4:06pm, February 16, 2015
I didn't see Her right away. The various musicians had been tumbling away for over a half-hour. A folksy duet got up and, alarmingly, assayed Santana's "Oye Como Va." A disaster.
I was told to bring my banjo. A command, really. A going-away party. At a restaurant, for a couple who was moving to New Jersey. Why?
She sat at Bear's table. Bear, all flanneled and matted and barely kempt, making me tell the rest of the table about the Grammy. For the forty-third time, I reminded him that many people appeared on the album, that each player doesn't get a trophy. Bear harrumphed and drank, as if I were lying.
She was at the far corner of the rectangular table, against a window. I spied Her, listening to my war stories. Did She lean Her head inward?
It was the way She sat. Head held proud. Chisled, but less-than-harsh features. Perfect, seamless hair, a longish pageboy. I imagined that she didn't have to style or sculpt--that the hair had its own mind and vigor. It parted itself and hung there by its will, limning the face. My memory tugged at me. Had there been a prior viewing?
I got up and played a couple of tunes. A too-long solo in "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" garnered strong applause. I couldn't see Her from the stage.
A promise-of-snow afternoon gave way to a leaden evening. After I played, I found a spot in a lonely corner of the room.
And looked at Her.
The night, lurking outside the window, outlined Her to better effect. She sat upright, listening intently. Small sips of a drink. She held her pose amazingly, not speaking. I imagined I was the only person to see Her among the hundred or so present. Unhindered, I watched.
I took the stage again a few tunes later, wanting it to be over so that I could return to my post. She hadn't moved. She was regal, perched as if she had a story that no one knew. I imagined Her as a wise, beneficent ruler.
She was my Queen.
Above Her head, silent, padded leviathans mimed their way through a football game. A running back's helmet was jostled fiercely via replay, as if he were tackled by a wall. Some people stopped by to talk to me. Did I really play with...? Yes, I said, I did.
As the set wound down, the songs became angrier, rockier. No need for a banjo. This sat fine with me. I angled closer to Her table. Do I dare approach? Speak? The decision bludgeoned me. She did not turn that fine head. Was that a ring on her left hand? The piece was thin and wiry.
Leaving time. She stood, moving upward with airy grace. Tall, willowy, in stately balance. Demure boots tucked into faded jeans. Not the big, buckly, industrial boots. No, not for her. Her parka boasted a furry trim. I imagined it being that white fur with black dots scampering about. Ermine?
I stood up to make way for Her, a member of Her court. The air became cleaner as She passed by me. She offered me the smallest of nods. I felt as if I should bow.
My eyes followed Her to the door. At the last possible moment, She turned and looked at me. Parentheses appeared at both sides of Her thin, parted lips. I saw her teeth, in proud array.
I think She mouthed something.
Then She was gone.