He stood up hesitantly, yet knowing instantly that she had been wanting to do so, too. The swing music had made him tap his feet and smile broadly. But dancing now at 80? He didn't know if he remembered the steps. He didn't know if she would remember them either. The concert had progressed along, and he was overcome with emotion at times. He had caught the expression on her face, though--that dreamy look he could see in his dreams that only came when she heard music. A look that he didn't really understand, yet he knew it came when she was blissfully happy. That was always enough to make him feel the same.
That first song had taken him back to the minute he laid eyes on her. It was at The Cotton Club in Harlem. He had gone to the club that evening decked out in his uniform and like all young officers of the day, was ready to meet a girl. She had gone out for the evening with a group of lady friends as a birthday celebration. Those first notes had exploded and jived. The room was electric. As he glanced in wonder around the room, he caught the expression on her face. A dreamy, blissfully happy look that made her the most beautiful woman in the room. And at that moment, the room began to dance.
Amidst the smoke and the arms pumping and the crowd hopping and the drum beating, he lost her. But then, there she was. She smiled at him as he moved in front of her and they grabbed hands. She was alive with the dance and looked him straight in the eyes. They spun and kicked and clapped and whirled. There was no one else in the room, but the two of them. He silently thanked his mom for the dance lessons, grateful that he wasn't making a fool of himself.
That moment was etched in his mind in detail all these years later. He could remember the smells and the sounds. He saw the boys laughing and glancing his way. He felt the music pulsate as he sat in his chair and it was as if Cab Calloway himself had risen from the dead to play for them. And then he remembered her--the dress she wore, her hair pinned up, her long legs. And here she was...married to him now.
She stood up next to him as the last song began playing. He turned to her and asked, "May I have this dance?" She answered as she had done that night, "Yes, darling, you may. Forever."
*Written after Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert as I reflected on the evening. The couples in their 80s taking in the music of their teenage years now re-mixed for a new generation. Former soldiers and debutantes, now wrinkled and white-haired. During the very last song, a couple of this age, jumped up and started doing the jive. Everyone around them turned to watch. They looked each other straight in the eye and clapped and kicked. You knew it had been years since they had done this dance, but the look on her face as she smiled up at him was breathtaking. You knew it would be a night they wouldn't forget.
I don't think I will soon forget them and their love.