Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shadows and Dancing

"Laura," said a young man talking on the pay phone. He seemed a little disheveled and not exactly happy about talking to the person on the other end of the line. "I know. I'll be home when I get there. I won't be home until late, I'm going out with the guys." He tried to get a word in, but the woman on the other end of the line wouldn't stop talking. "Like I said," he interjected. "I'll be home when I get there." He banged the receiver down without a goodbye.

She's driving me nuts, he thought to himself. Why won't she just leave me alone for two seconds?

Brandon held on to the receiver for a few minutes as he tried to push his anger and frustration out of his mind. He couldn't get his wife's face out of his head. Things had been rough lately and her shortness with him hadn't exactly made things any easier. He'd been forced to take a new job at work. The job required him to travel a lot more than in the past. When he got home after days of being on the road, all he wanted to do was rest and relax, but instead he always walked into an earful. All she talked about were the kids, the house, the bills and the chores she needed him to get done. Why was it that she could never just let him relax? He felt he was being pushed 24/7. Every chance he got to get out with his buddies was a small chance at freedom. He hated feeling that way when he thought about her, but she had turned into a package deal. All the frustration and none of the happiness.

How did we get here? He stroked the back of the receiver. Life and a love aren't supposed to be like this, are they?

"Brandon!" Steve yelled from the lobby.

Brandon woke up from his daydreaming and walked over his group of buddies.

"Ready to go?" One of them asked.

"Sure," he said patting his chest. "Oh my gosh, I left my jacket at our table back in the restaurant. You guys go ahead, I'll meet you there."

"You sure you don't want us to wait?"

"Nah, I'll be there in two shakes." He watched his buddies leave through the lobby doors and then brushed his hand on his chest again.

Oh, my jacket. He turned on his heels and walked over to the concierge's station.

"Can I help you?" said the concierge looking up sweetly from the computer. One of her red curls hung down at her cheek.

"I forgot my jacket in the restaurant. We were there about an hour ago. Has anyone turned it in?"

"Why no sir? I haven't seen one." She said disappointingly. "The restaurant's closed, but you are more than welcomed to go in and have a look for yourself."

"Thanks." He made his way down the short hallway that lead to the restaurant. In front of the opening was a large easel chalkboard with a "CLOSED" sign hung over the specials for the day. He sidestepped the sign and walked into the dimly lit room. He made his way through the maze of chairs to get to his booth that was in a dark corner. With the help of the EXIT lights, he had just enough light to get in where he needed to be without tripping over chairs and tables. He reached into the booth and felt the neck of his jacket barely touching the seat. As he reached down to pick it up, a shadow was cast over him. He turned around slowly and noticed that the shadow continued to glide past him in slow graceful movements.

He was tempted to yell out to let someone know that he was there, but instead opted for quiet. The shadow was moving too softly to be menacing. He decided to investigate. He walked out of the dark corner and followed the shadow until he was close to the restaurant's dance floor. As the shadow moved across the floor, the moon coming through the picture window revealed the silhouette of a couple dancing in it's light.

Brandon, caught by surprise, started to step back so that he wouldn't disturb them, but then realized there was something missing from this scene. There was no music playing. The band had left a half hour before. He noticed that even without music, the same song seemed to be playing in both their heads. He moved back into the darkness and took a seat. He marvelled at how in brief moments their shadows appeared to be that of one person. In other moments, he couldn't tell where the woman's hand ended and where her partner's began. Their faces were barely distinguishable except for the twinkle the moonlight played off their eyes and their smiles.

Sitting there watching this couple, Brandon wondered what it was about them, about their lives that could make them so happy. So happy to be dancing together here in the silence. They looked like almost any other couple. In the dim light, he could tell she was older and her hair was almost entirely white. She was slender and very graceful for her age. The gentleman seemed to hold himself well. He looked as though he used to be very muscular but not in a domineering way. He seemed very protective of his prize and gentle all the same.

As they danced, the man took the woman's hand and lifted it above her head. With his other hand on her slim waist, he gave her a gentle push. As she slowly twirled around him, a sparkle could be seen as the dim light bounced off the golden ring on her left hand. The twirling stopped and she landed safely once again in his arms. He hugged her from behind placing a soft peck on her cheek. He slowly spun her out again and then quickly pulled her toward him. He led her in a quick spin, which was pretty impressive for their age, and then dipped her with as much Fred Astaire grace as he could muster.

As he gently raised her up again, he said, "Mrs. Jones, you dance divinely."

In the shadows, they laughed out loud.

He pulled her in close to him. He placed both his arms around her waist and she placed both her hands behind his neck. They started dancing once again to the silent orchestra playing "Moon River."

Somehow the invisible music filled the room and Brandon could feel it too. The song was no longer just apart of this couple but also apart of Brandon's own memories. He closed his eyes for a second and thought about the last time he and Laura had danced this way. How long had it been? Five, six years ago? The anger that he felt earlier now seemed to disappear into the floor with every step this couple took.

They make love look so easy. He said to himself. Either this couple lives in a fairy tale world or they have really gone to alot of effort to make it look easy. He was tempted to interrupt them, to ask their secret, but as he started to stand up he heard her giggle once again. It looked as though the man was whispering something in her ear. When her giggle was over, she pulled back a little and stopped. Even in the dark, Brandon could feel the love beaming between them. "Mrs. Jones" looked into the man's eyes and they both leaned into each other for a kiss.

Brandon turned his eyes and started to make his way back out of the restaurant. Watching them dance was one thing. Watching a private kiss was something else. As he left the restaurant and turned down the hall, he thought about the couple and wondered what it was about them that could possibly make them so happy.

"Did you find your jacket?" Brandon turned to see the concierge calling to him.

"Yes, ma'am. Thanks." He turned to leave and then thought twice. "Oh, by the way ma'am. I just thought you should know there is a couple back in the restaurant dancing.

"Oh, don't worry. That's Hazel and Fred Jones. They came here for the first time on their honeymoon and we just can't seem to get them to leave at closing time. They've been coming here nearly every Friday night for the last fifty years."

"Wow. They sure look good together." Brandon said with a quiver in his voice.

"Yes, they do. Please don't tell anybody, but I find myself watching them every once in a while, too. Did you know they were friends for four years before they finally found the courage to tell each other how the felt?"

"How do you know that?"

"They tell everyone they meet."

"Sure sounds like they're happy."

"Sure does."

"I wonder how they do it. I mean, it's easy to be happy when you're newlyweds, but to still be happy after all these years they've spent together?"



"I asked them the same question myself. They told me it was all about the dancing."

Brandon smiled at the concierge and started to walk out the front door of the lobby. Before the doors closed behind him, he had turned back around and was walking back in.

"Did you forget something else?" The young woman asked.

"Yes, I forgot to make a phone call."

He walked over to the bank of telephones and place a few coins in the slot. The phone rang twice and a woman answered.

"Laura," he said. "I just wanted to let you know that I changed my mind about going out with the guys. I'll be home in about twenty minutes."

"What's your hurry?" She asked, still angry from their previous conversation.

"I just realized it's been a while since we danced."

"What?" She said in surprise.

"I love you, I'll see you soon." He hung up the phone once again without saying goodbye. This time, as he touched the back of the receiver, a smile came to his face and a few notes of music left his lips. ". . .Moon River and me."

(This is actually the third version of this story. The original is called "Do Not Disturb" which is the post immediately below. The second version is on the archives of, I decided to rewrite it for a more family oriented group. This version is for my friends Hazel and Fred, they have been married for almost 60 years. Unbelievably, they are THIS happy.)