“Feel free. Let loose. Leave all problems with the checked coats at the door,” her lips mouthed as her eyes scanned the dilapidated sign on the exposed brick wall, the same sign she read every day over the last year.
She descended the steps two at a time until the seedy, underground New York City music joint embraced her. The sexy guitarist welcomed her with a steel string solo, the sound of home.
While her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she followed the faint, familiar scent of sweat and booze to her reserved spot in the back of the grungy venue. She nestled in the corner booth with the company of her favorite libation. Each sip warmed her soul and eased the pain. She glanced at the oversized, hand me down watch and wondered how she’d feel when the moment arrived. Would she remember? Would it ever come?
A beauty tiptoed to the bar in heels like a tipsy little doe learning to walk. She smiled at the doe’s feigned gracefulness and felt the familiarity in her awkwardness. Her scan of the bar crowd slowed when she spotted the passionate kiss that broke the bickering lover’s disagreement, or at least for the night.
An older gentleman sipped on aged scotch before he motioned the awkward little doe to his table. And as she tiptoed over with a giggle to say hello and negotiate business, his left handed ornament slipped into his pocket.
The rhythmic drum beat stirred a memory of an old friend to the surface. Her friend roamed the globe, staying and departing in hearts and cities for as long as they welcomed or for however long she so desired. For every increase of the tempo, the name lingered on her tongue. The name would come to her eventually, she thought, usually happened when no attempts were made to retrieve it from that proverbial tip. Unless… she failed to recall at all during this embarkment on yet another year of age.
She tilted her head in recollection and tapped her fingers on the table in impatience. She jerked to, sat up sharp straight in the booth, and remembered the last time she saw her - the spring before the disease stole daddy. Now, if only she recalled her name.
“Kate, front and center, girl….” announced the lead singer.
Startled, she placed her head in her hands before sipping on a swig of the whiskey to numb the nerves built from all the eyes gazing in her direction. She eased her way through the crowd to the front of the stage. Kate sighed and crossed her arms before she glanced up to the stage.
“Have a seat, honey,” he said. He gestured to a small circular table before continuing,“Happy Birthday. This one’s for you.”
She fought the tears forming as he sang to her with his own little soulful rendition of a Bruno Mars song. “Oh, you know, you know, you know…. I’d never ask you to change. If perfect’s what you’re searching for, then just stay the same. So don’t even bother asking if you look okay. You know I’ll say…. When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change. Cause you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”
And in that blissful moment when he finished the song staring straight into her eyes, he returned the light to them and helped her remember. She knew the name of her friend. She felt it in her core. Happiness.