One day you wake up with memories so vivid that you can see the surroundings, bright, vivid, so real that you some-how feel and almost believe that you can reach out and touch everything around you. There, just there, are all the people, some you know, others who are welcome strangers. They’re talking, and you can hear their conversations.
“You made it! How was your week? Oh, mine too. Are you going in? Good. I’ve got first round. I wonder who else is here tonight.”
“I’m so nervous! I want to just go up and say ‘Hi.’ but I don’t know if I even dare!”
“Hey! Listen! Somebody ELSE is playing my song. I wonder who did that? Maybe even more, I wonder WHY. You wanna dance? C’mon. Let’s.”
And some-where, in your mind, in your heart, in your soul, you can hear the music coming through the open front door. You can hear your feet crunching on the gravel drive as you head for the steps that lead up to the grand, old front porch. You can almost feel the stones beneath your feet, and you can smell the air around you, full of clean, Summer breeze, the pines, the grass and all the different colognes and perfumes all mingled together and yet, each one unique. They all mingle with scents of the cigarettes and liquor that waft out, around and up into the night air.
Your heart races a little, with the anticipation of being amongst good, really good Friends, and maybe a little exhilaration because “he” might be here tonight and OH! even just being in the same room starts your heart beating to the rhythm of the music and swaying in syncopated time with the general energy of all that and all who are around you. It makes you wonder, even now “Do I look OK?” and “Am I going to dance well enough?” And… “What do I say after ‘Hi.’?” “Will we get to dance together?” “I just don’t know!” But your legs keep moving you forward and your head reels just ever so slightly. And you think “Tonight! YES! Tonight! I’m NOT going to let THIS one pass by too. Tonight I’ll just take the chance and… It’s too hard not knowing. It’s miserable thinking I might be disappointed. But it’s even worse thinking that I might be missing the greatest chance for the GREATEST moment of my entire life-time. It’ll be better knowing, one way or the other. I can’t just keep going along not knowing anything and just jumping to my own conclusions. Tonight…!” You’re in the front door, the music is playing, people are moving about. And you’re almost giddy. “Don’t look stupid! Don’t look all crazy and excited. Friends. It’s all Friends. Find a waiter. Get a spot. Have a drink. Here it goes.”
The “regular” crowd is here tonight, as usual. Familiar faces and voices. They’re all, pretty much together, in the groups that form from place-to-place, town-to-town. Newburgh, Beacon, Fishkill, Poughkeepsie… There are the people who come up from The City, new faces, some, and others are even rather “regular”, having made the trip this time as they do and have done all the while. It’s early enough, and they keep to their own as they commandeer a table or two, or a particular corner off the dance floor. You see them, hear them chatting, talking and laughing. Before the night is done, their groups will disperse into the crowds and the confines of their geographies will disappear as greetings and meetings evolve, new conversations pull one from here into over there, and dancing puts everybody, at one time or another, together on the centre floor. Before the lights come up for “LAST CALL”, the little “villages” will have long melded and some will have disappeared out and into the night, others will linger until the last note escapes from the juke-box and droning voices replace orchestra, rhythm and beats. Little-by-little, one-by-one, two-by-two or more-by-more they, we will all eventually make our way back to that front door and back out into the world… eventually. But not now! Now it’s time to move on in, check to see who’s here, re-connect with “Family” (because that’s truly who these people are… not “relatives” but “Family”) and make new acquaintances, meet the “new members”, and like all the rest, turn this all from “them and us” to “us”, the ones who are here becoming the “one” who are here.
A waiter comes round as you stand observing, you place an order and off he goes, holding a perfectly-balanced tray in one hand lifted over his own head AND over the heads of those on the dance floor across which he swings and sways, twists and turns, body in one direction and another and all the while, the tray seems to mysteriously hover, un-tilting, un-moved. He’s made it through the dancers and steps, still in time with the music, through the door to the left of the juke-box and he’s gone… but only for a short while. Before the record playing has reached its last lyric, he’s back with your drink, takes your payment, thanks you kindly and sincerely and is off again… on to the next. You take a long-awaited gulp of your beverage, light a cigarette, inhale, exhale and… begin to settle in your vantage spot where you glean, glance and take attendance…
She’s here. He’s there. They’re here. They’re over there. You’re here. And YES! There! Over there! Right… over… THERE!
Some days you find yourself surrounded by the most beautifully cherished moments, embraced by the time, the events, and sometimes even the people. Some times it’s actually palpable, like the precious arms of a loved one, wrapped firmly around you, holding you so close that quite honestly, there’s no difference between you and them. You’re warmed, welcomed, wrapped, comforted, loved, in love, at peace. You hear the voices, the music playing. Your soul is rocking, dancing, swaying. Your heart beats to a joyful, happy, contented rhythm. And all the world is Utopia, Heaven, perfect…
And your eyes suddenly clear, the focus changes, the juke-box has stopped playing, the conversations and the laughter has gone silent, a breeze brushes against and across your face and as the light of “LAST CALL” brightens…
It’s 44 years later. Oh my god! It’s 44 years later! I haven’t finished my drink. My cigarette is still smouldering. My heart is still racing in exhilarating anticipation. She’s gone. He’s gone. They’re gone. It’s gone. You’re here… alone.
I did get to say “I Love You.” And I did get to hear “I Love You Too.” I can still say “I Love You” and mean it as much today as I did every time I said it before. And I can still hear “I Love You Too”… in my heart… 44 years later.
43 years ago… The juke-box stopped playing and the lights went out. The place burned to the ground and left nothing but traces of its existence that Time continues working on to obliterate. But I can still hear the music, the voices, see the lights, feel the gravel beneath my feet, climb the stair and breathe the air with all its fragrances. And from the door across that grand old porch at the top of the old wooden stairs I can still hear the lyrics:
“Some day… some sweet day… we’ll be together. Yes we will oh, yes we will.”