THE HIDDEN DOOR
She waited with her body wedged in a crevice that was almost too small, while counting down the minutes until the time keeper left. The large wooden door was always unlocked, but even angels needed a break; a few hours to do whatever angels did, and that was what she’d been waiting for.
The door closed behind her, whispering with a small groan while she allowed her eyes to adjust to the dimness. A few steps further and she found the hallways, all of which were filled with windows. They seemed to go on forever. Perhaps they do, she thought to herself as she took a few more steps. Each long path was marked with silver in batches of one hundred years; years that led to the past.
One hundred years means one hundred windows per hallway, she muttered as she began her walk. Nineteen ten, nineteen twenty, she counted under her breath as she quickened the pace until she finally slowed, closing in on what she wanted. Ah, nineteen fifty-five, fifty-six, and finally nineteen fifty-seven. Now all she had to do was wish, hoping she could get out when she’d done what she’d needed to do.
“I wish I were in Brooklyn, across the street from his home,” she said in a quiet voice as she stepped over the sill with her eyes closed.
Immediately she could feel the sun on her shoulder along with the sound of muted traffic in the distance. Her eyes opened and she smiled realizing she was eight now instead of well over sixty, like she had been just moments before. Looking up, she could see him leaning against a window. She walked a few steps, crossing the street, and then sat on the curb, listening while he practiced the chords he’d learned. A few tears fell from her small child’s eyes. But she wasn’t sad because the beginning had begun.
A few minutes later she stood and returned to that exact place her feet had touched, seeing the window waiting. Two steps later and she was back where she’d started. The next would be the window where it had begun for her. She grinned, thinking about it. The spring of 1967 and the day she saw him for that first time. She found it and said the words. “The Bayfront Center Theater in St. Petersburg Florida, but just outside the walnut doors,” and then she stepped through.
Instead of going inside she walked out, following the white stucco walls to the back and the tall white gates that were never locked. She was early but she could see the bus unlike that first time, and she could also see him standing not far away with a cigarette in his hand while that black guitar sat beside him. Her long blond hair blew across her face as she walked toward him, and he smiled at her as she began to speak. “You sing from your soul. And I…I wanted to thank you for all the words and music you will give to the world.”
He looked at her oddly, and she knew he was wondering why she was stating something in future tense instead of present tense. Right then it didn’t matter, but she smiled back keeping her tears hidden and returned to watch it happen; to watch the day her heart just picked up and gave itself to him. Her bellbottoms moved to the beat as he sang, “you got the way to move me Cherry. Cherry baby…” And then she left, no bothering to watch the other acts. She knew none could come close to his as she neared the window and then stepped through.
Her feet followed her thoughts as she neared the next one; the one that allowed him to touch a star. A tattered flyer attached with a yellowed piece of tape was waiting, as if it knew she was coming. The Greek Theater was printed in bold letters and below it was his name. She hadn’t been there but now she had her chance, so once again she wished. “Five rows back in the center on an aisle seat,” she said in a hushed voice.
She was twenty-two again she realized as she touched her hair, feeling the pixie cut she’d worn then. No one seemed to realize she hadn’t been there just moments before. Instead, everyone was on their feet, waiting for something wonderful to begin. She turned to watch as the smoke billowed out from behind a curtain made of metal while the band began the prologue to “Crunchy Granola Suite”. The music echoed through the speakers while the notes reached out, building as that moment came closer. Slowly the curtain parted and he walked out, dressed in buckskins with his long hair touching his shoulders.
This moment was the moment when it happened. He touched a star that fell in love with him and it followed him ever after, she said to herself.
She listened as the music poured from him while the crowd whistled and called his name again and again. Her eyes followed him as he moved about the stage talking and singing as she sang along. No one there realized that those songs would last forever, except her.
When it was over, the stage was bare, the lights were on, and a cleaning crew moved forward sweeping and then gathering up litter, while she walked toward the trees; trees that only a few hours earlier people had climbed just so they could watch.
She let out a breath of air wondering where to go next as she stepped down exactly where she’d entered and turned to walk again. Yes, Thanksgiving Day and the song that always made her cry, she said to herself. Finding the window with the year 1978 etched in silver, she spoke the words. “Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco and backstage please, so I’m not seen.”
She ended up in a closet, shut the door quietly as she left, and then ran somehow unseen by anyone as his name was announced. Dressed in a blue suite, it was as if he stood alone, causing all the others around him to fade away. And as the first notes fell from his fingers she listened to the anthem while the tears fell until they were streaming down her cheeks. When she found the window once again, “from the center of the circle to the midst of the waiting crowd” still rung in her ears as though they were reverberating across the world.
She realized she had to hurry then: She realized that time was running out as the years closed in on the present. “Two more windows and then I’ll be done,” she said out loud to no one as she continued.
At the next window, she smiled. The song was important, but then again, they all were. Somehow, she knew that in this one he was talking to those that had been there at the start, and to those who’d found him along the way as time moved on.
She wished, saying the words a little louder this time, “Arch Angel Studios in Los Angeles.” For the life of her she couldn’t remember the month so instead she said, “the rehearsal for the tour when he first sang ‘Remember Me’.”
Cars whizzed by and people passed her but not a one said a word as she moved toward the windows in the back of the building. Immediately she heard his voice, older now just as she was. The words were so clear it was as if she were inside, standing right beside him.
“Do you remember now, still got my song and I can sing it. My guitar plays beneath my fingers warm baby, warm baby, warm. Say do you remember me? Well I’m the boy you gave your heart to. Don’t you think we’ve been apart too long this time, but you’ve been on my mind. Say do you remember me.”
And as he sang, she kept whispering to no one, but wishing all along that he could hear her, “yes, I remember you.”
The past was catching up with the present. Time was either speeding up or slowing down, but she wasn’t sure which of the two was happening. She only knew that this window was the last one she could enter before the time keeper came back. And God only knows what might happen if he caught her.
She spoke the words as she took a step through the final one. “Nicholas County Canyon Beach in Malibu, the last time he was there.”
The salt air whipped her long brown hair as she looked at her hands. She was old now and he was older still. She walked and then ran toward his home knowing exactly where it was, just down a bit from where she’d stepped up on the still and stepped down once again.
And then she saw him dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a tee shirt. Two men were with him and she was sure they were there to keep people just like her away. Still as he looked up, they seemed to miss the sound of her feet hitting the sand and continued talking to one another as if she wasn’t there. She realized that perhaps time for them was off by perhaps minutes or even weeks but it was racing toward the four of them like a speeding train.
He smiled the same smile he’d always had as she reached him and the words just poured out of her, as if they had no choice. “I came to thank you. To thank you for each note and every word you have ever written. Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop because the world needs them. We need to hear your voice.”
He tilted his head, took her hand, and then he spoke. “Thank you for your kind words. I will and I have been. I took a break today, but I will start again tomorrow because the music just keeps coming.”
She nodded her head, looking at him while seeing at the same time the boy, the young man, the middle aged one, and the man standing in front of her now, staring back as if he wanted to say more.
She tried but the tears came anyway because somehow, she need him to remember. He turned to walk away and then turned back and spoke once more, “Are you…”
“Yes,” she whispered hoping she had time. “I’m the same girl who stood behind the tall white gates thanking you, just as I am now. You became my rock and have stayed there ever since that day so very long ago.”
The sizzle of static electricity crackled a moment later followed by a light so bright it blinded her. The sound of a door slamming was all she heard while she waited with her eyes closed. And when she opened them, the time keeper stood scowling down at her with his arms crossed, but still spoke with a sweet cherub’s voice. “Your time has ended behind the door and you’re lucky you made it out. But a time will come someday down the road when you’ll have a chance to speak to him again. Everyone meets whoever they want and has a chance to talk in heaven.”
As she headed home, she kept remembering those words while she thought about the next tour and the one after that…hoping she would see him ‘one more time again, just one more time’.