the ballroom is old, crumbling. the walls are no longer the vibrant blue as pictured in my photo-brochure; the marble floor is scratched from thousands of tourists, footprints disturbing a fine film of dust. in one corner is a gramophone, shoved out of the way of tourist feet.
on the far wall is a portrait of a young lady, one who looks a little jovial and mischievous – she doesn’t belong here, in this silent forgotten room. she looks like once she might have been the light of the ball and it’s not hard to picture her swarmed with admirers. it doesn’t seem right for her to be forgotten here.
dusty though the gramophone is, there’s still a small stack of records beneath the table. as far as i can tell it’s the most modern piece of the room. my hands shake slightly as i navigate the disc onto the turntable and delicately lower the needle. here, with a waltz playing, and in my old jeans and t-shirt, i am the most incongruous being in the room.
leaning against the wall, i feel as though i have been transported to centuries past.
the first figure appears when i am dazed, half-asleep, lulled by the rhythm of the music and the utter stillness around me. as i rouse myself, the music’s notes appear to shimmer in the air before slowing, converging into a myriad of gowns and suits.
the girl in the portrait is the first one i recognize.
she says nothing, but smiles – sly, coy, devious. i recognize all of them, but nothing else. her gaze doesn’t take in my attire, so worn and drab compared to her and her companions. as my own gaze takes in the room, i see the dust has been swept away, the marble gleaming and the walls bold. there’s no portrait. in confusion i scan the room, looking on all sides – it’s gone.
she beckons a friend to her side and he seems to understand her silent command; somehow, i’m pulled into a waltz to which i don’t know the steps. the floor sways beneath me, the haze from before back, stronger and brighter. before i know it, several minutes have passed.
disoriented, i select a drink from a tray; my arm is constricted, and my gaze drops to the gown now encircling my frame. her dress, in fact.
she is nowhere to be seen.