Here is the scene that has informed my romantic imagination since girlhood: Father and Mother, in the living room, dancing to Neil Diamond’s “September Morn,” Father still in police uniform, his hand upholding Mama’s delicate hand in his as if cradling something delicate and pure, his other hand enclosing her waist.
He sings the words directly to her and she smiles at him as if this is the first time he has ever sung words about two lovers dancing until the night became a brand new day. The soaring orchestra, Neil Diamond’s gravely voice, the poignant, wistful tune. Most of the time, Father in all his uniform trappings – the loaded police duty belt, his heavy shoes – produced a cacophony of squeaks, but I never noticed this during “September Morn.” It was like the two of them were born of air.
This is how they ended every day when Father came home after work. Before dinner. Before he said hi to me, my sister, or my brother, before he took the dog out, before he tasted what was on the stove.
Mother dressed for his arrival too, a full skirted dress, heels, makeup, smoothed down hair.
My parents have been married for forty six years. When I was young and used to watch them dance I thought I would want a husband like Father.
I still want a husband like my father. But it has not happened for me. Or maybe I could never figure out to be more like my mother to get a man like my father.
These days it gets to be demoralizing to eat every single meal alone, something I would never have envisioned for myself when I was young. Of course, I eat watching movies or the news. But sometimes I try to eat at my table without turning on the television or checking social media. However, by the time the next meal rolls around, I have given in.
This morning I decided to go to a restaurant close to me I had never tried before called The Breakfast Club. It’s a diner that only serves breakfast all day long.
After situating myself in a booth, I saw a man sitting by himself at a table in the middle of the restaurant, the only other person who was there alone. The room was noisy with couples, people from work, families.
I watched his face. He seemed to be the kind of man to be embarrassed for not many reasons at all, just something I felt I picked up in his demeanor. And his face was red. But that could have been because he worked in the sun. He was wearing work boots like many of the men there.
I caught his eye. He had a not unfriendly face, white hair, fairly athletic build. He broke eye contact but I knew he caught me looking at him.
I myself am middle aged, not bad looking, though no longer young.
He never came by my table. Nor did I pluck up the courage to go say hi to him.
I left the restaurant, but interestingly, he walked out not far behind me.
I yearned for the courage to turn around and simply say something but I felt I couldn’t.
When I was inside my car, I knew I must listen to “September Morn.”
I opened sunroof and let the music flow out into the sunny, cool day.
I saw him glance at me on the way to his car. But I still couldn’t bring myself to introduce myself.
On the way home, past trees and neighborhoods as my car took me further away from that spot where I noticed another’s loneliness that was equal to mine, a place I could not reach out to be vulnerable, I felt my sense of failure, of feeling trapped.
As I listened to Neil Diamond’s “September Morn,” over and over and over, I felt I would always live in memory of my father, in a bubble, a dream, I would keep recalling those moments of watching them dance as if I were caught in a loop, observing their young glory, their victories, their dignity.
I took note of how messy and chaotic my house had become, the telltale signs of an insomniac, a depressive.
I should clean up, I thought.
And I thought to make note of the time and the day I had eaten at the restaurant so I may return next week, just in case.