Dancing On Your Own

That night you are at the same party as a boy you really, really like in that aching, sharp way that you feel in your gut; the type of adolescent crush that makes you almost nauseous with adrenaline when he smiles at you. You’re wearing a velvet top which you bought specifically for tonight. A few weeks ago you’d borrowed your friend’s velvet dress & he kept touching your sleeves whenever he spoke to you, smiling at the deep softness of the fabric. “You feel so nice,” he’d murmured. You want him to touch you again.

You’ve drunk a bottle of cheap wine too fast, determinedly pouring out the cracked plastic cups until your muscles relax and you will be able to look into his eyes without blushing. You are ready to find him. You know exactly how you’ll sit beside him, lightly brushing his thigh, and ask him for a cigarette. He’ll say “I didn’t know you smoked,” and you’ll smile in the coy way you’ve been practicing. You’ll ask him to light your cigarette while its in your mouth because your lips look good like that.

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me” you’ll reply.

You step outside as a new song comes on and a sweet, clear voice echoes around the garden.

somebody said you’ve got a new friend / does she love you better than I can

He is leaning nonchalantly against the wall wearing that wine-coloured jumper with the sleeves that he pulls down over his hands when he talks and in this moment he is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life and he is kissing another girl.

A wave of sticky heat rushes over you, although it’s so cold outside that your breath forms icy silver spirals in the air.

a big black sky over my town / I know where you at, I bet she’s around

You wonder why people talk about heart break when everything you feel for him, you feel in your stomach. The way it twists tightly in a mix of bliss and terror when he talks to you, the warm fuzz that spreads through your abdomen when he compliments your eyes. And now, as you watch him brush her hair behind her ear the way you’ve imagined him brush yours a thousand times, the sickening plunge of it. You remember a line from a Zadie Smith novel you finished last week; “a reverse adrenaline rush.” Your body feels like this; like a broken lift, plummeting down too fast.

yeah I know it’s stupid / but I’ve just got to see it for myself

You tear your eyes away from the terrible kiss and walk back inside. You try to work out if the sudden surge through your veins feels hot or cold and decide it’s both at the same time. In the bathroom, you press your forehead on the cold ceramic of the toilet bowl and wait for the wave of nausea to pass. Floating in the bowl is the tissue you used to blot your lipstick earlier; you watch the shadowy imprints of your kisses in Diva by Mac slowly disintegrating into the water like ghosts.

I’m in the corner / watching you kiss her

I’m right over here / why can’t you see me

You slump back against the tiles and think how these simple lyrics must be the saddest that anyone has ever written in the history of the world. You think back to when you had to take antidepressants for a year in high school because you couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to kill yourself. You think about the frosty neon green of the hospital corridors where you were told for the first time that your grandfather had done exactly that. They had been darker sadnesses. They had lurked in your bones for months. But right now, in this bathroom in this velvet top at this party where this boy is kissing this girl who isn’t you; you are convinced this is the most intense, the most sickening, the most humiliating and exquisite and empty pain you have ever felt.

I’m giving it my all / but I’m not the girl you’re taking home / I keep dancing on my own

You watch yourself in the mirror. The bathroom light has the kind of chilly, buzzing fluorescence that makes your makeup cling round open pores like craters. Your eyeliner has smudged into little half moons beneath your eyes. Your lipstick catches on the blistering chap marks on the corners of your mouth. You are ugly. Why would he want to kiss you?

I’m just gonna dance all night / I’m all messed up, I’m so out of line

stilettos on broken bottles / I’m spinning around in circles

The song slides into another chorus and there is something about its crescendo, something so desperate in in the joyful climax of sound & the small sadness of her voice, that you stand up and start to dance. You smile at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful.

You walk back onto the dancefloor with the dull heat of tears still behind your eyes and think, moments like this, songs like this, are why the word bittersweet exists. Moments like this when you are dancing and laughing and you are so, so sad.

You feel so vulnerable and so strong all at the same time. You are so ugly. You are so beautiful.

so far away, and still so near / the lights go on, the music dies

and you don’t see me standing here / I just came to say goodbye

You see him leaving the party with his arm wrapped around her, an urgent, knowing glow around them.

You are nothing without him. You are everything without him.

You keep dancing on your own.

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