That perfect night

As I write this, New Year’s Eve is about a week away, and although I remain single, I am excited. New Year’s brings me many good memories.

For seven years I worked at AT&T as a Relay Operator. More often than not, I was scheduled to work New Year’s Eve. I LOVED it.

New Year’s was triple pay. New Year’s was a bunch of happy people placing phone calls, and round about 11:30 no one really cared whether they got through to the right person or not. And the atmosphere in the call center, usually so oppressive, was festive as we drank our above-the-board egg nog with contraband rum.

One year I was not scheduled to work New Year’s, which was OK because I decided to go to one of those expensive, live-band, elegant parties they hold in hotel ballrooms. I was in a relationship at the time, but the man didn’t want to go to the party. He didn’t really like to dance, he said, but he didn’t mind if I went to the party with a friend.

If you think you know where this is going, you are at least partially right.

My friend Orion, who also worked at the Relay Center, said he’d go. I didn’t have high hopes for the dancing. Orion said he would dance, and he was generally a good sport. But he’d broken his leg badly in High School and fifteen years later he still walked with a limp.

I remember he looked very nice in a navy blue suit. I wore a Saks 5th Avenue gown I had picked up at the Salvation Army for about fifteen dollars.
Sometimes expensive stuff really IS better. The gown had a marvelous fabric that stretched both ways. If you don’t know what that means go get a sweater and pull it; you’ll find one way it stretches easily and the other it resists. The fabric had rhinestones—not sequins, but tiny pieces of glass, faceted and backed with silver, all over the bodice, and more rhinestones on the straps. A full skirt swirled just like the ones in Ginger Rogers movies, marvelously voluminous in a twirl but coming to a form-fitting silhouette at rest.

We ate the appetizers, nicely displayed opposite the ballroom from the band, and sat for a while. After a bit, Orion suggested we dance, and I, who had been itchy to get on the floor, tried to look casual about it and told myself that at least we’d be dancing, if not dancing well.

Orion surprised me by knowing a proper ballroom dance posture. And when we began to dance, he was magnificent.

No trace of a limp, perfect rhythm. I found that cliché of two hearts that beat as one, or at least two bodies that knew perfectly, anticipated perfectly, what the other was doing. It was swing, my favorite, and we were perfect. It was delightful.

After a while, after getting so I did not have to concentrate to follow his excellent lead, I noticed something. The dance floor was rather empty, apart from us.

Just like in the movies, every couple had cleared to watch us. We were THAT good. I was exhilarated, because I knew it was true: we really were so excellent, so fluidly perfect, that people wanted to watch us dance.

And the swirling Ginger Rogers dress didn’t hurt.

It was a perfect night.

When the night was over, we had to see each other at work, and everything got weird. I rather predictably developed a crush on that perfect dancer, who was just a friend before and interested in nothing more than that after. Which is a good thing, because after all, I was in a relationship.

Now I am widowed and often wonder what became of Orion. My crush on him did not seem to be requited—or maybe he was just classy enough to respect my relationship. Maybe it would be different, now.

But perhaps if we never see each other again, that will be better. As it is, nothing can dim that perfect New Year’s Eve.


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