I hate Christmas party season; seriously what is the point of these so called social events that everyone resents? They eat into your real social life; you have to be nice to the boss, as well as the colleagues who do your head in, 9-6, five days a week. Oh well, at least it’s a chance to buy a new outfit, get on the wine and hit the dancefloor this year. There have been some horrific ones in the past, with painful cabarets to sit through, whilst being stuck next to the person I have the least in common with.
So, the scene is set; parties are not really my thing at the best of times, never mind these forced social events. I am quite pleased, some might say smug, with my outfit this year though; for once I have a few pennies in the bank account, so I have splashed out on this gorgeous designer dress, it is stunning, if I do say so myself, and not a penny of debt, it is a liberating feeling for me. My flatmate is very complimentary about how I look in it; she is usual brutally honest. I am feeling pretty good as I step out of the car and walk through the doors of the office. In a fleeting moment I glance across the room at him; strangely, I feel my eyes drawn to him, but I have never really noticed him before, perhaps it is the change from the scruffy, casual look, to the smart suit; who knows, but the moment passes without a return glance, so I continue on with the evening. Bottles of something sparkling are being passed around, corks popping, glasses filled; this could be a better year for Christmas parties after all. I take a glass and so begins the night.
A minibus has been laid on for the journey to the mass party event. You know the ones where a huge marquee is set up; a plethora of different companies all book out their tables for this annual event of Christmas festivities. Crackers will be pulled, paper hats worn and there will be some poor stuffed turkey for us all to ‘feast’ on. Usually more of a canteen school dinner than a feast though. But, it is different this year; I am laughing; talking none stop, feeling at ease; could it be possible that I am relaxing and actually having fun? What is this party? By the time we arrive at the venue, everyone is relaxed and the sparkling stuff is taking effect in a good way. The meal comes and goes without any surprises, except that it is almost palatable and helps to soak up the alcohol.
There is dancing, but my dress is long and a tiny bit loose, so I feel slightly awkward, constantly hitching it up, before low cut becomes no cut. I am shaking my thing in front of way too many strangers, along with a few people that I vaguely recognise in the dimness of the marquee lighting. Time for a break away; let’s see what else this night can bring. I wobble may way through to the bar, the cool air hits me as I step out of the partying throng of the event hub into a quieter bar area. There he is at the bar, not alone, but he sees me and calls me over. A drink is ordered and handed to me. I feel his hand sweep across mine, does he linger just a little too long? Surely not, this man who has barely spoken a word to me since I joined his company.
He has always seemed oblivious to my rather obvious dress sense, but tonight, could it be that he notices me? The conversation flows freely, as the others drift away, it gets more intense and personal with every sentence. But I don’t feel uncomfortable, or under interrogation, it is like we have met before and known each other intimately. Yet he is barely more than a stranger. We are alone now, or at least I think we are; suddenly no one else matters. With each new drink, his hand lingers longer, as he looks into my eyes with honesty, and what could possibly be desire. I’m never good with signs, but am I the only one seeing the sparks; the glances are long and deep, he looks into my soul and I let him. There is nothing around us, just me and him in this intense moment, I forget where I am as we share secrets, jokes, passions. Suddenly, with a jolt of returning reality, I look around to see a room full of people in coats, I am being handed my coat, we are being bustled out towards the door. He slightly touches my shoulder, just enough for me to feel, but not to be seen, I hold back from the throng and let them pass us by. He looks deeply into my eyes, for that moment I am lost again, but it is just that, a moment in time. We can’t stop time, we have to leave; silently we walk to the door. I can feel the intimacy and closeness slipping away, am I losing him back to the stranger?
As we climb onto the bus, there is laughter and conversation; we join in as we find our separate seats, trying to appear casual. Just as I think the moment is lost, he looks over at me and again I am back there, just me and him. It is just for a second though as someone catches his attention to start a conversation. I can’t look away from him even though he is not looking at me, I am trapped in that place, desperate for him to look at me once again, give me a sign, anything. The bus stops, we stand up to leave, he brushes past me and whispers, “Another time, another place….”