Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?
Ford Madox Ford - The Good Soldier (1915)
“Hi there, fancy another?” I ask holding up my empty glass. Nick sits alone at a nearby table so I make an effort to be sociable although one can’t expect much of a return from Nick.
“Oh it’s you.” Nick withdraws his gaze from the dance floor as if I’ve just invited him to a funeral. Moody as usual.
“Yes it’s me. I asked if you fancy another drink”. Taking my courage in both hands I move over to his table and sit down. Only joking about the courage thing of course. Nick isn’t that formidable. A strange sod with an occasional spooky stare but not formidable. The things he says, the ideas he come up with - most people steer well clear of him.
“I don’t mind – thank you.” That’s Nick for you; always polite, always well dressed. I leave him to it while I fetch the drinks. No need to ask what he is drinking – it’s always beer.
When I return he still stares at the dancers out on that vast floor. I never could watch them for long. Makes my head spin – too much noise and dazzle. I’d rather go somewhere else but everyone I know is here. At least I think they are, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
“Even more crowded than usual,” I say as I plonk down the drinks and take my seat. There is a buzz on the dance floor and many more people seem to be out there dancing their little socks off. Hardly anyone watching now, tables mostly empty, not much conversation. Again I take a look around. Yes – almost everyone is dancing.
“Freedom and Dignity is what I call those two,” Nick says after a good long pull at his beer. He points to a pair of dancers who gracefully whirl around each other then vanish from view in the melee. Old fashioned dancing I’d say although I’m no expert. I can barely see them now. The floor is so huge, almost insubstantial in its vastness. The music and lights don’t help although there is no point criticising.
“Have you noticed something about those two?” Nick adds in that morose way he has. The guy watches too many movies in my opinion. Although that’s impossible. Or maybe it isn’t.
“Noticed what?” I reply.
“The old style dancers – they keep drifting out of sight.”
“They would. So does everyone else. It’s the crowd.”
“Happens more often now though.”
“It’s a bigger crowd,” I reply. I wonder if Nick intends to turn the dancers into a heavy handed parable by calling them Freedom and Dignity. He does that sometimes.
“It is a bigger crowd isn’t it?” Nick stares at me with those blue eyes then looks away. “I’ve been watching them for quite a while,” he adds after a slight pause. “It was different before.”
“Before now. Before any time you care to name. Things change but people don’t notice. Soon they’ll be gone and we’ll miss them.”
“Miss them? We don’t know them?”
“That’s right,” Nick replies, “but we did know them quite well once upon a time.”
“I don’t remember,” I reply, because I don’t.
“Of course you don’t remember, you never do - ”
At this point I decide to hit the off button and yank off the VR headset. I’ve had enough of virtual reality for one day. The app I’ve been playing is supposed to reflect your psyche. That’s what the app is called – Psyche. I’ve no idea who Nick is supposed to be.
Everybody plays Psyche these days. Everyone knows Nick in one way or another. He’s almost like an old friend but maybe I’ll go out instead, look up a few real friends for a change...
Or perhaps not.
I pick up the VR headset again. I could try another scenario this time. Nick will be there of course because he’s part of the app, part of Psyche, part of my psyche. Yes – Nick is always there – watching.