The man who liked to dance
In his wedding photograph, Grandfather’s black hair is slicked back with oil. He holds white gloves. He looks like a man who might like to dance.
On their honeymoon in the city, Grandfather took Grandmother to a tea dance.
Grandmother told him she didn’t care to dance. So Grandfather strolled across to a line of girls. ‘The wallflowers,’ Grandmother said.
The first time I heard this story, I was ten; I pictured pink and violet flowers, stretching high, wavering in the breeze.
Grandfather whisked one onto the floor, where, Grandmother said, they made a fancy pair.
Grandmother sat watching Grandfather dance with one wallflower after another.
After a time, she noticed a man hovering nearby. He was small and nuggety, with sweat beading on his forehead. He wore a suit that was baggy at the knees.
Finally, the last waltz was announced. The man approached her, hand outstretched. He gave a curt bow.
‘Dance, madam?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she said. ‘I can’t dance.’
He grasped her hand. ‘Of course, you can.’
‘No, really,’ she said.
Ignoring her protests, the man pulled her onto the floor. Sweaty hand on her back, he swept her about. Grandmother tried to follow.
‘You were right,’ the man said politely before melting into the background.
Grandfather pulled her to the side. Was he jealous?
‘Before you step on a dance floor again,’ he said, ‘you must take lessons.’
Thirty years on, I ask, ‘And did you?’
A bell sounds. Elderly women in pink and violet inch past her room.
‘Too busy having babies.’ She plants her sensible brogues on the floor and reaches for her walker.
‘But Grandfather? Did he still like to dance?’
Grandmother’s lips tighten. ‘Oh, yes,’ she says.
Her veiny hand trembling, she reaches out to replace the photograph on the bureau. Grandfather’s photograph lands face down; the glass cracks against the wood.