I remember clearly the night we first met. It was a drizzly Sunday November evening, but quite mild for Melbourne. The year was 2001 and I was staying with my brother George following the recent death of our mother. On the night we met George had suggested we go out to cheer ourselves up. I wasn’t really in the mood for an over forties singles night, but I agreed it would be good to get out.
We went to a club on the other side of town. It was a large venue, and for a small fee you could enjoy the live band and a supper. There was a sparkling dance floor with disco lights, and patrons were already making use of it when we arrived. The venue filled up quickly. As I walked up to the bar I could feel glaring eyes checking me out. I was dressed in some old clothes I had in a cupboard at my mother’s place. A navy blue below knee length button up skirt with a small white flower print from the eighties was matched with a short sleeve white top and a pair of patent leather knee high boots that had zippers on the side and fake laceing up the front. My hair was short then, dark brown, not greying as it is now. Most ladies at the club were dressed to the nines in high heels and short glittery dresses. Their lips, nails, and eyes were painted. I did not wear make-up. I wasn’t concerned about attracting anyone that night, in fact it was the last thing on my mind.
The band played a mix of popular music. After a few songs, you came over and asked me to dance. To my surprise you complimented me on my dress code. You said it was unique, and that you had been watching me but were hesitant to approach. This singles scene was all new to you. We had just barely met but I felt that you were not mocking me, but being genuine. You were well dressed in a suit, and had removed your jacket and tie for the dance floor. Your thinning hair was brushed back and you were clean shaven. My first impression was that you had beautiful blue eyes. They were gentle and kind. On the dance floor they locked and we smiled at each other. Your smile lit up your whole face. Plus you were a great dancer.
Your stories made me laugh and I felt at ease. I surprised myself. Usually I was tongue tied with new people, but not so with you. You offered to buy me a drink, and came back with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Obviously you intended to spend some time with me! It was the first time that either of us had been to this venue, and we were both there because of other people. It was crazy. Neither of us felt comfortable with the singles scene. There were many dance requests to politely refuse, and searching eyes to avoid. Yet here we both were in a place we would not usually come to. Later I suspected my mother had a hand in it from up above.
The rest of the evening was spent revealing snippets of ourselves. I told you about my mother’s passing and my life in New York where I was living and working. You shared with me your love of the water, and how you often went canoeing on the Yarra River. You recently moved into a new home and needed furniture, especially a bed. Without missing a beat I offered to sell you my bed which had remained at my mother’s house while I was working overseas. I would not need it. This offer amused you and a broad smile lit your eyes. We had just met, and here I was trying to sell you my bed. We both laughed, and I felt a little embarrassed. During the sixteen years we spent together we often went back to that night and laughed about the bed I tried to sell you. I never tire of that story.
At the end of the evening we exchanged telephone numbers. You walked me to the carpark, then held me close and ever so lightly kissed me on the lips in the drizzly rain. It felt like a scene from Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart kisses Ingred Bergman in the misty drizzle just before he leaves her. I was too cynical to believe in love at first sight, but I knew that I wanted to see you again. There had been a flutter in my heart. The rest, as they say, is history.
During our sixteen years together we shared a wonderful life, filled with family and friends. I often told you I was the luckiest girl alive, and you responded that you were the luckiest boy. I think of you now, no longer by my side. At least I have our treasured memories, and no one can take them from me.
Our bedroom is an empty place now. I lie in bed alone at night and remember the laughter and love we shared there. I think of the talks, both serious and silly, we would have lying there in the darkness while cuddling each other under the covers.
There is no laughter there anymore. I call your name, but there is no answer. Where you once lay is a cold space. I reach out my hand during the night but you are not there. When I awake in the morning I make breakfast for one, but mostly I just skip it. Our Casablanca is gone.
It’s 4 months since the day you unexpectedly left me. The surgery was supposed to be routine. You would be home in a few days. But you never came home again. There had been a rare complication. And just like that you were gone.
I’m trying hard to continue my journey without you. Some days I can barely drag myself out of bed. It’s difficult to see past today or to make any plans that you are not part of. Family and friends, in their kindness, encourage me to move on. But grief cannot be rushed. Grief is all encompassing, it teases and taunts me. Did I hear your whispering voice in my ear last night? Can you still see me or hear me from where you are now?
Someday we will be together again. I believe it, for I cannot bear to think otherwise. On that day tears of joy will replace the litres shed from grief.
For that reason I will not say goodbye to you my love, but I will say, ’til we dance again.