Today was too long
I’m sitting at home, alone. I’m bored, and playing on the computer as usual. My cell phone rings. It’s my ex, Michael.
“What are you doing now!?”, he almost yells the question.
“Nothing much. Why?”, I answer with a sigh.
“You need to come down to the fair! You’ll never guess who’s here!”. I can hear the noise in the background.
My curiosity has been piqued. I hurriedly begin to get myself ready to leave the house. I’m reacting, even though I don’t yet know why I’m so excited. It’s because of the excitement I hear in Michael’s voice, knowing that he wouldn’t be behaving like this unless it was something that would be important to me.
“Who!?”, I yell, as if the noise is behind me instead of him.
“Just come down! We’ll meet you in front of the ice-cream shop!”. The noise stops, and I know he’s hung up on me.
I quickly slip on my sandals, grab my keys and phone, and run outside. From the patio at the top of the stairs, I can see the entire town spread out before me. The road that runs past my house is the main drag; straight as an arrow, running parallel to the ocean. Extending perpendicular to the main street, like teeth on a comb, are a dozen or so smaller streets that each end at the sands of the beach. Each street houses about ten little stores and shops, all having their own little niche in the beach community. Most are over-priced and touristy.
The ice-cream shop is about four streets away from my house. I know that if I were taking a leisurely stroll, I could make it there within 10 minutes. But I wasn’t taking my time today! I estimated that I could make it there in less than 5 minutes. I ran down the stairs – about 40 in total – then sprinted across the remaining 100 feet of grass, and finally having reached the sidewalk, I turned left and started to power-walk towards town.
The closer I got to the town, the more densely populated it became. There were people as far as the eye could see. Street-side vendors, selling pretzels and popcorn and cotton candy and hot dogs and pizza. Carnies yelling to people from within their game booths, “3 tosses for a dollar!” – “Which prize do you want, little lady?” – “Pop 3 balloons and win this giant stuffed panda!”. Smiling and laughing adults. Sticky fingered children. The sound of music and ringing bells and voices filled the air.
I had to navigate carefully. I was rushing past everyone. I was on a mission! I turned right, and surveyed the area, looking for a familiar face. I could see the carousel at the end of the street. Behind that, on the beach, was a bandstand. I could see the lights – yellow, red, blue, white, green – wildly random, coming from the top of the stage, but I couldn’t yet see who was on the stage.
I was focused so intently on trying to see who was performing, that I almost plowed directly into Michael, who was standing in front of the ice-cream shop. He was joined by his girlfriend Darlene. Without saying a word, the three of us ran towards the beach, towards the crowd that was swaying and singing along with the music. As we got closer, I could hear the music, but still couldn’t see who was on the stage. Skirting past the carousel, Darlene grabbed my arm and led me towards the front of the audience. They had reserved three seats right up front.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage at that point. I was trying to figure out if what I was seeing was real, or if it was a look-a-like doing a damn good impersonation. I finally realized that, yes, this was the real deal. Neil Diamond was really on stage singing, having an impromptu concert, in my town! I glanced quickly at Michael and Darlene, my eyebrows lifted high, a look of amazement on my face. They both laughed with me. For the next 45 minutes, I enjoyed watching and singing along. I knew every song by heart.
When the music stopped, the three of us walked around towards the side of the stage, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be doing. The large security guy ushered us around to the back – the VIP area! In moments, I was standing there, face to face with Neil Diamond. I was stunned. And speechless. I must have looked like a complete fool, standing there with my mouth wide open, eyes blinking and my heart pounding in my ears. He just laughed and extended his hand out towards me. I’m not sure how it happened, but some part of my brain took over, and I felt my arm rising out in front of me. I shook his hand, and managed a stupid looking smile. Something akin to what the Cheshire Cat’s grin look like.
He apparently didn’t notice, or was just being polite … either way, he began talking to me, expressing his pleasure about us being able to come see his concert. I began to relax a little, and managed a little conversation of my own. Well, I say conversation, but what I really mean is that I sounded like a blathering idiot. I told him how I’d been a fan of his since I was a child, and how my 12 year old Son knows most of his songs because of how I play them over and over. I then pulled the stupid fan trick of asking for an autograph. Only, I had no pen, no paper … nothing with which he could do so!
“How about this,” he said, “you run home, grab a picture of your son and bring it back to me. I’ll sign that for you.”
I couldn’t believe it! He was going to wait for me? Me? For an autograph?
I grabbed Darlene’s arm, and turned to run back to my house. Instead of running back down the street, I opted to run the length of the beach, as there was less of a crowd, and I thought I could make better time that way. What I didn’t consider, was that running in sand would make my ankle hurt much worse than if I’d been running on the pavement. I had to stop running, and continue at a much slower walk. Darlene was beside me, trying to talk to me, but my mind was scattered a million different directions. I was talking to myself, trying to figure out which picture I was going to use, wondering if I should call Bill and tell him what was happening, wondering if I should call Matthew and tell him as well, wondering where Matthew was since both his father and I were at the same place … basically living inside my own little world. I’m sure she was talking to me, but I truly didn’t hear a word she said for the first half of our walk.
Once we got past the other three streets, my little bubble popped, and I realized I’d made a mistake. I stopped in my tracks, and Darlene collided with me.
“What’s wrong? Why’d you stop?”, she inquired.
I pointed towards the row of townhouses to our right, between us and the main road in front of my house. “Because the only way through those houses is over the wall. Otherwise, we’ll have to backtrack to the first street, through the crowd again, to get back to the main road.”, I explained.
I don’t understand why, but we decided that going over the wall was the much saner of the two options. The wall is about 6 feet high, made out of gray stone and red brick. It’s a decorative wall, in place only so that there’s some privacy between the road and the back of the houses. Each house has a gate on either side, with a lock, so going through a gate wasn’t an option, as we don’t have keys.
Standing next to the wall, Darlene kneels down, laces her fingers together, and provides me with a “step”. I grab the top of the wall, hoist myself up, and throw one leg over. I’m able to sit comfortably on top of the wall. Unfortunately, Darlene has no way to get herself over the wall now. So she urges me to go on back to the house, and she’ll go back to the first street and meet me at the main road when I come back.
I jump down off of the wall, and land squarely on my bad ankle. Now I’m injured, and pissed off at myself, and still in a big hurry to get home to grab that picture of my Son. After hobbling up the stairs to my house, and then back down the stairs again – with picture in hand – I’m only able to walk at a snail’s pace down the main road toward where I can see Darlene waiting for me. It’s dark outside now, and we only have the streetlights and the lights of the fair to guide us. The crowd has started to disappear. The quiet is comforting to me. Darlene provides me with some support as I limp my way back down the street.
Finally reaching my destination, I look toward the shadows of the stage. I see Michael, sitting there waiting for us. It looks like he’s sitting alone. Believing that I missed my opportunity, that Neil Diamond had already left because I took too long, I flopped myself down on a bench, and let loose a tirade of insults at myself.
“You fucktard! You’re a complete idiot! No, that would be an insult to idiots! You missed him! You took too long, you moron!”, I burst into tears, and buried my face in my hands.
I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I look up. Right into the face of Neil Diamond! Now I feel like even more of a fool. He reaches out, takes my hand, and helps me stand up. Wrapping his arms around me, he squeezes me in a bear hug. “You didn’t miss me, I’m still here!”, he chuckles. “Now, where’s that picture of your Son?”
I hand him the picture, then wipe my tears with the back of my hand. I watch as he writes something on it, but from my perspective, I can’t see exactly what he’s writing. He hands me the picture back, gives me another hug, kisses my cheek, then walks away.
Michael and Darlene silently accompany me off the stage, back into the light of the carousel. I look down at the picture with the autograph. It was signed,
No, this didn’t really happen. It was a dream I had last night.
Yes, my dreams are usually this vivid and detailed.
I have no idea why I had this dream. I mean, yes, I like Neil Diamond. But not in the “ultimate fan” way that was portrayed in my dream! And yes, I would probably ask for an autograph if I ever had the opportunity. But if I were lacking pen and paper, I would check with people around me, or even run to a bathroom for a paper towel, but I would not run back home for a picture of my Son!
Sadly, my Son probably does know too many Neil Diamond songs, for a kid his age!
And besides, I don’t live near a beach. And I don’t have luck like this.
However, my ex would probably call me to tell me if this was happening near me. He sent me a text a few weeks ago to let me know that Carson (from the Fab Five – Queer Eye for the Straight Guy!) was at our Walmart!
And now, since I’ve had a song stuck in my head since I woke up, I thought I’d pay it forward. Think of it as a belated Xmas present.
You’re welcome! 😉