Ex-Boozer Chronicles: Dancing in the Dark

Tonight I went to Dancing in the Dark. For those unfamiliar with the concept the title is pretty self-explanatory: you dance in the dark to music with a bunch of people. Funnily enough, I actually didn’t take the title so literally, and had thought it was broadly referring to dancing during the night-time, which indeed is dark. I also thought there could possibly be a person yelling out inspiring and energizing comments from the front to motivate us. When I met up with  my friend I told her what I thought was involved with the evening, and she was at first confused, and then stressed out by the possibility of this pseudo nazi dance rally that I had envisioned us attending.

‘But I thought it would be like No lights, No lycra, where you just dance around in the dark’, she said to me as we walked to an Asian restaurant for a quick bite before the event. ‘I don’t think I’m prepared enough. Perhaps I should go back to the car, and put my sneakers on?’, she started to chew her finger nails in the way she does when she is anxious. ‘No, I’m sure you are fine. There’s no time anyway’. I brushed it off but was still uncertain as even though I knew her concept sounded a lot more logical, and I had completely made mine up without any basis, I hadn’t totally given up on it yet.

I know you are probably thinking, how has she only heard of these events now? Where has she been for the last several years? The simple answer is the pub. Or a bar. Or a restaurant. Or a club. One or all of the above but definitely not in a rec room at the side of a church dancing in the dark with 20 other people to an eclectic collection of music from the 70s through to now. On a Wednesday night I was more likely to go to trivia at a pub, which I still do occasionally even without the beer, and continue to find it entertaining, and my answers just as useless. However, this dancing in the dark business would have been more likely to be one of those activities I planned to go to after dinner and then decided, a few glasses in, to give a miss and continue to drink. Drinking in itself was an activity to me.

At dinner we sat side by side on the bench seating, and as we stared out at the street, my friend, who had also recently quit drinking, declared ‘I’m just finding life so boring without alcohol. Or maybe it was already boring and the alcohol masked that. I think I’d even prefer the hangovers to this nothingness’. I could sympathise. I felt like that some days. It seems like you should be espousing how much you love life when you quit booze, how much better your life is but life isn’t going to miraculously change into this amazing ride when you quit booze. You have to keep changing more elements of your life until eventually everything is different, and perhaps by the end of your transformation you will be singing from the mountain tops about the hills being alive but some days, well, self-improvement is a little tiring and you just want to give up, and bury your head in a bottle of Sauvignon blanc.

My friend and I also collectively suffer from ‘what’s the fucking point’ disorder so some days it is especially hard for us, and today was definitely one of them. ‘I just wish I could have a few drinks without going over the top but I know I can’t. I use to be able to though. A few years ago I could have a few glasses’ said my friend thoughtfully as we gobble up the last few stray noodles as time was running out and we needed to go. ‘I have never been a moderate drinker. Ever’, I replied, ‘from the first drink until my last I always wanted more. I remember being at uni, and drinking a bottle of wine whilst doing my assignments’. I hadn’t really thought about it before, my compulsion to drink everything from the dawn of time, I just looked at recent times, but it’s definitely been a long history of alcohol abuse. I remembered how when I was 20 a boyfriend broke up with me, and told me he thought I had a problem with alcohol. At the time I thought he was just being spiteful. My friends and I all laughed about it… haha, oh how ridiculous. But he was right, and it took me several more years to realise this.

The air was heavy with pontification as we walked up to the old church. I knew we both would have preferred to have gone home, forgot the whole thing, and curled up in bed. Surrender ourselves to the lameness we felt. That’s what’s good about going in a pair, it forces you to do things you otherwise might pike out from. No one wants to admit they are the lamest one, who doesn’t really want to try new things.

We could hear the music as we got closer. It appeared to have already started. Guess we should have eaten those noodles a little faster. Posted to the front of the thudding door was a notice: ‘Dancing in the dark in progress. Pay afterwards’. We entered tentatively, and were submerged in darkness. We exited again, as if that was just a warm up to actually getting involved. As we were in process of psyching ourselves up to go back in the door opened, and a shuffling pony-tailed man emerged with a small tin box. Turned out he was the guardian of the dark, and wanted our money and for us to get in the room and dance. We obliged. Who knew what would happen if we defied the guardian of the dark.

Once inside my eyes adjusted slowly and I could make out shadows gyrating to the beat of the music. It felt quit surreal. Hey baby do you wanna dance bounced around in my head. We put our bags in the corner, and I whispered to my friend ‘I wouldn’t want to be on acid. It’s a little creepy in here. These people could be serial killers’. Could be but probably weren’t. The room was sparse with people, kind of like we’d arrived early at a party, and were hoping more people would come soon.

However, as my friend and I found our place and started to move with the music, I enjoyed that I had space to fling my arms about, and twirl like a five-year old. As the songs flowed from one into the other my abandonment continued to slip until eventually I was smiling to myself, free from all my adult concerns and hang ups. My ego had stalked off into the darkness, probably disgusted with my new sense of embarrassingly childlike disregard for it. ‘Fine’, it said with ‘tude as it swiveled around on it’s Marvin the Martian high top cons, ‘make a fool of yourself but you’ll come crawling back. You can’t survive without me!’. I eyed off it’s sneakers. I’d wanted those sneakers but my size was sold out when I’d finally remembered to order them. I wish I could say that my ego had got the better of me for the last time but I somehow doubted that.

Just as alcohol had done for years, the darkness enabled me to lose my inhibitions. It was like dancing alone but with people. There was something magical about being surrounded by the faceless shadows that shared the same goal as me: to let the music dictate our actions, to not have to think about what we were doing. It was instinctual. Music/beat = dance. That’s what I loved about booze, the ability to escape my own thoughts. The chance to let my mind rest after endless toiling about the meaning of life, my future, my present. And now I had found it away from the bottle. I had found it in quite an unlikely place. If someone had told me a few years ago you could find that feeling in a darkened rec room dancing amongst 20 or so people, I would have said it sounded like they needed a drink.

After a little over an hour the music stopped, and I was a little disappointed. I felt like I could have danced all night. However I also felt amazing. I felt like I’d just experienced what people refer to as ‘good old fashioned fun’. My friend’s face looked like the dark cloud had lifted, and she beamed at me and said ‘that was exactly what I needed! It was great’. We walked back to her car discussing how we would have to come again next week, and possibly the week after, maybe every week. It seemed very possible we had found the cure for those pesky occasional bouts of quit booze blues, and life seemed all a bit more manageable because of it. Realistically, we might never come again but at that point in time it was enough to simply be excited about something.

For more Ex-Boozer Chronicles click here

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