The Nine Days’ Quarantine

I’ve been in quarantined for nine days now.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, I’m tempted to use twisted phrasing, bent facts, key omissions and other such dark marketing powers to paint you a harrowing picture of my circumstances. Instead, I’ll go ahead and tell you the less-than-pitiable truth of how I got here.

Nine days ago, I returned from a lovely five day vacation in the tropical waters of Grand Cayman with my boyfriend and his family. When we first arrived in Grand Cayman, things in the U.S. were just starting to get weird, but hadn’t yet gotten bad. Through sheer luck, we even managed to time our return plane trip so that we avoided the mass panic at DFW International Airport. Still, since we’d been “traveling internationally,” Boyfriend and I decided to quarantine ourselves for the requisite 14 days in an abundance of caution.

So, essentially, I was sheltering in place before it was cool.

My boyfriend and I have since spent most days working from home together – him holed up on one end of the room with headphones in, and me holed up on the other end of the room with headphones in. For the interest of the general public, here is a non-comprehensive list of items we have accomplished during this time, ranked in order of Most Useful to Most Useless. Items in italics were accomplished by Boyfriend.

  • Attended virtual church and virtual church community group – I’ll say it: quarantine ain’t what it used to be back in the good ol’ Medieval ages.
  • Finalized multiple work-related projects – not to go all sappy, but we’re both incredibly lucky to work for companies that give us remote work capabilities.
  • Applied a liberal dosage of WD-40 to Girlfriend’s squeaky bathroom door.
  • Called my Grandma – she’d left a voicemail while I was flying over the Gulf on Monday that didn’t actually show up on my phone until Friday. What strange corridors of the Verizon network it got lost in, we may never know.
  • Took a field trip to Boyfriend’s house (we’ve taken the stance that if one of us is infected, the other probably is too) and cleaned out his closets. Many dust bunnies were slain.
  • Discovered a 12 pack of toilet paper I’d bought a month ago and forgotten in the back of my car. Yes, I also hoarded toilet paper before it was cool.
  • Exercised almost every day – I’ve been exploring workout videos on fitnessblender.com and utilizing my stationary bike.
  • Persuaded girlfriend to join in daily exercise, mostly through the use of bribery via chocolate cake.
  • Wiped off my bathroom counter for the first time in none-of-your-business.
  • Successfully made spaghetti squash.
  • Learned there was more than one way to cook spaghetti squash.
  • Threw a shark themed birthday party for two – Boyfriend’s birthday was this week, and I’d managed to order some shark-themed decorations (streamers, balloons, tablecloth, etc.) from Amazon right before things went from weird to weirder. Why shark? Unclear; some scholars point to origins as a macabre joke surrounding scuba diving in Grand Cayman.
  • Played Small World with boyfriend, a board game that I’d had on my shelf for quite some time, but hadn’t actually gotten into yet.
  • Learned how to play Small World, subsequently beat girlfriend at Small World.
  • Played Villainous, a Disney villain-themed board game; ditto on the extended shelf life.
  • Learned how to play Villainous, subsequently beat girlfriend at Villainous.
  • Taught girlfriend how to play solitaire.
  • Learned how to play solitaire.
  • Played approximately 24 games of solitaire in 24 hours.
  • Accepted delivery of a large coffee cup full of gin, a six pack of rose cider, three rolls of toilet paper and a potato. No further elaboration will be given at this time.
  • Played approximately 54 games of Speed with Girlfriend.
  • Lost approximately 50 games of Speed.
  • Got Boyfriend to watch Frozen II.
  • Eventually got Boyfriend to stop pointing out plot holes in Frozen II and just enjoy the music.
  • Finished the TV show Firefly and watched its cinematic continuation, Serenity.
  • Yelled at Boyfriend because of certain [spoiler] in Serenity.
  • For some reason, spent approximately five minutes digging out my sticker collection so I could give Boyfriend a snail sticker and tell him it was the “snail of approval.”
  • Inundated Boyfriend with approximately 80,000 coronavirus memes.
  • Hid the chocolate cake while Boyfriend was in the bathroom.
  • Dropped ice down the back of Girlfriend’s shirt to extract information about whereabouts of chocolate cake.
  • Taped balloons to streamers so that the balloons hung from the ceiling.
  • Spent approximately ten minutes of work day “boop-ing” balloons on head.
  • Spent approximately ten minutes of work day “boop-ing” balloons on head.
  • Taped mass of balloons to girlfriend’s desk while she wasn’t looking.
  • Dropped roll of toilet paper in the toilet.
  • When asked what he was doing, Boyfriend said he was shuffling cards. When asked why, he said, “’Cause every day I’m shufflin.’”

Honorable, Non-Ranked Mention:

  • Made this blog post.

The Wedding Ballad of Lottie and Paul

A bizarre ballad in honor of Sarah, who must attend many weddings this year, and Katie, who set the fork on fire.

There was once was a lass named Lottie,
Who thought to marry a lad named Paul.
And though ‘twas not true, I’m sure they believed
That the other was the fairest of all.

So one spring day, as the allergens flew
O’er one’s head, like confetti Hell sent,
The lass named Lottie did marry the lad name Paul
In a modest, but pretty, small event.

The bride didn’t trip, and the groom didn’t stutter,
Nor dumb jokes did the minister make.
When the osculation was complete, they strode down the aisle
Their portraits immediately to take.

Then a fatal mistake did Paul and Lottie make,
As they wrangled their cousins and kin,
For though banishing their guests to a decorative hall,
No food nor drink did they give them.

Not a lick of liquid, nor a crumb of bread,
Could they find, their appetites to curb,
Save for the cake, that most sacred dessert,
And that they could not disturb.

So they stared at the plastic cutlery,
And gazed at the tea candles’ sparks
As the hour waned on, the guests had no choice
But to begin melting the forks.

This did amuse them for quite some time,
Holding forks to the flame to admire.
As the plastic did wither, their amusement did grow,
Until the tablecloth soon caught on fire.

Take thee then a warning from Lottie and Paul,
And give your guests food while they wait.
Or else forks will burn, and the venue too
And you’ll be out quite a deposit.

Outlook Obscurification

What I Wrote:

Hi Patrica!

Just checking on any markups you have/edits you want to make to the presentation ahead of tomorrow’s meeting? I have a commitment tonight at around 7, but can be available up until then. 

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Patricia!

Please let me know if I should plan on working late again because of you; I have a date tonight, and I’d really rather not.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi Jamie!

Attached is the addendum that was issued last week.

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Jamie!

Please note that I am replying to the email I already sent you last week that had the addendum attached.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi Jordan!

Per my last email, this isn’t really something that my team would handle; I’m thinking Mike or Stephan would?

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Jordan!

Go back and read the email I already wrote you, but here’s some extra information to get you off my case.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi David!

Attached is something I threw together based on the info you gave me; let me know if this works, or what edits you’d like to make!

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, David!

Well, here’s a piece of word vomit that I think might be sort of what you’re looking for? Honestly, dude, do you even know what you want?

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi David!

Awesome, glad that was what you were looking for; finalized pdf attached.

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, David!

I guess I really am that good.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

The Beginning, Again

How far the emptiness seems to stretch before me,
Although not nothingness, for I see the days and weeks ahead,
Peering into their empty shells, without form
Passing through the void of the coming year.
Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Never fear, this is just my new calendar,
Empty, yes, but not for long, soon to be full of
Wonders that will happen this coming year; I hope.

Yesterday’s deeds are crossed out, and new
Events are written in – a sortie soon to the symphony,
A work thing in February, birthdays, and a trip, as
Round the sun again we go.

I Have Expensive Taste

I have expensive taste – in some things,
but not in others. I’ve found
that most important to me
is the person who’ll be my company.

If it came to it, I’d choose to stand
in line with you. However long
the wait, it’d be a better home
than fireworks and music for me alone.

What I remember most about that eve
isn’t the performance itself. Though
it was lovely, it would mean much less
without you in that suit, and me in that dress.

I have expensive taste – in company,
in time shared. Remember
the museum? It was our laughter and light
that brought those paintings to life.

Truth in the Forest

I don’t think I’ve ever told you of that Halloween night eighteen years back – a night that started off merely eerie, and ended in something like horror. I haven’t forgotten it, and by the time I’m done, neither will you. And, before you ask, yes, this story is actually true. Just because something is told like a story doesn’t mean it is only a story.

It began like this: it was October 31st, and night, and a well-intentioned neighbor knocked on our door to let us know that she thought she’d seen our horses escape. They were normally confined to the fields and sprawling forest behind our house on the edge of town, but now they were outside the fence. Or so our neighbor thought she’d seen, she couldn’t be sure.

Panicked, my mother and I frantically pulled on boots and jackets and wound scarves hastily about our necks, for there was a wind and a chill in the air. We dashed outside, but saw no horses around the perimeter of the house, and none near the road, which was the most important part. So we decided to divide and conquer. My mother grabbed a bucket of feed and stood by the barn calling, while I set off with a flashlight and my own bucket for the woods.

It could not have been a worse night for finding the quiet, shadowy beasts that horses can be. It was a full moon, to be sure, but that wind was truly raging, shaking the nearly leafless branches and bare vines into a distracting, obstructing dance. I didn’t believe in ghouls or whatever else was supposed to inhabit such environs on such a night, but that didn’t stop me from starting when, much like Little Red Riding Hood, I discovered I was not alone. Our cat, Asta, had followed me, his sooty fur blending in with the dark.

He hopped up on a fallen tree and began meowing insistently. I gave him a caress, but that did nothing. Oh, well, no pleasing cats. I set off through the woods again, calling for the horses, loudly crunching leaves underfoot. Yes, that was the sound I was hearing, just the crunching of leaves. Those leaves crunching wasn’t masking and blending with some other, scuttling noise.

I carried on for some time, finding no evidence of horses, but slowly becoming aware that I thought I heard a buzzing sound, growing louder and a bit louder by the footstep. I was sure it was just a phantom or my own imagination, maybe vibrating leaves in the wind. And, of course, Asta was there still, his meows becoming even more demanding as he began darting in front of my feet, tripping me up more than once – accidentally, I also thought.

Finally, at one spot between two cedar trees, Asta became such a nuisance that I concluded I had better pick him up and carry him the rest of my search. Had I been paying attention, I would have noticed the buzzing sound had swelled into something real and solid, and close.

I hoisted Asta to my waist, but before I could take a step forward, he yowled and scratched at my face, forcing me to drop him. He collected himself, and stood between the two trees, back arched, fur spiked. I hardly noticed. Something was moving behind him.

I lifted my flashlight, and saw – something, several giant patches of iridescence that fluttered, and many large branches, unusually hairy, which then moved and began crawling about, and numerous giant, inky pools of eyes framed by antennae the size of saplings. And the buzzing was a veritable din.

It was then that Asta opened his mouth: “See, you really shouldn’t go that way,” he said, quite calmly, for all that. “Stupid human, I’ve been trying to warn you all night…”

Oh, fine. The talking cat taking it a bit too far?

You see, when I said the story was true, what I meant was that there was truth in the story.

It wasn’t Halloween, though it might have been October. Or November. Or maybe even December. Or, let’s be real, seasons in my neck of the woods are sometimes hard to differentiate, so it might have been January or March. I don’t remember. I did check, though, and there was a full moon on Halloween night eighteen years back. But I was in grade school back then, and when this story really took place, I was in high school.

There was definitely a moon that night, though, and it was windy, and the forest made strange shapes, but we lived on only 10 acres so it was really more like a patch of trees. We found our horses, in case you were wondering. They hadn’t escaped, and I was nowhere near the hive of very normal-sized bees that at one time lived on our property. The whole thing was eerie, a bit, true, but nowhere near that fabled “horror.”

But I’ll tell you what is true, cross my heart: out cat Marble walked by my side all through that patch of woods. No, not our black cat, Asta, who we did have. It was Marble, not black like a bat, but white and gray, like the Irish cat Pangur Bán. Marble follows me nearly every time I walk through those trees, even today. I like to imagine he is some sort of guide, guarding me from something – from what, I don’t know. But I can tell a story.

A Stereotypical Millennial Wasteland

My friend sets the pizza boxes on the table, turns, and makes a general announcement to the expectant partygoers: “There’s pepperoni, Hawaiian for you weirdos, and also cheese pizza. Help yourself. Just give me cash or Venmo me five bucks sometime.”

Well, this is awkward. Like most of my millennial brethren, I no longer regularly carry around those totems known as “cash.” But, up until now, I have also been avoiding digital payment platforms.

Sure, there was that one time I let someone pay me over Facebook, an act I regret, as The Hackers, or more likely Facebook itself, are surely coming for me. Besides that, I’ve mostly conducted my informal transactions via the good old-fashioned bartering system: you bought the chips and guac at Chipotle last time, so I buy the chips and guac at Chipotle this time. Occasionally, for larger purchases, I’ve resorted to an antiquated system, utilized by my great-great-great grandmother, known as “checks.”

But my friend wants concrete payment in the near future, not IOU karma. I could go to the bank later and get cash, but the ATM only dispenses twenties, and sure, maybe I could go inside and they’d give me a five dollar bill, but that would require talking to someone. And so would going to a store and breaking up a twenty there.

Well, the time has come to bite the bullet. I download the Venmo app. I start the sign up. I breeze through those pesky little Terms & Conditions, and get to a screen that insists I enter my phone number. I do so.

“This phone number is already registered in our system.”

Oh. I thought I was a lone holdout in the war against the machines. But no, the truth is much darker. I do have an account – but I had erased its existence from my memory. 

Hazy images float through my mind: another age, another me, going on a trip with friends, perhaps, and venmo-ing my share of the hotel fees. Let’s see. What email would I have been using at the time? Probably my old Yahoo account. I don’t have access to it anymore, in fact, I straight-up deleted it after The Hackers got to Yahoo for the 52nd time.

(As a side note, Googling “What’s going on with Yahoo these days” will just get you a bunch of sketchy links to “is yahoo down? real time status updates.” It will not get you news about the state of the company. Google is not your boyfriend; you can’t make conversation with it.)

Anyway, let’s see if I can use my old email to reset the password.

Success! I enter it as my username, and an automated text is sent to my phone number. I reset the password, replacing whatever it was with the super secret mega-safe password that I use far too commonly. For my efforts, I am prepared to be greeted with some sort of Welcome screen.

Instead, a new message appears. “Fancy new device you’ve got there,” it says, somewhat snidely in my mind. But, thank you for noticing, I guess? 

The next screen lets me know that they’re going to need to confirm that it’s really me signing in from said new device. “If you select the phone number above, you confirm that you are authorized to use this phone number and agree to receive SMS texts to verify your identity. Carrier fees may apply.” How helpful.

Except, the only option listed “above” that can be selected is not a phone number. It’s an email. My Yahoo email. The one that no longer exists.

(In moment of what I thought was inspiration, I would later go home and dig up my college laptop, hoping against hope that it was the device I originally signed up for Venmo on. For reasons that are lost in the mists of time, it was not said device.)

And so here I sit, unable to access Venmo, that most hallowed of digital banks, all because I had the gall to get a new phone. I suppose I could call Venmo, see what could be done. But no, that presents the same problem as going to the bank: people that I must interact with.

I suppose I should be grateful, as Venmo’s distrust of new electronics probably keeps my information safe from The Hackers. But right now, I just want to pay my friend for pizza and not talk to anyone. Like a truly stereotypical millennial.

Lilies in Water

“Good news!” called the Intern, as his boss, the museum’s director, finally emerged from her meeting. “The object labels for the Monet exhibit are finally here, and are being installed right this sec!”

“It is 4:00 p.m. the day before the exhibit opens!” the Director exclaimed. “How could they just now have gotten the object labels to us?”

The Intern shrugged his shoulders apologetically. “I wish I knew. I got them the info over a month ago, and I’ve been calling all week, and they just kept saying it was ‘taking longer than expected.’”

The Director sighed. “Well, at least they made it in time, if just barely. Let me know when they’re done installing them – this is an incredible exhibit for us, and we’re expecting almost a thousand people tomorrow at the opening. I’d like to take a look at the finalized display before I leave.”

“You’ve got it, Boss!” the Intern mock saluted.

An hour later, all the signs were installed, and the Director, followed by her intern, walked into the gallery and gazed around admiringly. There they were, over 50 of Monet’s famous water lilies and other assorted garden paintings, all together under one roof – her own museum’s roof. She smiled, and turned to the first painting’s placard.

Water Lilies with a Lot of Froggy Green Rather Than Blue in the Water (1917), it read. 

It took a moment for the Director to register what she was reading. “Um, Josh,” the Director called, with an unusual tremor in her voice. “What is this?” she pointed a slightly shaking finger at the title. The Intern trotted over, but without waiting for an answer, the Director turned hurriedly to the next painting.

This one said: Water Lilies Where the Water Looks Kind of Brown (1917). Water Lilies Where All the Flowers are Purple-ish (1918), said the next, and the one after that: Water Lilies Where the Flowers Are Purple-ish Again but There’s Also a Willow Tree (1918).

“Josh, you sent the label info over to the printer, what…” the Director struggled to find words that were calm and non-accusatory, but all that came out was: “What did you do?”

The Intern apparently failed to sense the displeasure in his boss’s inquiry. He beamed “Oh, well, Monet really wasn’t very inventive with his painting titles. They were literally all just Water Lilies or The Japanese Bridge and I thought, like, how are visitors going to talk about which ones were their favorite, you know? ‘Which one did you like’ ‘Oh, I liked Yellow Irises’ ‘But which one?’ So, I added some description to all the titles, some color commentary, if you’ll pardon the pun. Problem solved!”

“All the titles,” the Director repeated, numbly.

“All the titles!” the Intern repeated, enthusiastically.

Indeed, as the Director wandered blankly around the exhibit, every title had some alteration. Water Lilies that look like Monet was Experimenting with Finger Painting (1921), The Biggest Water Lily Painting (1920), Weeping Willow with a Whole Lot More Orange than the Others (1920). They’d never be able to reprint them all before the exhibit opened.

It was The Japanese Bridge that Doesn’t Look at All Like the Japanese Bridge (1923) that finally caused the Director to snap. Later in his life, Monet had developed cataracts in his eyes, and he’d painted that particular picture of the Japanese bridge that didn’t look very much like the Japanese bridge when he could barely see anything.

“Josh.” The Director turned to the Intern, and looked him dead in the eye. “You’re fired.”

Unfortunately, the satisfaction of saying that was nothing compared to the chagrin the Director felt the next morning, when she overheard a museum patron talk about how their favorite painting was definitely “Water Lilies with a Lot of Froggy Green Rather Than Blue in the Water.”

The Odd Job

Unlike some professional assassins, who simply eliminated their targets in whatever generic manner was easiest, Robert prided himself on his personalized kills. Since your neighbor had stolen one of your goats a few years back, you now wanted him to choke to death while eating a poisoned goat? Robert would find a way. You had a special phrase you wanted uttered right before your uncle was stabbed in the very same rib that he stabbed your father? Robert would make it happen. 

After twenty some-odd years providing such customized assassinations, Robert was pretty sure he’d heard all the weirdest, most specific requests, from some of the most peculiar people, that he would ever hear. That was, until the day he heard the Emperor describe exactly how he wanted his mother killed.

“The Emperor” was the short nomenclature, of course; the long version was His Imperial and Royal Majesty, the Emperor of the Koruna, King of Lira, Protector of the Confederation of the Mark, Mediator of the People. After that last title was added, and the Emperor started mediating what some people thought was a few too many things, other, unofficial titles were often used, like “Dictator, “Despot,” and “Tyrant.” That was none of Robert’s concern. The man had invited him into a very swanky room in his palace, served him what he assumed was good wine, and said some very complimentary things about how Robert was just the man to “take care of” the Emperor’s mother.

“I confess I don’t especially care exactly how it all goes down in every little detail,” the Emperor admitted, casually swirling the wine in his glass. “You can use a knife, a rope, a pistol, whatever suits you. But,” the Emperor paused his swirling, and looked very intently at Robert, “this is very important: as she dies, you must tell her precisely this: ‘Today, your son has become the Lavender Rabbit.’”

Even Robert had to admit that there was a slightly awkward beat. He recovered quickly: “Oh, okay, I can do that. ‘Today, your son has become the Lavender Rabbit.’ Certainly. Your order will be carried out within the week, unless you have some other timetable in mind.”

The Emperor waved his hand. “No, within the week will do just fine. End of the month would even work, if some complication arises.”

“From what you’ve described of your mother’s guards and habits, I don’t foresee any,” Robert assured him. 

There was another long silence. Finally, the Emperor cleared his throat. “I assume you’re restraining yourself from asking just why your Emperor is reminding his mother of a lavender rabbit as he has her assassinated?”

Robert shook his head. “Not really, your Imperial Majesty. I like to assume that all my clients have their reasons. My job is just to make their vision a reality.”

The Emperor wore a highly amused expression. “Well, you’ll be returning here once the job is done for your payment. If, by that time, curiosity has overwhelmed you, as mine would if I were you, I will be happy to satisfy it.”

Robert and the Emperor parted, and Robert set off to do his job. 

The Emperor’s mother was killed within the week, just as Robert had promised, and, just as the Emperor had predicted, Robert was dying – no pun intended – to know what the Lavender Rabbit referred to, and why the Emperor had become it. It had to be some sort of in-joke. Robert thought he had seen a flash of understanding in the woman’s eyes, but death was often full of very confusing emotions for those undergoing it, so that didn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Emperor appeared very satisfied when Robert told him he was indeed quite curious as to the mysterious phrase. The Emperor sat back in his chair, and propped his legs up on the table in a very un-imperial manner. “I was quite close with my mother as a child, and to all appearances throughout adulthood – by the way, I’m sure you were surprised she was my target, and I doubt many people in this kingdom will dare suspect a thing. Anyway, she used to read to me every night, and my favorite was a little book entitled Lavender Rabbit’s Odd One Out.

“It was a delightful story of a lavender rabbit whose owner’s house was such a mess, and so he took it upon himself to clean it up. He does so by sorting all of the things into piles of like objects – dishes with dishes, blocks with blocks, and so forth – but there was always an “odd one out,” – a paintbrush with the socks, say, or a rubber ducky with the dishes. The rabbit would take that odd one out, and put it where it belonged.” The Emperor paused for a moment. Robert, practiced in being nonjudgmental, simply fingered the envelope of money he’d been given.

The Emperor continued: “I was very inspired by that rabbit. Creating order from chaos, seeing what needed to be done and doing it, molding the world to fit his vision, doing what others would not do. Finding the odd one out, the thing that no longer belonged.” He laughed. “Reading a bit too much into a children’s book, perhaps, but, you know, impressionable youth and all that. I would often joke with my mother that it was that book that made me who I am today…and doubtless you see where this is going.”

Robert nodded as if he did. 

“My mother had become the odd one out,” the Emperor explained. “She was saying things like, ‘Perhaps you shouldn’t take all the peasant’s flour, your birthday cake may be important, and I understand that you want it to be the biggest birthday cake ever, but the people do have to eat…’ That simply wouldn’t do. So, I had her sorted where she belonged. Ridiculous, I’m sure you think.”

Robert shook his head. It took all sorts to make a world.

“I appreciate you being a good sport about all this,” the Emperor said. “Now, I do have just one question before you go.” He reached forward and rang a small silver bell on the table.

“Of course,” Robert agreed.

The door opened, and three guards walked in, sabers drawn, advancing until they stood just behind him. Robert felt his palms, still clutching the cash, grow cold.

The Emperor grinned. “So tell me. Which of us here do you think is the odd one out?”

 

Inspired by Alan Baker’s lovely children’s book “Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out,” which I highly recommend and contains no murder.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done

This is the story of the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Okay, fine. This is not the story of the worst thing I’ve ever done; this is the story of one of the worst things I’ve ever done. And, obviously, it’s not even really all that terrible, because I have no qualms telling any of you about it, ye anonymous internet reader, ye not-so-anonymous internet reader, or ye rando I’m swapping anecdotes with at a party.

So here it goes. When I was a sophomore in college, I semi-routinely went two-steppin’ with a group of friends at the local dance hall. Not for any great love of country/western music, as I actually dislike the genre. I can claim no higher motives than that all my friends were doing it, I’m a bit of a social caterpillar, and dancing can be objectively fun, especially with people who are good at it. Also, the guy I was into at the time sometimes made an appearance, so I was always hoping to run into him.

This one time, though, this time I’m telling you about, it was just me and a friend. We’ve lost touch since then, this friend and I, for a few valid reasons, but I still think fondly of her. She was, well, the fun friend. Some of you will know what I mean by this very simple description; for others, you should know that she was charming, clever, cheeky and opinionated, extremely generous and also incredibly impulsive. Arguably flighty, and openly flirty, she was fun, and she persuaded me to accompany her and her alone to the dance hall one night, because no one else could go, but she still wanted to go dancing.

It was she who would be the victim of that very bad thing I did, which occurred between the hours of 10 and 11 p.m., on the left-hand side of the first dance floor in the building.

We, two unaccompanied girls, stood on the edge of the shuffling couples, thereby signalling that we were ready to jump in at a moment’s invitation. We didn’t want for partners (well, she especially didn’t). Like most country/western halls, I gather, the atmosphere was congenial, and you, a male, could ask unknown females to dance without being inherently creepy. Unless, of course, you yourself were creepy.

This is the juncture where I will introduce the third player in the upcoming scene: Fedora Guy. In the spirit of charity, I should state that “creepy” is perhaps too strong a word for him. In all of this that I am about to tell, I never felt threatened, and he was perfectly polite in every interaction. But, he was…weird.

First off, he was wearing a fedora, a buttoned vest, slacks, and a pair of dress shoes that had, I think I recall, slightly pointed toes. Not to belabor the point, but this was a country/western dance hall, meaning that jeans and cowboy boots were the unofficial dress code, and if a hat was worn, it was obviously also a cowboy one.

Secondly, it was the way he danced. He danced much as I imagine an oily octopus might. He oozed his way rhythmically across the floor, attempting to exude what he thought was pizzaz while draping his tentacles as best he could around his partner.

Being that partner dancing with him was exactly as awkward as it looked. I know this, because I danced with him when he asked me that one time. I attempted to make small talk with him as we slimed our way across the floor. I thanked him for his trouble when we were done, though it was really all mine. I was determined to never dance with him ever again.

So, on that night out dancing with my Fun Friend, it was with quite a bit of panic that I watched Fedora Guy seep his way over until he was in front of us, and faux-suavely hold out his hand between the two of us, mutely asking: “Do either of you want to dance with me?” And so at last we come to it: the moment of the kind of bad thing I did.

I picked up my friend’s hand, and placed it in his.

He sucked her into his eight-legged orbit, where she remained for the next three to four minutes, while I went and hid.

Afterwards, she was, honestly, pretty much fuming at me, and she did not appreciate my defense at the time: “You said you needed a wingwoman, and look at me! I think I’m being a pretty great wingwoman – I just got you a guy to dance with!”

Postscript: I actually met Fedora Guy a couple years later, outside of the dance hall, at a wedding. Turns out he was good friends with both the bride and groom, who were also friends of mine. He was not wearing a fedora at the time, and he seemed pretty, well, normal. Thus, I’m not really sure whether the moral of this story is “Know when it’s worth it to throw your friends under the bus,” or “don’t wear fedoras.”