Christine sits in her usual spot, a small rectangular table in the front window of Tully’s on NE 45th, where she can sip coffee, watch passers-by, and read The Weekly. She comes here every Friday evening after stopping off at her ex’es place to drop off their daughter, Emily. As long as Emily has been alive, TGIF family dinners out have been a ritual, only since the divorce Christine doesn’t go anymore. Instead, she sits here and nurses a tall Americano with non-fat and tries to ignore a dull ache in her chest that just won’t go away, although it will get much better as soon as Emily comes home.
On first and third Fridays Emily comes home right after dinner. On second and fourth Fridays she’s away until Sunday. Then Christine ventures out to a Saturday night partner dance, the one thing she’s found to take her mind off of her loneliness. She’s learned East and West Coast Swing, Nightclub Two Step, and Waltz, but her favorite is the Tango, with its long slinking strides. She glides along the floor cheek-to-cheek with her partner, halting suddenly for a dramatic swoop of a leg and a precision about-face, to start anew in the opposite direction. Christine can forget everything, even who she is, and become an exotic, passionate, mysterious woman for a few magical minutes.
Friends are always trying to fix her up, but she won’t have any part of that. You’re barely 40, Christine, they say. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life alone! One heartbreak per lifetime is enough, she answers. I’d rather be alone. Thanks anyway.
Guys at the dance hand her their cell numbers and ask her to give them a call, but she never does. And she never gives out her own number.
Tonight Christine is reading the Personals and laughing softly when something in the window catches her eye. It’s Todd waving at her to come out. The ache in her chest recedes slightly as she thinks about the fun they have at the Saturday dances. Todd shares her passion for the Tango. In fact, he’s passionate about a number of things that he cares about, such as his charity work and his teaching, and Christine admires that. He’s also not bad looking with silvering hair and a well-kept physique, and he looks very nice dressed up for a special dance. Christine stops herself. Todd is an OK guy, she thinks, and a pretty good dancer, but he’s a guy. Don’t need any of that. Nope. She doesn’t move. He sticks his head in the door and says, Hey how’re you doing Christie? (Why doesn’t she mind his using her nickname?) Missed you last Saturday at the dance. It’s never the same when you’re not there. Come for a walk with me, it’s a beautiful outside. Christine shakes her head and looks down at the paper to dismiss him.
Ten minutes later Todd reappears, this time holding a red rose between his teeth by its stem. Cradling an imaginary partner, he Tangos up and down the sidewalk, stopping every now and then to bend his partner over backwards with a flourish. Christine’s shoulders lift, and she smiles. Todd drops to one knee on the sidewalk, clasping the rose to his chest with one hand and offering the other hand to her, mouthing an aria skyward. Then he pretends to lose strength and slowly crumples towards the sidewalk, like a perishing Romeo. Christine’s chest feels light and warm.
Laughing, she goes out to him.