20. Missed Connections: If you go to Craigslist, there is a “Missed Connections” section where you can find some interesting story lines to inspire your writing.
Some people are valid in this world. They constantly let the world know that they exist. Their existing is always palpable.
Other people are not valid. These are the ones who are always skulking on the outskirts of life, unnoticed, forgettable. Small, quick smiles as they sidle past you on the tube, squeezing themselves so they take up as little room as possible.
I am one of the invalid ones. I am a skulker, a scuttler. I spend my life getting out of the way of those that matter. At work I keep my head down and nod rapidly whenever my boss speaks to me. I have a small group of similarly ineffectual friends and we speak of insignificant things. If my life were a colour it would be grey.
But I have a secret, one which burns inside me, and it isn’t grey, it’s gold. Burning gold, right at the heart of me. And when I am home, alone, away from my drab outer life, I let it consume me. And then I don’t feel small and grey any more. I don’t feel insignificant. Because I remember.
I remember when I met him. About a year ago, I was trying to convince myself I could make myself more interesting by taking dance classes at the Dance and Drama Centre in town. Needless to say it wasn’t going well. My teacher seemed confused at my pale, pasty limbs flopping around, out of time to the music, while everyone around me bounced and posed energetically. He would say nothing to me all session until the end, where he would clap me on the shoulder and say something vaguely encouraging. “Keep up the good work”, “you’re really coming along,” etc.
One day, after a usual session of attempting dance in the far corner of the room, I was surprised to see my teacher clap his hands, say “Well done ladies!” to the room at large, and leave. Now at the time I was playing a little game in my head – one of my games to distract me from my life and from, well, me. It was a detective game. I know it sounds stupid. But it didn’t really involve that much investigating, more just attaching significance to things that weren’t really that significant, and creating a vast sequence of increasingly ludicrous events that could explain it. So when I saw my teacher leave, my brain exploded with possibilities. Perhaps he was having an affair? (I didn’t even know if he was married). Or maybe he wanted to avoid one of the tanned, toned housewives in the class? This thought made me snicker internally. I didn’t like my smug classmates, with their patronising, knowing smiles.
Now I’m not an impulsive person. But I was feeling adventurous that day. I packed my stuff as quickly as possible and sprinted past the smug housewives. I could feel their eyes on my back, and knew they’d be talking about me once I left. But I didn’t care. I had let fantasy and reality blur, but I didn’t care. I ran down the stairs, hoping I could still catch my teacher. At the top of the stairs I saw him. He was in the foyer, laughing and hugging a man I didn’t recognise. I stopped, composed myself, and let my breathing slow down. I began to feel rather foolish. He was just meeting a friend. For a second my world had been filled with colour, albeit pale colour, but colour nonetheless. Now it was firmly grey again. But, I thought, I couldn’t just stand here at the top of the stairs. The smug housewives were going to be coming down the stairs any second. I shook my hair, straightened my back, and made my way down the stairs. I was heading towards the door when I heard my name. I turned, and saw my teacher waving me over. I made my way towards him, smiling, trying to look elegant despite my general dishevelled appearance.
“Susan,” my teacher said, “this is David, he’s an old friend of mine.”
I turned to look at the man next to him. He was huge, muscular, with short hair and a huge smile. He thrust out an arm and grasped my hand, enveloping it in his. “Call me Dave”, he said.
Call me Dave.
In that second I was no longer my small, drab, grey self. I was interesting, beautiful, the sort of woman that turned heads when she entered a room, I was the sort of woman that even someone like Dave, someone as attractive as him, would be interested in. I was transported, I felt like I was floating above everything.
I don’t remember how I got home.
But there I was, in my drab little flat, in my drab little body. My heart was fluttering, it felt like that of a small animal, like a mouse. I felt dizzy. I threw myself onto the sofa, staring at the ceiling.