The familiar music surrounded me, booming in the room with its Formica tables and its linoleum tile. It could have been 1985; it could have been any bar. Except for the diet soda and dish of cottage cheese in front of me, I’d played that scene a hundred times in the years following law school. My friend Alan White crooned at the front, John Bara on drums and a guest saxophonist stage left.
Ellen and her gentleman caller sat across from me, her eyes twinkling as she gazed around the room. A glowing, charcoal-smeared Penny danced on my left, newly arrived from her Sunday figure-drawing class. Across the room, the lovely Hanna Baker lifted her hand to wave in a gentle motion, with her smile radiating upwards to her eyes. The little kids, Rachel and Dominic, took turns stealing the show, shaking maracas, serious looks on their faces. Their Dad and I aimed our camera-phones toward the stage. Their eyes met ours but they kept their focus, stretching their young minds, opening themselves to the flood of song, finding the rhythm of the melody.
I toured the room, leaning to hug or kiss every one I knew. I danced a bit with Penny, standing behind the table brimming with the Bakers, Mike and Karen and their children. Theresa, alone at her customary high top against the back wall, folded me in her slender arms and asked, “How are you?”, in a voice which suggested that she really wanted to know.
I left after the second set, grateful for the early show. The last time I drove after dusk, I ran my car off a curve on I-29 that I could not discern. The world flattens for me as the sun sets. I have become a reverse vampire. After years of shirking from cameras, claiming not to show on film due to being from Transylvania, I find the irony of my night-blindness almost humorous.
But I’m not complaining. My heart sings with gratitude for my friends: the Bakers, Penny, Alan, Theresa, Ellen, Jerry, John. Their collective presence at the Double-Nickel, Olathe’s best kept secret, seemed to have been orchestrated for the sole purpose of cheering me. And it worked. As I parked in front of my airplane Bungalow on Holmes Street, Sunday night, after the show, a smile lingered on my face which took me clear through til Monday morning.