The door opens into an almost empty room. Wednesday night at the Rec Room (remember this spot from The Cougar Pack?), and only a few drinkers are seated under the fluorescent light of the bar. The dance floor is empty; truly empty with bare board walls, scratched and dented tables pulled together in the center of the room and a lonely deejay lost behind his equipment, spinning his discs out into the void.
We head toward the deejay, and my companion asks, “Do you have any swing music?”
“Swing? What’s that?” the deejay asks.
“Oh, you know, you must know, ‘50’s and 60’s rock and roll.”
“Like Elvis Presley?”
I say, “Yep, you got it, Elvis Presley.”
My companion looks at me, scrunches his face up and says, “I hate Elvis Presley.”
“I don’t like him, either, but if it gets us danceable music, who cares if it’s that silly old Jailhouse Rock.”
“I’ll look,” says the master of the music, while he puts on a tune by The Byrds.
It’s a cheek-to-cheek number, so I head for a table and pull out a chair. After all, the rule with this companion is that we never touch each other (You met him in Toying). He’s married, so this is the deal. No swaying slowly to the music, no cheeks or anything else pressed together. Not with this guy. Not about to happen.
But he’s standing on the empty dance floor, mesmerized, as if he’s back on his college campus in a packed auditorium and The Byrds are on stage. So, I go stand next to him.
He turns, pulls me to him, and there we are, in this almost empty beer joint, his arms around me, swaying slowly to the music as he sings, “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” His voice is light and fluid. His mouth is so close to my ear that I feel the warmth of his breath as it rustles through my hair.
But I am not now, nor ever will be, a vixen divorcee. Stunned as I am by this development, enjoying it as much as I am, I still maintain my distance, even within the circle of his arms.
His left hand, holding my right hand nestled into his shoulder, is dry and rough. The sensation is surprising in its unfamiliarity, yet pleasing. It speaks of his years spent in the sun fishing, hunting, riding his motorcycle, tinkering around his summer cabin. It accentuates his otherness, sometimes aggravating, but at this moment, so delightful in its masculinity.
The song ends, as does the moment.
The next few songs have that classic one, two rock step rhythm and he continues to delight as he spins me forward, back, under and around. He’s even patient as I teach him two of my favorite swing moves.
However, when the deejay slows the pace to a romantic ballad, my dance partner heads for the bright lights of the bar. The bartender pours two beers, he takes his first sip, wipes the foam from his lips, turns to me and asks, “Were you at the Bottomless Cup Saturday morning?”
“Yes. I was. Were you?”
“I didn’t see you. Where were you?”
“Behind you, at the opposite end of the café. With my wife and kids. My daughter and her husband were in town for the Fourth of July. We were headed up to the cabin.”
I’m surprised. Our lives are so different, I never would have anticipated them crossing like this.
“Was that Alan you were with?” he asks.
He’s referring to my former husband.
“No. He doesn’t live here anymore,” I say. “Why did you think it was him?”
“Because he was so animated talking to you. His face, his gestures, he looked so happy to be with you.”
“Why didn’t you say hi? I would love to have met your family. I’ve heard so much about your kids. That would have been the perfect opportunity to meet them.”
My head is turned to face his. I’m looking straight into his eyes as the silence spreads between us. Finally, he breaks it.
“The whole time we were there I sat staring at your back, thinking about getting up, walking across the room and saying, ‘Hello.’ I just couldn’t.”
He pauses. “I was jealous.”
Now it’s my turn to sit in silence as a seed of sadness drops into my heart.
I don’t get to ask the obvious question, “Why,” because just then a new musical mood blasts across the Rec Room. The deejay has dug Jailhouse Rock out from his bin.
We laugh, jump off our bar stools and dash back to the empty dance floor. We amuse ourselves by swinging to classic rock and roll, hustling to disco music and jumping up and down to punk rock. At the very moment when I’m about to admit to being tired, he looks at his watch and says, “Got to go.”
As we head out the door he says, “When we walked in, I didn’t know how this would work. This joint, hardly anyone here. It was fine with me, but I wasn’t sure you’d like it.”
“I had a great time.”
“In my experience, both parties in a relationship never enjoy the same thing. I had a great time tonight, too.”
During my marriage, and during my pre-marriage affairs, my partner and I would sometimes do things we didn’t particularly like to please the other person. We’d do it out of love, and we’d do it with pleasure. I do not understand this man’s world.
The seed of sadness that dropped into my heart pushes out a tiny root.
We talk and we laugh as he drives me home because we both, truly, have had a great time. But after I close and lock my front door, I fall back against it. That sadness is now more than just a seed in my heart.
He doesn’t say hello and introduce me to his family because he’s jealous. Of what?
He lives in a world where husbands and wives don’t enjoy doing things together. What kind of world is that?
The sadness pushes out of my heart, hangs in the air, fills my living room, smothering me as I lean against my closed and locked front door.