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Chapter 16
The candidate’s name was Bianca Rivera and she met allcriteria.
There was one obstacle, to which I would need to devote time.
She noted that she had twice won the state ballroom dancingchampionship, and required her partner to be an accomplisheddancer. It seemed perfectly reasonable for her to have somecriteria of her own, and this one was easy to satisfy. And Ihad the perfect place to take her.
I called Regina, the Dean’s assistant, and confirmed that shewas still selling tickets for the faculty ball. Then I emailedBianca and invited her as my partner. She accepted! I had adate – the perfect date.
Now I had ten days to learn to dance.
Gene entered my office as I was practising my dance steps.
‘I think the longevity statistics were based on marriages to livewomen, Don.’
He was referring to the skeleton I was using for practice. Ihad obtained it on loan from the Anatomy Department, and noone had asked what I required it for. Judging from the pelvissize, it was almost133/290certainly a male skeleton, but this was irrelevant for dancingpractice.
I explained its purpose to Gene, pointing out the scene fromthe film Grease that was showing on the wall of my office.
‘So,’ said Gene, ‘Ms Right – sorry, Dr Right, PhD, just poppedinto your inbox.’
‘Her name’s not Wright,’ I said, ‘it’s Rivera.’
‘Not necessary. The meeting arrangements are quite precise.
She’s coming to the faculty ball.’
‘Oh shit.’ Gene went silent for a while and I resumed dancingpractice. ‘Don, the faculty ball is Friday after next.’
‘You can’t learn to dance in nine days.’
‘Ten. I started yesterday. The steps are trivial to remember. Ijust need to practise the mechanics. They’re considerably lessdemanding than martial arts.’
I demonstrated a sequence.
‘Very impressive,’ said Gene. ‘Sit down, Don.’
I sat.
‘I hope you’re not too pissed off at me about Rosie,’ he said.
I had almost forgotten. ‘Why didn’t you tell me she was apsychology student? And about the bet?’
‘From what Claudia said, you guys seemed to be having agood time.
I thought if she wasn’t telling you it was for a reason. Shemay be a bit twisted but she’s not stupid.’
‘Perfectly reasonable,’ I said. On matters of human interaction,why argue with a professor of psychology?
‘I’m glad one of you is all right with it,’ said Gene. ‘I have totell you, Rosie was a little unhappy with me. A little unhappywith life. Listen, Don, I persuaded her to go to the ball. Alone.
If you knew how often134/290Rosie takes my advice, you’d realise what a big deal that was.
I was going to suggest you do the same.’
‘Take your advice?’
‘No, go to the ball – alone. Or invite Rosie as your partner.’
I now saw what Gene was suggesting. Gene is so focused onattraction and sex that he sees it everywhere. This time he wastotally in error.
‘Rosie and I discussed the question of a relationship explicitly.
Neither of us is interested.’
‘Since when do women discuss anything explicitly?’ said Gene.
I visited Claudia for some advice on my crucial date withBianca. I assumed that she would be there in her role asGene’s wife, and I advised her that I might require assistanceon the night. It turned out she wasn’t even aware of the ball.
‘Just be yourself, Don. If she doesn’t want you for yourself,then she’s not the right person for you.’
‘I think it’s unlikely that any woman would accept me formyself.’
‘What about Daphne?’ asked Claudia.
It was true – Daphne was unlike the women I had dated. Thiswas excellent therapy; refutation by counter-example. PerhapsBianca would be a younger, dancing, version of Daphne.
‘And what about Rosie?’ asked Claudia.
‘Rosie is totally unsuitable.’
‘I wasn’t asking that,’ said Claudia. ‘Just whether she acceptsyou for yourself.’
I thought about it for a few moments. It was a difficultquestion.
‘I think so. Because she isn’t evaluating me as a partner.’
‘It’s probably ............
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