And yet, I was at peace on this gently breezy summer's evening. My hosts were Lori and Jack, two staunch, laughing friends. Jack had a voice like a broadcaster. He was a plumber. Lori did not know how to complain. I could not tell her how much I liked her sturdy legs and single dimple.
A member set up a CD player and tunes ensued. Tables vanished. Jack bought after-dinner drinks. I settled into an Irish Mist. Happily.
You're a musician, right? said a voice. Why aren't you dancing? I looked to one side and saw her. A friend of Jack and Lori. She told me her name was Monica. I said that musicians are usually lousy dancers, especially drummers. We'd rather be playing.
Monica laughed. A tiny, tinkling laugh. Contagious. Lovely.
Quite suddenly, I liked her.
Monica produced a Little One. A five-year-old miniature of her mother. Hello, said the girl. I'm Mary.
Introductions followed from Mom. I'm gonna call you Mr. Tim, said Mary. I quietly celebrated her name. Not Destiny. Or Savannah. Mary. It's a grand old name, and this little one deserved that.
Monica and I talked as if we were age-old friends. Topics didn't matter. Her words and laugh wriggled their way inside me. The more we chatted, the more beautifully Monica shone. Myriads of blonde curls, piercingly warm blue eyes. Tall, sturdy. Like Lori. Monica dressed quietly, suitably, modestly. Demure, sandals. Perfectly painted toes. I noticed everything.
How quickly love can surface! Not unctuous love. Not Hallmark love. A simple, liberating love, shackle-free.
The DJ played Sinatra. "Summer Wind." I mentioned that this was a favorite of mine. Mary came over and stood in front me me, hands on hips. Demanding. She said, Mommy, Mr. Tim and I are gonna dance. Should I? Monica smiled, nodded and gestured toward the dance floor. Mary took my hand and led me out.
She stood on my shoes as I held her shoulders and upper arms. Clumsily. Monica solved this. Just as the vocals began, she picked up Mary with her right arm. Then she reached for my left and we formed a cradle. Monica slung her left arm around my shoulder. I encircled her waist with my right. She pulled us all closer.
And I began to sing: And then we strolled that golden sand. Mary giggled at this and commanded me to keep singing.
Then I felt Monica's head on my right shoulder. I could feel the curls flirting with my cheek. Delightfully, ticklingly. She smelled of a clean, starry night—a night where I could see the world. Her lips, butterfly wings, whisked my neck. She whispered, I don't want this song to end.
I came close to swooning. My backbone jellied. My gait almost failed. We three were welded. In the fadeout, Mary keep saying summer wind ... summer wind.
I had perhaps another half hour with Mary and her mother. Finally Monica told Mary that they had to get home. The child objected. She flung her arms around my neck. I could feel the tears. A moist gift from a tiny wonder. Monica held my hand, looking at me long and hard. Her eyes welled. And then they were gone.
I went outside and sat for a while. And cried. Quietly. And thought about how people can stroll into each other's lives. And, no matter how briefly those walks last, they are worth every step. Moments big as years.
Two weeks later, I sat in with a band at a local band at a local outdoor festival. Although I had to concentrate on my playing, I noticed three people at the edge of the crowd. The blonde curls first. The woman was restraining a child who wanted to move closer. A square-jawed man with a disdainful, cold look stood near. He scowled. Oops, time for a fill into a guitar solo.
At the end of the tune. I searched for those people. Gone.
Two days later, I found a note in my mailbox.
Dear Mr. Tim,
We saw you at the concert. You played great, and I was proud. When Mary saw you, she went crazy. She kept shouting Mr. Tim! Mr. Tim! My husband thought this was silly and wanted to leave. I want you to understand that Mary and I can't see you anymore. Thank you for a night, for a dance that I will never forget.
I weaned myself from that night. Two years passed. A lover came ... and left abruptly after a time. I felt confused, alone and empty. My thoughts returned to Monica and Mary.
One night, Lori called me. She and some girlfriends were convening at a local pub. They were going to meet Monica, who was moving to Colorado with her family. Monica had asked for me to come.
I had to.
I was the only guy at the large, round table. Monica sat on the opposite side. I could hear her laugh as the rest of the room muted. I could see no one else and soaked in every wink and smile.
As all shared good-byes, Monica hugged me and asked me to meet her in the parking lot.
I stuttered under the canopy of a maple on the edge of a car park. Monica moved close enough so that I could sense the cool, starry night once again. Silent, she took my hand and pressed it to her heart. Then put her hand on my own.
I tried to say, IunderstandaboutyourlifebutIcan'tforget ...
Stop, she said.
And then she kissed me. Not a hot, passionate, prurient pucker. But a firm, silvery buss, suffused with true romance. In a few seconds, I felt that butterfly again; Mary's arms about me; her mother's tears this time; Sinatra crooned in my head. She separated, gently. And then curls bounced away, the head bent downward.
I didn't cry.