Our first dance together was at ages five and six, the picture is in an album at my mother’s. We, Clara and I,met at junior school and then shared the same senior school: through careful planning we managed to go to the same university. She was always the more sensible one, the careful one: the girl who chided me on my excesses. Even when we were very young, I behaved as I wanted to, but was moderated always by her caring stability and common sense.
She was unadventurous, and crippled by social caution and over influenced by the opinions of others I always thought, and I was always telling her to breath the air and live a little, On some level we irritated each other or stimulated each other: it was hard to decide which, but whatever the situation we always trusted each other. She would scolded me constantly and kept my behaviour somewhere near the acceptable: I would listen to her, if to no one else.
She had a couple of boyfriends of the boring kind and I, of course, was drinking from the trough of opportunity. In our early mid-teen years she might smile at me in a goofy way and I got the unsettling impression she sought more from me than friendship, but I was hooked on adventure and not ready to be harnessed and quite soon the moment passed: she had too much common sense to chase a lost cause and that is what I gradually became.
Over time at university I found myself behaving ever more recklessly in the hope of getting a reaction from her but somehow she had lost interest in managing my behaviour and then there was Nigel. She was always warm, and personal, but in some subtle way she no longer spoke our private language.
Somewhere in our second year his name appeared in her conversation, and then he became a presence at our meetings: nothing was said but I was no longer her first concern; her loyalties had shifted. Had I missed the point? Love had waved to me but I did not understand it’s blessings.
At her wedding to the calm and collected Nigel, with whom a house had already been purchased, I sat half way down the church and somewhere near the aisle. I was gripped by a growing sense of loss and my own stupidity which I concealed within myself because I had always took the role of the man with nothing to lose, and I was a victim of that image.
Time moved on and I saw her less frequently. There is a suspicion in my mind that Nigel viewed me with caution, who can say, but in time, as an antidote to drifting and lost opportunities, I became engaged to a girl named Sarah, whose needs were easy to read. I credited her with keeping me just this side of madness, until a wedding seemed the inescapable conclusion to our courtship.
At the reception, where I smiled for the camera’s, and danced with my new bride to John Lennon’s “Woman,” those who knew me looked on at the wild man brought to safety with some relief.By accident, I met with Clara in a passage by the hallway. It was our first moment alone in many years, and she reached up and touched my arm and told me, “It’s so lovely to see you happy.” Emotion came from somewhere in the shadows and overwhelmed me ” But she isn’t you Clara” I said and bowed my head. There was a sense of wrenching and she moved away. When I looked back, her eyes told me I had betrayed her way back then, and I knew I had.