Last night, I ventured out to watch a jazz quintet perform at a local club. It was a weeknight, but I was really in the mood for some good music, no conversation and a break from reality, if you will. The combo included an upright bass, and as soon as the rich tones filled the club, I was transported back a few (okay, many) years to a city far from where I currently reside, and one special night.
It began with dinner "as friends," followed by a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden featuring Eddie Money and Cyndi Lauper. I sang along with every song, as did everyone in the packed arena, until Cyndi's encore: "True Colors," accompanied only by a single tom tom. Her clear and plaintive voice rose to the rafters, the enthralled crowd unable to do anything but breathe and bask in emotions that are still too difficult to name.
Somehow, during the subway ride uptown, friendship evolved into something more; an invitation to stay the night: accepted. His apartment was a throwback to movies from the 1930s and 40s: the building - pre-war, each floor split into four spacious apartments, complete with servants' quarters, a private wing for bedrooms, cavernous living and formal dining room... and a drawing room. His family had turned theirs into a conservatory of sorts, housing a small couch, a baby grand piano, stereo system and a myriad of musical instruments including, propped up in the corner: an upright bass.
He prepared hot cocoa (with marshmallows), lit candles that lined every available space in the room and settled me on the couch, complete with pillow under my head and blanket to ward off the chill. "Comfy?" he asked. I nodded, then pointed out, "There's no room for you." He grinned in reply, biting the left corner of his bottom lip, a habit I've heard is still in practice. A flick of a switch, and David Bowie's "Life on Mars" drifted out from hidden speakers. Still smiling, he pulled the bass away from the wall and picked up a bow. Closing his eyes, he held still for a few beats, then began to play, blending in perfectly with the song.
Those moments late one winter night, with candles flickering in semi-darkness, snowflakes tapping a rhythm on French doors, and this intimate performance remain suspended outside the tapestry of time, kept safe and warm inside my heart, ready to be brought to life and savored every time I hear an upright bass... or Cyndi Lauper's plaintive voice start singing the line "You with the sad eyes..."
My eyes may be sad, but my heart is smiling.