When I awoke the next morning, I believed that the worst of it was behind me. I knew I wasn’t going to see him again for a week or more, so I had time to piece myself back together. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I needed time alone with my thoughts, but I also needed to be around people who are always happy to see me. I was getting too old to spend all day in bed eating ice cream and mourning a never-was relationship. Yes, dance therapy was definitely in order. That meant getting dressed, making sure my phone was charged, and heading to the dance studio. I slowly rolled out of bed, took a shower to rinse away the memories and salty tears of the night before that were left on my blotchy, puffy face. I grabbed some comfortable but not overly-flattering practice clothes and headed out the door into the day that was too bright after such a stormy night.
The twenty-minute drive was a blur of traffic and radio personalities, but upon arrival at the studio, I immediately began to relax. There is just something about working up a sweat doing something you love that is extremely freeing. I checked in at the front desk and asked if there was floor space available. I was told that there was but there was also a fee unless I was signed up for the show. Why not? I would have to pay for practice time one way or the other. I contacted an instructor friend of mine and we signed up for the show. Good, I thought, that gives me plenty of time to dance away these blues.
Practice was going great! I was lost in my own music in a back room and birds were singing and the sun was shining. A bit cliché, I know, but I was allowing myself to see past the devastation I felt. It was a bit premature.
I walked back to the front, where I left my purse, in order to check the class schedule. My heart and my feet stopped mid stride. He was standing not 10 feet away, but facing away from me. I walked quickly to my purse, quietly replaced my phone, and retreated to the ladies room before anyone could see the tears that couldn’t stop from breaking free of the tenuous dam I just finished building. As soon as the door closed behind me, I began to quietly weep while desperately grasping for control. I couldn’t let him see like this. I couldn’t let him know what he had done. Mostly I didn’t want him to look at me like I was some fragile, wounded animal from those pitiful Save the Animals adverts.
I heard the door open behind me and briefly recall one of my girlfriends asking what had happened and offering to “kick his ass.” I smiled weakly and told her it wasn’t necessary. I just needed a minute to clean up. I simply wasn’t prepared to see him today. That was all. After a minute or two, I collected myself and hoped my “no make-up” face wouldn’t betray too much.
Class was just beginning by the time I entered the room. Time to warm-up. Pick a partner. Please let it be anyone but him. No such luck. Put on your best smile and remember to breathe. I use humor to deflect and redirect comments. I’m also relieved that we rotate partners. It was the longest forty-five minutes of my life. I don’t even remember what class it was. I just let my feet move according to muscle memory.
As class ended, I practically ran people over to get to my belongings. I was ready to get out of there. My children would be home in a couple of hours, and I needed to be presentable for them. My fast getaway wasn’t fast enough. He caught up to me as I was changing shoes. He wants to chat! He doesn’t notice that I’ve just tried three times to get my shoes on but keep dropping them. Fine. I ask him how his date went (That’s what friends do, right?), but I couldn’t look at him. I looked everywhere else – out the window, through my purse at people walking through to the next class. He said the date didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. Damn this heart! I was actually sad for him! Despite my crumbling world at the revelation that I wasn’t the one he wanted, I still wanted him to be happy. I expressed my sympathy and meant every word while I wished beyond wishing that my purse was bigger on the inside so I could crawl in and disappear.
I finally managed to detangle myself from the conversion and head for the door. That should have been easy. It was only twenty feet away. But he stopped me one last time. “Here,” he says, “I baked this. I want you to have it.” I take it and thank him without looking at it or him. How could I? I was barely holding back the break in my voice as I said goodbye.
I forced myself to walk as casually as possible to my car. The drive home was watery even though the sun was shining overhead. I got home and began the arduous task of preparing the house and myself for the return of my children and the week ahead.