It seems like it was just yesterday when I sat behind that old piano in the dim lit, smoke-filled Twilight Lounge playing soft sultry blues and jazz. The water ring still there where I placed my glass of Bulleit Bourbon to sip between songs. It was a somber place filled with sad songs and lost souls. They all gathered there to hear her sing songs about lost loves, broken hearts and lovers in the night.
Every night when the midnight closing hour drew near, I played ‘At Last’, by Etta James. As Rose slowly descended the staircase, step by step, her hand glided across the banister. Her eyes caressed those that dared meet her gaze, and she would pause midway taking in the room and feeling the energy change as she made her entrance into the crowded lounge.
She would come stand by my piano, her hand, with its red polished nails, lightly touching the keys or taking a sip of Bourbon. Then she would hold her hand up high and the room would go quiet, a hush so powerful that you felt that the essence of life had left the lounge leaving you in purgatory between heaven and hell. She would close her eyes feeling all the pain she had ever felt and holding onto it. Still, with her hand high she would lean back, and you knew that something otherworldly was about to happen. She released a sound from deep within filled with the hurt of a lifetime of singing the blues, and you heard that sound leave her body permeating the room with “Aaaaaaaaat Laaaaaaaaaaast”.
The approval of the crowd was like thunder but couldn’t drown out her voice and she sang until the hurt softened. She smiled a little smile reaching down for a sip of my Bourbon. Rose was a legend to everyone who came to the Twilight Lounge and it was rumored that she had played with Bobby Blue Bland on Beale Street in Memphis. I wanted to ask her to sit down for a drink and talk but I never did. When she finished her song, Rose would walk back up those stairs and then into the dark night.
As I walk this empty and long forgotten lounge tonight only ghosts fill the room with shadows and the piano only plays when a stray cat seeking shelter for the night walks across the cracked and broken keys. It feels as if you could put your hand out and touch the room as it was, separating the veil between the past and the present.
If I could play one more time I would play a song that would ask her to be mine forever and never again walk up those stairs alone at the end of the night, but the room is quiet and cobwebs dangle from the banister where her hand once glided down the rail. The piano now silent, the keys untouched and I am an old man dreaming of what was and what could have been and now sitting alone in a sad and deserted Twilight Lounge.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
We often wonder what we missed in life and perhaps we should be grateful for what we became and the amazing journey that was ours. Tender moments will always live with us, but they don’t make us who we are. It’s only what we felt for a moment in time. We can be Rose or the piano player but only for a moment and then the story ends.
We write from what we imagine and yet we write from what we have experienced. The story must contain both the imagined and the experienced. It is about where we have been and where we hope to go. Lastly, we should never let where we have been limit our imagination. We must believe there is more to learn and unleash our imagination to go where it may.
As a child, I grew up on front porch storytelling. I would sit and listen to my Dad and his brothers tell stories. I was captivated and always wanted to hear more. I wanted to experience the things they talked about. They were good listeners as well. They smiled and nodded at the right time when I tried to create my own stories. I connected to those people and told their stories to my children. I am a Columnist & Featured Contributor, BIZCATALYST360. I am the owner of The Dirt Road Story Telling on Facebook and The Writers Cafe on LinkedIn.