by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a lost love
We were destined to be together, we just did it wrong.
Teresa had mentioned several times that she had a guy she wanted me to meet. I did not have a lot of confidence in her choice of men and given my circumstances, was skeptical. She told me that he was young, good-looking and made a great living, neither of which mattered to me. At any rate, that crowd was happy to make just above minimum wage, so her guess at his income was relative. I’d told her no so many times, it became a joke. It turned out the guy was her boss at Marriott. Almost every day, she came in with some cute anecdote about him. Gee, how I wish I’d written them down. She told us that everybody at work loved Harry She’d never experienced having a boss that anyone, much less everyone liked. She found it a bit weird. I became intrigued, and very curious about this man named Harry, I had changed my mind and did want to meet him but was too embarrassed to tell her that. She came in one afternoon, clutching a small square of paper, laughing and telling us she had screwed up big time the night before. She passed the paper around for us to see. It started with a frowny face Teresa__
You screwed up big time. Consider yourself hollered at. But have a good day anyway.
He’d ended it with a smiley face. Okay, he’d won me over before we’d even met. I loved him already. Teresa knew it immediately. Somehow she had sensed it. “He’s there now. Why don’t you go meet him?” ‘No way.’ “Why not?” ‘I’d be too embarrassed’. “Don’t worry. I’ll figure something out.” She had done just that within twenty four hours. She’d volunteered to pick up his cold medicine for him. She’d gotten it, but instead of delivering it herself, brought it to me so that I could take it to him. “It’s perfect,” she said and it was. Smacking of legitimacy, the plan absolved us all from the awkward introduction. We could walk away with our dignity intact, no matter the outcome. Still, it took a lot of cajoling before I finally agreed to do it. I went just as I was, in a shorts set. I walked into the big, cold building, knees shaking. It was February and there was still a chill in the air. I asked the first person I saw where I might find him. She wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to see him. Somehow I sensed this woman did not like me being there. Or asking for Harry. I figured she had a crush on him. I didn’t really think of myself as pretty so did not see myself as a threat. It’s taken a life time to realize that I was pretty that day I first met him. ‘It’s a personal matter,’ I answered, knowing it would add fuel to her fire.
He came striding out toward me with a mix of curiosity and agitation on that beautiful face. The first thought that came to mind was that he was well-bred. Teresa had under estimated his looks. He was exquisitely gorgeous. Those eyes were mesmerizing. I could have drowned in them. He was tall and muscular with broad shoulders, powerfully built. He was solid except for being a little soft around the middle. Probably played football. His walk and his manner were cool and confidant. Doubtless, a frat boy. If this guy did not have money, his family did. “Hello” he greeted me and his voice had a nice, melodious quality to it. He sounded cheerful. ’Hi, I’m Rita, Teresa’s friend. She was unable to come, so she asked me to deliver this to you.’ I held out the bag. He took it, peering inside. “You’re a life saver. Teresa okay?” ‘Oh yes, she is fine. She just had other business.’ “Good. That was awfully sweet of you. You must be good friends. I hope it didn’t inconvenience you too much”. ‘No, not at all. I was glad to do it.’ “If I had known she had something else going…”. ‘Please don’t think twice about it. Something else came up at the last minute and I really did not mind at all’. I felt guilty about the ruse. Surely Teresa filled him in somewhere along the way. ‘I’ve got to go. Nice meeting you, Harry.’ “Yeah, you too”. Walking away, I could feel his eyes boring into me. I was beet red, but grinning ear to ear. There had been an instant attraction, and I was sure he would call. “Hey, thanks again. This was really nice of you.” I turned to look back at him. ‘My pleasure’. I was fairly giddy but tried to appear nonchalant. The woman had never moved from her spot and glared at me the whole time. I did not care. Teresa and Consuela were on their feet waiting and pacing when I got home “Well, what happened? How did it go? Isn’t he cute? Did he ask you out?” I walked past, shrugging my shoulders and grabbed a cup of coffee. ‘Nothing happened. It went fine. Yes, he is cute. No, he did not ask me out.’ They looked at each other in shock. “Okay, Teresa said, tell me what happened, step by step, in detail.” I did so. She reached for the phone. ‘What are you doing?’ “I’m going to call him.” Pressing down on the hook switch, I said ‘Don’t you dare! He’ll know.’ “No, he won’t. Trust me.” She started dialing, then paused. “But first, I need to know if he asks you out, will you go?” ‘Probably.’ “Yes or no.” ‘Probably.’ She continued dialing anyway and had him paged. “Hey, Harry this is Teresa. I just wanted to make sure you got your medicine. Oh, you did? Good. I am sorry I could not take it myself. Oh yes, that was very sweet of her. Yes, she is a nice girl. Oh yeah? Mind if I tell her that? No, she is not involved with anybody.” Teresa held up the winners circle with her fingers. Although the conversation had been self-explanatory, Consuela asked what Harry had said. Teresa looked at me. He said, “Your friend has great legs.” “But, he didn’t ask her out.” “He will.” The next day Teresa came in and told us that Harry had asked for my number, and she had given it to him. Spring was not yet upon us, but the young man’s fancy lightly turned to love.
With a nudge from the Gods, two mere mortals accidentally fell into a fairytale. The Gods had a little help from some friends.
I had known he would call, I wasn’t the least bit nervous or anxious. There was no denying the spark between us, more, in fact, like spontaneous combustion. The only question was when, and the anticipation was exciting. He did call but missed me a couple of times. Those were the days before Caller ID, Voice Mail and mobile devices. But Harry persevered, as Harry would. The funniest thing is that when we finally spoke, there was no nervous tension, none of the first phone call stuff. He acted as if he’d known me forever and I felt the same. Although I was extremely happy, I was comfortable and relaxed. He did ask if he could take me out on a date. Polite and considerate, he asked me where I would like to go. “Oh, I’m not good at this. You pick.” ‘Okay, ‘I’ve got just the place.’ We agreed on the date and time.
From that first call, it was clear that dating this man would be like no other. And, in fact, nothing about the first date was like a first date. I gave him directions to Consuela’s house. They would watch my daughter, which was very convenient. For once, there was no panic on what to wear. My land lady had brought me a beautiful dress from Miami and it seemed the natural choice. Scarlet red, with tiny pale blue and cream-colored flowers A- line, just above the knees with tiny buttons down the front, and cream colored lace collar and cuffs. Consuela and Carmelita had decided to go to Jai Alai, last-minute. I had gotten the kids bathed and settled in, picked up around the house, popped a casserole into the oven and put a salad in the fridge. Then I dressed, did my make-up and hair. Ben in his recliner, watching TV. As my date pulled up, I gave him final instructions on when to turn off the oven, take the salad out and what to do with the kids. I was exhausted already and he looked so forlorn. “Should I stay? I can make this another night.” ‘No, no. Go. Have a good time. We’ll be fine” I wasn’t so sure about that. I leaned to kiss his cheek as was our custom. ‘By the way, he said, you look great.’ Straightening myself up in a flash, a strange feeling came over me, followed by a bad case of the jitters. Passing it off as first date nerves, I know now that it was it was more than that, something entirely different. I was playing wife to Benecio in all but the most intimate ways. I was hostess, cook, home maker, mom, disciplinarian, laundress, and de facto matriarch. Somehow, Consuela and I had switched roles. The process had been so insidious, none of us had noticed the changes and we fell into the roles far too easily. Well, perhaps Consuela had known all along, she very well could have formulated the plan. Until that moment, I had not recognized it. There was another problem with identity confusion. He was the drummer’s brother, so much like him in so many ways. He had always been jealous of his brother and what we had. Lines had become blurred and reality quickly came upon me. Only then, did I realize the confusion was even worse for Benecio; he just did not see it yet. He was unaware. At that moment I saw clearly and knew some changes had to be made. I would have to tread lightly. I remember sighing heavily. Harry rang the bell, right on time, of course. I glanced in the mirror just inside the hall, quickly fluffing my hair and checking makeup before I opened the door to him. He was in a nice pair of slacks, an expensive button down shirt and sports jacket. He was magnificent. I invited him in, and introduced him to Benecio, but then I rushed us out. Ben was obviously not impressed and I knew I had to do something to set those lines clear in short order. Harry was not driving a luxury car, but it was a nice one, and he held the door for me. He was a real class act.
The roads snaked gently and Harry made the ride soft and cozy, taking the curves with ease. We chatted and listened to his car radio. It was very comfortable and we both felt as if we had known each other forever. Harry drove us to the Glass Frog, a night club on Clearwater Beach; a real hot spot back then. I was very impressed. I hesitated as we prepared to enter the round glass elevator. He paused and looked at me. “Fear of heights.” Harry nodded, then silently waited until I was ready to get in. When the motion started, I felt butterflies in my tummy. We could see across the skyline and it was just beautiful. My knees were shaking, as we rose higher up. Harry, so aware of me and my feelings, reached for my hand, and I gladly let him take it. Mine was so small in his. It felt like a sweet caress. Suddenly, my knees stopped knocking and my hands quit shaking. I was at peace and knew instantly that this big man would never let any harm come to me. I’d never known how could it could be to feel safe. As we rode further up, we looked up at the million stars shining in a black velvet sky. It remains one of the most exciting events of my life. More so because of my companion. He wore the same look of awe that I knew was on my own face. It was as if we had melted into the sky. Together. We were both awe-struck. It was a humbling experience. Instinctively, I was aware that he had had a similar experience along the way. And one day, I would know about it. The difference this time was us. There was and is no doubt that I would never feel that way with anybody else. We were one with the universe, swirling around in that great expanse. Flying into the night, guided by the stars. It seemed similar to descriptions of out-of-body experience, or astral projection. Looking down at all the poor people who were not part of that great event could have been sad, but for the knowledge it was meant for just the two of us. The world was immaculate that night. That memory is still perfectly clear to me, and I never have felt or shared it again. I am not even sure I would want to. That small piece of time would become an even stronger connection later on. I wanted it to be unique to us. And I wanted to jealously guard it.
Harry ordered for me as would become habit and, in spite of my independence, I liked that. After a Cuba Libre and a Brandy Alexander (at my request), he asked me to try something new, and had the server bring me a Singapore Sling. It was delicious. After that, it was the only drink I wanted, but Harry continued asking me to try different things. We had an incredible time together. As we walked out, there was a chill in the air and I was glad my dress was long-sleeved. I turned back toward the building. ‘What is it?’ he asked. “I wanted a souvenir, but forget it.” ‘What did you want?’ “A napkin, matches, anything.” ‘You wanna go back up?’ “No, it’s okay.” Two steps later, Harry bent, then straightened and held out a closed fist to me. He dropped a beautiful white rock into the palm of my hand. ‘Will this do?’ Nodding and smiling, I opened my heart to this big man, although I hadn’t wanted to. I’d warned myself not to. But I knew deep down that destiny had brought Harry to me. Such a lovely gift from the Fates.
We sat in the car, my head on his shoulder. Vaguely aware of a gentle hand on my knee, I heard him say, ‘‘You’re home, Princess.” Oh my God, I had fallen asleep. How embarrassing. I was mortified. I just kept repeating how sorry I was. He pulled me close and pried open my hands that were hiding my beet red face. “Shhh. It’s okay. Actually, I’m kind of flattered.” ‘Flattered?! “You must trust me and feel comfortable with me.” ‘Yes.’ “Well, that makes me feel good.” ‘I’m glad.’ Harry walked me to the door and told me what a great evening he’d had. I thanked him for that and for the wonderful date. He asked if he could call me again, and when I said, “Yes”, he kissed me lightly on the lips. “Goodnight Princess”. I floated in the door. Finally. That was how it was supposed to be. Soon as I was inside, I took a nail polish brush and wrote The Glass Frog on the rock with the date. I never wanted to forget that evening, and even without the rock, I never will. I asked and asked Teresa about the evening, and according to her, so did Harry. “I’ve never seen him this way. He’s always been happy go lucky, but now he is floating two feet off the ground. I swear, perpetually smiling and humming all day long.” I was in Heaven knowing that he felt as I did. I loved getting Teresa’s daily Harry reports, but they only served to verify what I had already sensed. There had been a cosmic connection at first sight. We both had felt it. We were truly happy as clams. It seemed perfectly right and natural.
Harry was multifarious; fun, smart, affectionate, sexy, cultured, classy, well read. He’d traveled, been schooled (no expense barred, according to him), and had a wide variety of interests. He talked to me of far-away places. And he’d get that dreamy look in his eyes that filled my heart with gladness. We discussed literature. His record collection contained John Denver (before he was popular) to Claudine Longet to Three Dog Night.
The first time he played John Denver for me, we sat on the floor, backs against the sofa. Rocky Mountain High was his favorite and when it came on, he asked me to listen silently to it. I did and told him I liked it. He said, No, listen to it. Really listen to it”. He played it again, his eyes closed, transported to some other time and place. The song was reminiscent of that first date staring at the stars and having that spiritual experience. He knew all the words by heart. I hear that song now and hear and see the layers of metaphor and allegory. I see now what he meant and hear what he was saying. How did I miss so much of it then? And I know part of it was me and us and our life. I am flattered and touched, honored still, that he chose to open his soul to me and to share the metamorphosis of his being. I can’t hear it without thinking of him and that night. I have to believe that he thought of me sometimes when he heard it. Maybe he found a smile once in a while that originated in that special time. I hope he looked back sometimes with warmth and fondness as I do.
He loved Three Dog Night but thought they were too commercial. Our favorite was Pieces of April. And that one still makes me cry, missing him. We shared a tremendous love of music. We loved much of the same types of music but each had various tastes. I brought Nancy Wilson, Lenny Welch and a bit of Motown to the mix. And of course, we both liked the standards. We might not always agree. But we were both willing to at least try, and we could be honest about our likes and dislikes. We respected different tastes and cultural influences, along with the parts of us and our pasts that molded our musical preferences. I had been raised listening to opera and country/western music until the time when I selected my own. Jacinto influenced my choices. I found it odd that with all the genres Harry liked, this big strapping lad from Texas was not interested in country/western. The main thing is that we not only loved music, but the idea of music. We talked about the artists and theorized how the lyrics might have come to be. We talked about what songs moved us, why and how. It was a mainstay in our relationship. After Jacinto left, I never imagined finding that musical connection or anything close to it again. Until I met this aficionado of music.
There we’d sit together with lights off, candles burning and music playing, holding hands, equally comfortable with quietly talking or just listening to the music in silence. The whole world vanished. We made our own world and it was a beautiful place. To this day, there are times I hear a song or an artist and think to myself Harry would like this. That always makes me smile. The only thing we disagreed on was 45 singles versus albums. I thought it was smarter to get the 45’s unless you heard more than one piece that you liked in the album. He thought it made more sense to have the album. Case in point was Claudine Longet. There was one we liked, possibly two. They were not chronologically in order. So Harry would put the needle on the tract we liked, then have to pick the needle up and place it on the other tract. “See, Harry, this is what I mean.” For him it was all or nothing I suppose. His solution was a good one. We would dance to the first just in front of the Hi Fi system so we would be right there to change to the next song. We remained dancing until the song ended and he could remove the album and place it oh so carefully back in the cover. What a lovely solution it was. Harry was diligent with care of his precious collection.
With Harry came the muses of song and dance. Often, they were one and the same. Music enveloped us and our life together became a dance. The tempo and the rhythm changed as we moved together.
Those moments when he dipped me and then lifted me back up for a kiss brought to me a range of emotions. Amazed, giddy, tender, and very grateful. There were tears of joy but there was the comfort he gave me unfailingly. It was the long, sweet, slow and tender swaying that was always the foundation to which we returned. It was there we preferred to be. Sheltered from the world and all its drama, all doubts removed. Just the two of us in an impenetrable bubble. We shared our spirits and our souls in those moments. And our hearts became one. I was honored that Harry never thought twice about baring his soul to me. It was more often than not, like looking into my own. What he felt in his heart showed in his eyes. He allowed and encouraged me to expound on my own feelings and thoughts. He showed interest and paid close attention. Sometimes the thought crossed my mind that he listened even when I was silent. And he heard even what was not said.
And oh how we danced. Whenever ‘In This World of Ordinarily People’ played, he held out his hand or I held out mine. It was just automatic the first time and every time afterward, as well. That one, along with a few others, always made us both a bit emotional. How I remember Harry twirling me about. He was so tall and strong and I was a little bitty thing so it often felt as if I was flying. Although I had fear of heights and speed, it never scared me because I knew, I was sure, he would never let me fall. It was so different to me having someone put me first. He’d let himself get injured, before he’d let me. So I could close my eyes and enjoy the feeling. No fear of flight in me at all. There was a night when he swung me up and with both hands hung onto me like a ballerina while I floated through the air. And when he swung me downward, it was like free-falling from some great height. That did not scare me either. When he brought me back down, he had a stricken look on his face. “I am so sorry, Princess.” ‘For?’ “I forgot how much you dislike heights.”’ Oh but I loved this.’ “Are you sure, you’re not just saying it to make me feel better?” ‘No, I truly loved it and you for letting me feel this way.’ I tried to explain it to him, but I wonder if he got it because although he did twirl and swing me around, he never lifted me up that way like a ballerina again. I had never felt such complete trust and confidence in anyone. Without words, without demonstration, I just knew, he would take a bullet for me. He’d protect me or he’d die trying. In this case, I think I trusted him more than he did.
It was amazing when we went out dancing that we could manage to shut out the world, as well. He always took the seat facing outward and seated me closer to the inside of the room, preferably with a wall behind me or beside me. I know mostly it was for security, but also because of the dancing. Infrequently, I would ask if he wanted to dance. But mostly, he removed that burden from me. We could be in the middle of a conversation and without preamble, Harry would stand with a background of brilliant light. He was, after all, my savior. My heart would start pounding wildly. Each and every time. It never got old. He’d walk around and pull out my chair, every time. Then he might ask if he could have the dance. Sometimes, he would just hold out his hand to me. We knew each other’s tastes in music and instinctively knew which tunes we would like to dance to. As time went on, he would cuddle me while we danced and whisper sweet nothings in my ear. He made promises that any woman longs to hear. There were moments so tender, I would cry and he would put one hand behind my head and kiss my cheek to comfort me. Other times, he would tilt my chin and kiss me lightly on the lips. I loved it but felt badly that he had such a long way to lean into me. He would shush me and tell me not to cry. He would say Princess everything is going to be okay. I’ll make sure of that, I promise you. I would answer that they were happy tears. And truly they were. The spotlight shone on us and as far as we knew, we were the only couple dancing, the only couple who heard and felt the music. He was an amazing dance partner and he thought I was as well. He said dancing had never felt so smooth, so in sync and as natural as it was with me. He said I fitted perfectly in his arms and on his chest and nobody ever had before, I felt the same exact way. We were a perfect fit. It was still high praise, because I knew he had danced with a lot of charm school graduates. He had had his pick of sybarites. But I was the woman in his arms.
Oh the movies we would have enjoyed. Again, our tastes ran a little different (I liked chick flicks, Casa Blanca, My Fair Lady, The King and I) and he liked drama or documentaries, and of course anything to do with business. But he also cared for lighter fare. The one I would have most wanted to see with him is Spanglish. There is just something about it that reminds me of him and of us, as if we had seen and shared it somehow and developed a special attachment to it. A bond of sorts. The Same Is true of Up Close And Personal. I know he would have loved them and I hope he was able to see both. Another would have been Chances Are. The best part of movies for us was the music born of those movies, the soundtracks and individual tunes. Our favorite was On the Street Where You Live. The Vic Damone version. The lyrics still give me an over powering feeling and Harry must have felt something through the years when he heard the song. I can’t imagine how he could not.
Many nights in Harry’s apartment, he’d mix drinks, then nod his head toward the balcony, glasses in hand. Music always played in the background. We’d each hold a drink in one hand and join the free hands. He eventually would drape his arm around my shoulders, especially when it was cool. Then we’d stare off into the heavens. It might not be the kind of date some people would expect or enjoy. For us, it was glorious. The love we had filled that balcony like a sweet and soft perfume. The solitude, accompanied by peace and calm was splendid. Sometimes we did not even speak. It was a comfortable silence. Each time we spent our evenings communing with the Heavens, we were reminded of that first night and the other nights that had always made the wonder of it all resurge. Our souls connected anew, fresher, deeper, and stronger. I swear we could feel energy passing from one to the other, and then back again. Reminiscent of an electric current. The spark had become more like a bolt of lightning. Almost blinding in the brilliance.
Our undeniable celestial connection grew and grew, ever larger. Those nights were pieces of the puzzle in our destiny. We knew we were destined to be. Our story had started before time. We had been joined long before we were aware of each other. It would seem highly unlikely that a man like Harry could and would believe and openly accept those metaphysical notions. But he did. The sky seemed blacker and the stars were brighter each of those nights. But the brightest star that ever shone down on me was Harry. All the others paled in comparison to his effulgence.
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