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Dark Rum And Coke

This happens every time...

While standing in a shelter behind the starting line, I watched the timed, illuminated lights descend the Christmas Tree. In a rubber-tired chirp, my son rocketed away in an older model, black Mustang with dragster slicks. His first race - a 9.92 at 136.45 mph. I felt immense pride. We then moved over to the make-shift, open-air theatre in one of the university’s empty, mature elm tree-lined parking lots.

As I struggled and stressed to finish the words to the poem I was scheduled to competitively recite, my son started playing a piano on the outdoor stage, at the front of the faceless crowd. It was wonderful summer’s day and a gorgeous composition.

Da-DA-dum. Da-DA-dum. Da-DE-dum. Da-DA-dum.

Da-DA-dum. Da-DA-dum. Da-DE-dum. Da-DA-dum.

He repeated it over and over, feeling his music, with the last note being held each time for a full count. The crowd was mesmerized. We were paralyzed into silence with the beauty of the music he created as he played. No one knew of this spontaneity except for me. My son was supposed to have played while accompanying me as I recited my poem, but instead entertained the crowd so I could complete my work. He was covering for me. I had procrastinated yet again.

When he stopped, the crowd remained stunned and quiet. However, through the silent applause I broke, running to the front yelling, “That’s my son! That’s my son!” I then told the not-so-pleased judges that I was pulling my competition entry.

As we peacefully walked away, with me still feeling elated from my son’s performance, I passed childhood classmates and friends, Jasper and Bobby. Bobby, as a young adult, preferred Bob. I didn’t realize that they knew one another.

They were talking under one of the large, leafy shade trees as they leaned against the short, farm yard-style fence between the parking lot and sidewalk. They seemed to not have aged a bit. Both smiled and said hello, using my name. It had been so many years. I was surprised that they remembered me.

Further down the path, we met Darcy’s brother, the older sibling of another childhood friend. He seemed to not have aged much either. He smiled, and I returned it, and I then walked over to him. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember his name.

Wait! It was Rick.

“Do you remember when we were kids and you, your brother, and I sat on the stairs in the hall of the apartment building that I lived in? We laughed and laughed that day. We almost peed ourselves from laughing so much. Do you remember that?”

He calmly nodded and smiled. I then felt a growing lump in my throat. And then the tears. They’d both had been festering under the surface for decades.

“I’m so sorry,” I struggled to get out. “I should have believed him. But Terry stole my Kiss Destroyer Tour glossy picture book. It was from the very first concert I had ever attended. After I forcibly took it back from Terry, it went missing again, on the same day that Darcy was at my home playing.”

I’m now crying with tears running down my face.

“I accused him of stealing it and he vehemently denied the accusation. I seethed from his betrayal. We then went toe-to-toe, trading punches in the lobby of our junior high school. I got a black eye and he a bloodied nose and fat lip, and we both had anger, hurt, and a terminated friendship to show for our exchange.”

Tears are now uncontrollably streaming down my face. I’d rehearsed this apology a thousand times and there were always tears. Lots of them.

“When I got home after school, I found the glossy picture book. Terry had rolled it and tucked under his jacket, in the back of his pants. I tried to fix it but couldn’t. The damage was done. When I put it in the drawer, the curled pages caught the top of the inside of the chest. When I opened the drawer, the magazine got pulled to the back, then fell behind the drawer, and onto the drawer below. I never thought to look there.”

I looked at Darcy’s brother Rick as he calmly listened but did not judge.

“Do you think after all these years he’d forgive me? I never told him what happened. I never apologized. I still feel so guilty. It’s all my fault. Do you think he’d understand? Would he forgive me?”

In the corner of my eye I saw my son patiently waiting. We then started walking again and my son, the adult version of my ten-year-old, put his arm around my slumping, humbled shoulders.

Feeling somewhat calmer and slightly relieved, I realized that the old friends that I had been speaking with were dead, all of them, and that I must be dead too.

Stupid lucid dreams. No more dark rum and Coke for me before bed. I should phone someone tomorrow. I owe them an apology.

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