Miles was a terrible dancer. He knew this. He was well aware of his limitations. Weddings were the only places he felt even a little bit safe to dance. Wedding dancing was unselfconscious and happy. People were way more interested in the happy couple and the open bar than to pay any attention to how well Miles was or was not, emphasis on was not, able to follow the instructions to “The Electric Slide”. Wedding dancing was meant to be fun and lighthearted and sometimes silly. At a wedding, Miles blended in quite nicely with all the other rhythmically challenged white men just trying to waltz with their dates to make them happy. Besides which, there was always that one uncle at any wedding that was way worse than Miles, effectively taking all of the unwanted negative attention. All other kinds of dancing, Miles avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately, Miles could avoid dancing no longer. They were heading out for a night of dancing with Iggy’s close friends and Miles was displeased about it. He couldn’t be outwardly displeased about it, however, because they spent much more time with his friends than they did her friends. He was making an effort with her friends because he knew it wasn’t fair. He knew it wasn’t fair because she had told him it wasn’t fair. In the end, he couldn’t find it in himself to argue because he had friends like Joey, whether he liked it or not.
They had gone over to Priscilla’s apartment, which she shared with her terrifying sister and her terrifying sister’s terrifying friend, to pre-drink before they went to a bar for a promotional evening called Funk Night. Miles couldn’t even dance to contemporary Top 40 music; he very much doubted he’d be successful at Funk Night. Besides, he was one of four men going. One was Lawrence, the most handsome man in the entire world. Another was Chris, who Miles had met at Jana and Dan’s wedding. He was significantly less intimidating than Lawrence, though half as friendly. And then there was Steve. Steve was horrible. As far as Miles could tell, no one actually liked him, which begged the question of why he was even there in the first place.
“Who brought him here?” Miles whispered to Iggy after Steve had asked them to put on an EDM playlist for the eighth time. Miles was beginning to suspect there would be no end.
“He’s Jemima’s boyfriend,” Iggy hissed back, sounding more than a little displeased about that fact. Miles didn’t blame her. Steve was irritating and pompous. He talked about DJs like he was the first person to ever discover them. That was annoying in a regular music snob, but it was something else entirely in an EDM fan.
“He has to know that no one is ever going to put on any of the music he requests, right?” Miles continued. It seemed fairly obvious to Miles, and not only because they’d ignored and flat out rejected his requests eight separate times. Sybil and Chris had regaled the room with tales of their music production jobs, wherein they worked specifically with folk and indie-rock artists. Tallulah had hauled out her record collection for them to listen to and it included all four Arkells albums, two Churches albums, and Bleachers’ debut record.
“You would think, but unfortunately Steve is an idiot,” Iggy returned darkly.
Miles learned a lot about Iggy’s friends that evening. He had of course gone to high school with some of them, like Priscilla and Helen, but he had never been terribly close with them. That more than likely had a lot to do with the fact that he and Iggy basically tortured each other for the entire four years. He hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know some of Iggy’s other friends at all however, people such as Sybil, who turned out to be frighteningly dry and sarcastic, or Jemima, who turned out to be slightly bonkers. Then there was Bernie, who talked about Jennifer Lopez for what felt like an unnecessary length of time, and Sybil’s friend Suze, who actually seemed like she might’ve been the most normal if she hadn’t begun serving people aggressively strong mixed drinks. Then she became the female equivalent of Joey.
Miles had the spins by the time they reached the bar for Funk Night. He wholeheartedly blamed Suze for this, as did surely almost everybody else. He was actually kind of surprised that the bouncer at the door let them inside because Bernie was singing “Dance Again” at the top of the lungs and had been doing so on a loop since they’d left the apartment. She kept telling Lawrence to “take it away” each time she reached Pitbull’s rap verse, but he never did, either because he didn’t want to encourage her or, most likely, he didn’t know the words. That was alright, though, because apparently Tallulah did.
The first thing they did when they finally got inside was head directly to the bar. Suze literally strong-armed him. He grabbed onto Iggy’s hand out of fear and didn’t let go until after he’d done the two shots Suze had forced on him. Then Tallulah very loudly declared that they were all dancing. Iggy tugged Miles along and he grimaced like he was being marched to his death. James Brown was playing loudly in the background, he was quite drunk, and he was being pulled along by a leggy blonde. All things considered, it was a fairly good moment to die. It was a far cry from the death he’d had foretold to him at a roaming carnival in university. He’d gone with Robin and his girlfriend of the time, who had demanded they have their palms read by the fortune teller, who just happened to be the cousin of his ex-girlfriend, the one he had dumped for the girlfriend he had gone with. Robin found the whole ordeal very amusing, particularly when the fortune teller told Miles that he was going to die by shitting himself to death.
The dance floor was crowded with young, drunk people. There were also a few older couples as well as a man in corduroy bellbottoms who was pretending to play the saxophone in a corner by himself. Iggy steered them clear of him and found a spot amidst the sea of people for them all to dance. And then the ridicule began. Miles thought he was doing alright, but apparently not, if Tallulah’s raucous laughter was anything to go by.
“You look like you’ve just learned you have arms!” She exclaimed delightedly. Miles stopped dancing immediately.
“Well, this has been fun,” he said, turning to leave. Iggy put her hands on his shoulders to stop him.
“Don’t go because of her!” She cried. “You don’t have to be a good dancer, you just have to try!”
It was something someone would say to goad a kindergartener into doing something. Needless to say, it did not make Miles feel much better about the current situation.
“Bro, you’ve got this wrong,” Sybil told him seriously, sidling up next to him and slinging an arm around his shoulder. “You’re operating under the assumption that Tallulah is mocking you.”
“She isn’t?” Miles returned dubiously, one eyebrow raised. He turned to direct his skeptical expression at her, but she was very close to him and he ended up going slightly cross-eyed.
“Well, yeah, she probably is,” Sybil conceded. “But she only mocks the people she likes.”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s true,” Miles cut in.
“Alright, no, probably not,” Sybil conceded. “But you are assuming that she doesn’t like the way you dance like you’ve just learned you have arms.”
Miles shot her another incredulous look.
“Well yeah,” he returned, feeling like his point had been obvious. Sybil shook her head slightly and then turned to Tallulah.
“Tallulah!” She shouted, very close to Miles’ ear. “How do you feel about Miles dancing like he’s just learned he has arms?!”
She was fully shouting by this point. Other people were turning to look. If possible, Miles was even more self-conscious than before and he wasn’t even dancing any longer. At this rate, he was going to have to hold his arms immobile against his sides for the rest of his life so as not to evoke harsh judgment from strangers. He’d probably spent his life up to this point walking around like some sort of demented, overgrown orangutan. Really, it was a small blessing he’d been made aware of it so relatively early in his life.
“I fucking love it!” Tallulah shouted back. Then she threw her hands in the hair and set about starting a conga line.
“See?” Sybil said, turning back to Miles and patting him sloppily across the cheek. “You’re fine.”
Fine was okay. Fine was bearable. Miles had spent a lot of time striving to be fine. He could live with fine. All he had to do was spend the rest of his life dancing like only Tallulah was watching.