12.26.2014 Journal Prompt

Image from Le Week-End
Image from Le Week-End

December 26, 2014: They had something.

7 Replies to “12.26.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. I was just walkin the streets, gettin some air, and that’s when I seen ‘em. It was just an ord’nary day. Nothin special ‘bout it. Just a midweek day, a Wednesday or a Thursday. I’d had enough of Shirley and her askin me to do stuff ‘bout the house, cos in her askin Shirley was makin a point ‘gainst me doin next to nothin all the time, which ain’t exactly how it is. So, I jus’ took myself out. I thought I might get me a drink up at Cootie’s bar, a few drinks maybe, but then I just walked right on by. It was a couple of streets past Cootie’s that I saw ‘em.

    They was maybe in their sixties or seventies. I ain’t so good at estimatin that kinda shit. Old as train-timetables or history books, that’s what they was. But though they was old, they was still young, too. And the first that I saw ‘em they was dancin, there in the street, their arms flung wide and dancin to no music as I could hear. I must admit that she was the one as straight off caught my eye. She was pretty in a way and she was light on her feet and laughin and wisps of her ashen hair flyin all ways.

    Then I noticed him and though he was all crumpled and creased, he was also lit up like the young can be. He wore a hat ‘gainst his thinnin hair and when he stood upright he stood crooked. But he was dancin, too. Dancin like they was right out of some old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, shoes slidin on the stone pavement, and neither of ‘em lookin where they was puttin their feet and neither of ‘em needin to.

    I wanted Shirley to see this. I don’t know why, but I thought it was sorta important, you know. I thought in what I was seein was some great secret that Shirley needed to know. Shirley and me, we goes back a fair way. Back to school days and writin her name in blue pen on my arms like it was a tattoo, and Shirley puttin her hand down my trousers for a dare and keepin her hand their longer than she needed to; and soon as we was done with school the two of us gettin a flat together up on Millicent Drive and we slept on the floor for three month till we could afford a bed. We got us a couple of kids now and I wanted her to see this old guy and his lady dancin in the street, cos I thought it was important.

    I followed ‘em for the some of the day, keepin at a distance. They was like kids in love for the first time. He kept takin her hand and I swear when he did he looked a little taller with it. And she kept laughin and skippin ahead of him a ways, teasin like, and then waitin for him to catch up. They was breathless and pale, like ghosts of people, but they was happy like no one I ever saw before.

    ‘See, Shirley. It is possible,’ I said out loud.

    They went into a hotel finally, one of ’em places where they got men in long coats and peaked caps to open the doors with their white-gloved hands. I didn’t think it was right to follow ‘em inside. Instead, I bought some flowers wrapped in pink crinkly paper, a whole sunburst spray of ‘em, and I took ‘em back to Shirley and I meant to fetch her in my arms and dance around the livin-room a turn or two, just to feel what it was like.

    Shirley was sleepin when I got home. Kids was sleepin, too, so I just quietly put the flowers in a jar of water and placed ‘em where Shirley’d see ‘em when she woke. I switched the radio on in the kitchen, low enough it wouldn’t disturb ‘em none, and I danced, pretendin like I was dancin with that old lady in the street and her hair flying in smokey silver wisps all ways and the lady laughin and her feet slidin in time with mine, or mine in time with hers.

  2. Lindsay what I like about this is the depiction of joy. Joy in the midst of the everyday. I looked at the prompt during the week and toyed with this image of the dancing couple. You have it written really well: “they was happy like no one I ever saw before.” Thanks for this.

  3. Thanks once again for reading, David. Glad you liked the piece. I did have fun with this. You should give it a go – see what your story is in the picture. Happy New Year to you.

  4. 12-26-14 Journal Prompt

    January first. It’s been ten years. Sober ten years. I celebrate the New Year now by going out for coffee with a few friends at the donut shop. It took a lot to get me to quit. Vicky had already left me and our marriage of thirty years. The kids were all grown and said they wouldn’t talk to me till I straightened out. I think it was when I almost lost my job that the light came on. I thought it was ok to come to work after a few sips, and you know where that goes. If it hadn’t been for the union I would have been out on the street. They argued that I was under stress, and I went into rehab.

    It didn’t start out that way. We were the perfect couple: high school sweethearts. Grew up in musical families, had all the best in schooling. The sport teams at school, music and dance classes. We lived near each other and our families were close. Mom was a high school dance teacher. Her dad taught music. It all happened without our thinking about it. We were born to dance together.

    When we were little we used to make up musicals. Vicky would sing a song she made up, and I would try to dance to it. Nothing fancy, just a little jig. Our parents would make a big deal of it and invite their friends to watch. But we just thought it was fun.

    Even in high school at those awful dances where the girls and boys would line up on opposite sides of the room and the chaperones would go outside for a smoke, Vicky and I would link up and take over the dance floor. Those were great years. We could get the whole dance floor moving. The Twist. The Mashed Potato. Even the Watusi. We could get everyone going in those line dances. The Madison. The Hully Gully. Twist and shout. All night long. And then if we had a few moments we would solo. Our own dance. She would do the ballet moves she had learned in class. And I would try to keep up with dancing along beside her. It didn’t much matter what step. We had fun.

    Looking back at those years they look like they were meant to be. That we would stay together the rest of our lives, that we would be successful, that our kids would make us proud. I’m sure to an outsider it all looked like it was a plan. I got a good job as a teacher and she opened her own dance studio. It all seemed so good. People would look at us and say, “They have something.”

    From the inside, though, it felt different. We stumbled along through life just like most people we know. My dad had a drinking problem. Her parents were workaholics and were never home. We pretty much raised each other. We stayed together, had the perfect wedding, raised our two kids as best we could. And then somehow the music began to fade and the dancing slowed down. By the time the last kid left for college we both knew it was over.

    Looking back it’s amazing that it stayed together at all. I had started out binging at home and everyone kept it quiet. It had to have been rough on them all. When Vicky finally walked out I was alone at the house, and it was worse. For all the yelling we did at the end I didn’t know how I could live without her. I even had crazy thoughts about ending it all with some sleeping pills. My brain was pretty fuzzy back then, so I don’t really know how I got back. I think it was the dancing.

    I would put on an old 45 and move slowly around the room, imagining that Vicky was in my arms, that we were back in the old days, that people were standing around clapping in time to keep us going. Moving helped me to clear my head. It must have. I finally did the meetings after I almost got thrown out of work. I can tell you all about the 12 Steps, started going to church for the Higher Power. But I think it was the dance that first saved me.

    Like I said it’s been ten years January 1. And last week, the week before Christmas, we had our own miracle. Vicky called me. I about fell over. Would you like to get together and talk about the old days, she said. After all, two kids, and now grandkids coming up, and both of us with time on our hands. She had heard that I was sober. Shouldn’t we at least get together and have a cup of coffee?

    It was quite a day. I was pretty giddy. When we first saw each other we both laughed out loud. The wrinkles were there from the cares of years gone by. My hair was thinner and I’d put on a few pounds. But to me she looked the same. Gorgeous. Slim as ever, quick and smart. Sure some gray hair had taken over her head but pretty as ever.

    Our coffee conversation I don’t recall that much. I think we went over the days of raising our kids, the things they have done since leaving home. Her dance studio work and my projects since retiring. After coffee we got up and went for a walk, down the boulevard, hand in hand. It was as if nothing had changed, although it had. Hand in hand.

    I’m not sure how it started after that. I think it might have been some old ‘60’s tunes coming out of someone’s window or store front. Suddenly we were dancing again. Slow at first, then faster and faster. Both as silly as love struck teens. We didn’t need the music once we got going. It all came back. The Twist. The Mashed Potato. The Watusi. And then our own dance moves from years gone by. She was using her ballet just like old times. My old bones needed loosening up but soon I was keeping up. I could feel myself laughing and smiling for the first time in years. Happy like I’ve never been before. I could she was loving it as well. We could hear the crowd start to clap in time. They knew we had something.

  5. Thanks Lindsay. It was fun, like you said. A big old romance. I stole one of your lines: “Happy like I’ve never been before.” The two stories blend together well, like pie and ice cream.

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