FAKE DANCE-OFF by Liz MacWhirter
Experimental piece for University of Glasgow PhD, in the style of FOUCAULT AND PENCIL by Lydia Davies
Touch button on iPhone to record husband dancing on video. Act of touching button on iPhone alters angle of screen so bottom of lampshade now in view. Stop video, tell husband to stop dancing, stop music on other iPhone. Fiddle with mini tripod legs so lampshade no longer in view. Top of radiator in view. Fiddle again with mini tripod legs so neither radiator nor lampshade in view, only husband. Tell husband view is good. Start music. Touch button on iPhone to record husband on video. Husband dances fake dance-off for self-tape audition to impress casting director. Lampshade not in shot. Radiator not in shot. Husband’s head not in shot. Decide whether or not to tell husband as dancing is good; decide not. Watch husband act face off; fake dance-off feels real. Remembers real disco at old University. Thinks about late arrival today in post of new student card for new University, thinks about stress at lateness and realises mind wandering, remembers to check lampshade, radiator, head. Husband shouts Last Man Standing, arms raised, fake victory. Press stop on iPhone. Husband checks recording. Take two. Place iPhone and mini tripod legs back on pile of books on table. Fiddle with mini tripod legs for no lampshade, no radiator, only husband. Curtain now in view. Fiddle again. Tell husband to move curtain behind sofa. Tell husband view is good. Start music. Touch button on iPhone to record husband dancing on video. Thinks, John Travolta Pulp Fiction. Thinks, old Freshers. Thinks pandemic Freshers, while checking lampshade, radiator, curtain, husband’s head. Thinks pandemic consequences not just no Freshers for freshers, but lost late PhD application in pandemic University application system and consequent three days’ notice for PhD in September, and resulting late student registration, late student card, late introductory explanatory emails arriving late last week when seminars suitable for PhD sit-in have already started, and general feeling of breathless running to catch up. Pet hate, being late. Pet hate also being thought of as someone who is late. Realises, pet hate makes recurring nightmare makes sense. Squashes resentment for standing recording dancing husband for important casting director audition when should be running to catch up for new University, and writing first experimental fiction exercise. Recurring nightmare of being late for exams becomes sort of reality, though not husband’s fault, nor self’s, nor university’s, nor anyone’s but the virus. Panics that, even so, missed important first sit-in seminars as new PhD researcher while rushing to identify relevant classes and seminars across relevant schools for sit-ins in a system not fit for pandemic, like whole country, though no-one’s fault. Thinks, sit-in protest at pandemic. Reminds self to keep things in view: not just husband, lampshade, radiator, curtain but pandemic consequences, as consequences for self may be nightmare lateness but for others: poverty, despair, ITU and worse. Thinks, existential. Husband shouts fake victory. Last Man Standing.