In the room the women come and goTalking of Michelangelo.
-from ³The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. EliotI hear them, hear their swishing dresses, hear the taffeta in its crinklingglory, their invisible footsteps retreat quickly under layers of bunched-up petticoats. I hear their quick nervous laughs²giggles really²as they make smalltalk and comment on the new styles. Someone has come in from walking acrossthe dewy lawn, because their shoes squeak on the hardwood floor and I know, Ihear, everyone turning, looking, and I feel sorry for that poor someone with thesqueaking shoes.Instinctively I know it is my sister trotting gaily down the staircase, whosays in a high excited trill,³My
ladies and gentlemen, shall we dance?´And the music begins like that, as though they had their fingers on the bows primed and ready to go the moment they heard her voice²maybe they did²and itis a happy song, a jaunty song, notes going to and fro as if dancing themselves.Someone begins clapping to the beat and soon everyone is clapping with their hands and clacking with their feet until the song ends in a final flourish of colorfulsound. I do not dance.The music starts up again, this time a long slow waltz, and there is noclapping. Someone suggests a quadrille and I hear them clumsily pair up in groupsaround the room. Amelie Rossi says that she is simply exhausted and girls gigglesomewhere in the corner of the room. Then that dance is over, and everyone goesto get their drinks.My sister gives me a cranberry punch to drink. I feel her soft gloved handfor a second as she drops the cup carelessly onto my outstretched palm. Its taste,over-flavorful, lingers tart on the tip of my tongue for many minutes. The roomswells with the noise of contented discussion²mainly compliments, young men toyoung women, young women to young men, and the more rare, young woman to