to photograph them.

Liz finds herself swaying and tapping her toe to the beat of the music, drawn in so she almost doesn’t register Jake asking her if she wants to dance. Snap.

Liz looks over at him with trepidation; she so hates this. They never believe her when she says, “Sorry, I don’t dance.”

Jake is crestfallen. “But I’m a good dancer.”

Liz smiles. “You probably are but I am not. I don’t dance.”

Jake sucks it up and shrugs pragmatically. “Okay. Want something to drink? I don’t think there’s table service here.”

Liz nods. “Oh sure, just a ginger ale or something.”

Liz digs for money but then realizes Jake’s is already off to the bar. Still, she pulls out a Toonie and sets it on the table for when he gets back. She does not want Jake thinking this is a date. Jake may be a brilliant photographer but he’s too young for her. Well. She’s almost twenty three, and Jake is maybe eighteen.

Sitting back, Liz’s eyes are drawn to a flash of auburn hair as Elsie spins into Eric’s arms like something out of one of those old black and white musicals she likes watching with Mom. Elsie draws Eric in, running her hands over his face then pulling him into a long slow kiss. They seem so secure in their own world, and Liz realizes their dance isn’t so much composed of skill as foreplay.

Maybe that’s what dancing is for, Liz thinks. Like a human mating ritual. It’s getting more erotic by the moment. Liz is starting to feel just a little hot and bothered, even.

Suddenly feeling like a voyeur, Liz turns away, flushed. With a start she realizes it’s not just the make out dance. It’s that the dance made her think about Ethan. Because she’s half hoping Ethan will magically arrive.

Wait a minute. Where did that thought come from? Ethan. Huh. Ethan.

Like that isn’t the last thing she needs. It’s a good thing he isn’t here. Except a bit of reflection makes her realize he’s the real reason she allowed herself to be talked into coming. That she had the idea Ethan spends most evenings here. With the other stoners. Serves her right to be wrong.

But what on earth is she thinking? Well. Apparently she isn’t. Thinking, that is. Well, not with her brain, anyway.

Being back in school isn’t like she thought it would be, that’s for sure. In some ways its a chance to be a kid again, without having to relive the hell that was high school. But everything happens so fast, who has time to think? Hmmm. But Ethan? She knew he made her smile, but, apparently that’s not all he makes her feel.

At least he’s older than Jake. Liz wonders what it would be like to feel the way Elsie and Eric do. Those two are so obviously in love. Wonders how dancing like that feels, wonders how dancing with Ethan like that would feel. Again her eyes are drawn back to the lovers dancing in total disregard of the rest of the world. The world that doesn’t seem to exist for them.

An acrid mix of cold air and smoke gets up her nose, and Liz looks up as Miese leads several smokers in from the cold.  Miese is another Fyfield housemate, inevitably nicknamed “Mouse.” Liz wonders momentarily if it bothers her that no one calls her by her real name. But Mouse is perpetually cheerful, the kind that takes everything in stride.

Liz doesn’t know any of the other smokers settling in at the adjacent table until she sees Ethan bringing up the rear. Liz feels an involuntary tingle at the sight of the guy she’s just been entertaining impure thoughts about. She looks away, afraid he’ll see her telltale blush. Where’s Jake. Or Natasha? She needs distraction.

Liz has no idea why she has a crush on Ethan. It makes no sense. But maybe it’s because he’s so relaxed. Liz herself is anything but. Ethan is a housemate too, and he’s a fine photographer, just not in Jake’s league. But then, no one is. Ethan is Professor Mol’s teaching assistant. Liz doesn’t really know him, just something about Ethan makes her mouth go dry. She’d like to run her fingers through his wild and curly mop of hair.

She glances furtively over but he looks up just as she does and catches her eye. Ethan winks right at her, inspiring another tingle. It occurs to her that part of what makes the wink so great is the sexy dimple it brings out in his cheek.

Doesn’t really matter anyway. Liz has been too tall for most guys since the second grade, and now she’s too old, too. But that’s good though. She doesn’t need complications. She’s not here for romance, she’s here for a degree.

But then Liz is a little surprised to realize that Ethan is sitting over there juggling. Juggling. How cool is that?

Liz pinches herself under the table. She’s got to stop this, it’s getting ridiculous. Any minute now she’s going to haul Ethan onto the dance floor. Which would be nuts because she really can’t dance. It would be fun to be able to do a make out dance except that she has no rhythm. None at all. Maybe she just wants to make out.

Jake sets a glass in front of her and Liz grins in relief.

Sipping innocuous ginger ale, she glances nonchalantly over and sees Ethan has finished juggling and is now listening to one of the computer geeks. What’s so striking about it is that that Adam guy is about as far from being a druggie as you get. Even dressed casually his neck cries out for a power tie. But somehow Ethan puts Adam at ease.

Liz can’t stay. She rubs her eyes; tell her friends the music is giving her a headache. Boris and Natasha come back to the table. Happy because now she can leave, Liz gets up and slips on her jacket. Natasha asks, “Heading home?” Liz nods.

“You want us to come?” asks Natasha.

Liz shakes her head. “No, that’s alright. It’s just a little loud for me. The quiet outside will do me good. See you later.”

“Wait a minute,” says Jake. “Why don’t we blow this pop stand. There’s this guy I want you all to meet, and since it’s so mild, tonight it would be perfect. There might not be another chance for a while.”

“Who is this guy Jake?” asks Boris.

But Jake is already heading for the door. “It’s a surprise.”

Following after, Natasha says, “I love surprises.”

Boris and Liz trail after, Liz is happy they’re using the rear exit because it saves her having to walk past Ethan. As she pulls the door shut behind her, Liz glances back and sees Ethan is still talking with Adam; as oblivious to her departure as he is to the solitary Eric and Elsie dancing slowly through the pools of light. Just as well.

As Liz follows her friends into the night, part of her wishes Ethan was along, while another part is relieved he’s not.

forward arrow