These events occurred somewhere in a place I've been. A place where time passes dreamily. A place where our heart's desires are fulfilled. Where every yearning heart is held and kept and lifted up in loving embrace. Please play safe and be kind to yourselves and to one-another.
Our community always felt like a small town. In truth, it is a semi-rural enclave on the outskirts of a large northern city. But it is one of those places that people don't seem to move away from. Or they do, but only for a while, and then they're back again. Our parents and grandparents came here and put down roots -- and boy, what roots! Most of the people in this story still live in the same houses, these grand old cozy big homes that once rang out with the shouts of their parents' voices as children. Grandma's cooking smells are still there, in the walls somewhere, if your nose is keen enough.
Anyway, a few years have passed -- not a lot -- and some of us have moved away. But the place just keeps drawing us back. Some to raise a family, some to heal. And I still see these people in the course of a day and often we have a moment to stop, perhaps to touch, and to look each other in the face and smile, remembering how we were.
Well, that night, Jake's set is a lot different from the last one, I'll say that. We get to the Buccaneer a little early, and eat right away. They make these huge, outrageous burgers that aren't on the menu and we have those and a mountain of fried plantains, which are basically potatoes that were born thinking they were bananas. You can't peel and eat them, because they are all starch, just like a potato. They slice them up, a couple of inches long, and then set them up on one end and smoosh them with a wooden mallet into a round cake about a half inch thick and 2 inches across, and then they fry them. In the center, there is still that dark pattern you see when you slice a banana, and there's a little bit of a banana-y taste, but otherwise, they're like potato cakes. So, we pig out early.
John won't let Derek start having any rum in his coke until after we eat and the sun is down and Jake's set has started. That won't be for a couple of hours. John and Derek and I drive back into Christiansted and walk around a bunch, looking at shops and stuff. It's kind of an odd little town, because you have to take a ferry across the bay to get to a beach. But it's pretty historic and it really reminds me that we were in a strange place, hearing some old folks talking in that odd dialect of Danish that some of them still speak.
Eventually, we get back to the club at the Buccaneer. The sun has just set and Jake has already started. He's doing some acoustic stuff, from a spot down off the stage, with his electronic rhythm accompaniment turned down pretty low. The people interested in listening can take their drinks and sit over by where he's set up and there are maybe a dozen, counting us. The club's got a few Backgammon sets lying around, so I'm naturally forced to kick D's ass while we're listening.
The crowd is mostly folks in their 60's, and Jake's adjusted his song list more along the lines of the music of their youth -- these big band kind of tunes, like "Stardust," and that kind of stuff. Anyhow, it makes me want to stop and pull D in front of me and hold him there and put my face on the back of his neck and rock him. But this is in public and, anyway, I have some ass to kick, so I just have to sort of suffer and do the lonely boner thing.
After Derek has been forced to acknowledge me as the reigning Backgammon God -- Ahem! Four times, I might add. Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm -- (You know, you gotta win what you can off this kid when you get the chance, cuz he can always wipe you out if it involves timing or coordination. Like this one time when we were riding bikes and he, like... kisses me? And then, he's still smiling and, without even breaking eye contact, he spins his rear wheel at me and sprays a whole shit-load of dirt all over me and in my hair and stuff? And then he tells me that he loves me? What an asshole!) anyway, so of course I have to make him grovel at Backgammon. Yeah!
Anyway, so Jake's doing this Karaoke thing, and D's on his second or third Rum and Coke, and Jake keeps looking at us and singing these 40's love songs and the old folks are smiling (and Dare's losing his ah-hass) and a couple of them get up and make assholes of themselves singing, and everybody claps politely anyway and smiles, and somebody buys them another drink, and Jake keeps looking at us.
So, finally, he points the mike at Derek, who's like, "No way," and Jake is like "Way!" And he gets Derek to get up there and hands him the lyrics and demonstrates the tune and actually gets him to try "Ain't Misbehavin'," and he stands up there and actually does pretty good, but his voice cracks a couple of times when he tries to go to the low notes, and the old folks think it's just so cute. Arf, barf.
So he comes back to the table and he's rolling his eyes and stuff, but you can see that the whole thing had sort of appealed to the entertainer in him. Like he was doing this thing with the mike cord, like whipping it behind him like it was unconscious -- like he was on stage every day or something -- and this feeling of pride and adoration just welled up in me and overflowed. So, like, I'm clapping and I have these tears dripping off my chin when he gets back, and he just smiles at me and I'm thinking about the bikes and the dirt and it just makes me love him even more than ever. And it makes my boner ooze juice about him. And my mind and my blood just, like, go to my dick and it's like mega giant and there's no way I'm going to be standing up, any time soon, and Jake's, like, looking at me to be his next prey, and my eyes get real big and I look down at my dick in panic, and Jake sees me looking and sees my panic (He says I have this expression like a horse seeing a snake.) and he just makes this smirky sound out of his nose -- right into the mike -- and then goes on and picks a different victim.
Anyway, so we have a good time, and some other guys eventually show up and set up their instruments and stuff on the stage and Jake eventually moves up there, too, and they do a mixed set of different kinds of music. It's now after dinner time and the crowd grows and it looks like the cocktails are going pretty fast and furious and John gets me to try a Piña Colada -- light on the booze, though -- and I like that pretty much.
Then, as people begin paying their tabs and taking off, Jake goes back to acoustic mode, just with spot lights, this time. Anyway, as a closing number he sings this ancient Irish folk song called "Danny Boy." And when he finishes and the audience is done clapping and the sound has died down, there is this moment of silence and then this huge sob comes out of Derek and he jerks to his feet and my head sort of snaps around and I get up and run around the table and he just comes into my arms and grabs me and sags and he's crying like somebody died -- and believe me, I know what that sounds like -- and I'm just standing there looking worried and rocking him, and the few remaining old folks are sort of smiling apologetically and giving us some privacy. And I can see that John is sort of torn between being worried about him and being pissed that Derek has apparently gotten sloppy drunk, and I look at John and look sad and shake my head "No," like "Don't interfere right now."
"Dare... Dare..." I make a sympathetic groaning sound. "What's the matter baby?" I murmur, so nobody but John is likely to hear.
"It's... it's... it's just..." and he's crying hard again. I make another sympathy sound and rock him a little.
By now, he's almost crushing me and he's glued to the front of me. "Don't leave me!" he squeaks out.
"Shhh... Shhh... shhhhhh. I'm not leaving. I'm not leaving. I'm right here and I'm not leaving!"
This seems to be what he needs to hear, because he relaxes a little and stops sobbing: "Geez! Arrgh! That song! God, I forgot about that song!"
"What about that song? What about that song, Dare?" rocking him, " What is it?"
"I's soo sad!" He starts crying and laughing at the same time, and then lets go of me and blows his nose and apologizes.
"I'm so sorry. It just... snuck up on me."
"What was it?
"Well, I always get this... There's this feeling. Like the... like Danny... has died, and the loss is so awful and hard -- like hard to the touch -- like suffocatingly, crushing hard, and... and so wrong. The loss is so hard that the... the person can't believe that it could be real." And he starts crying again, really hard, for a few seconds.
"It's so hard and crushing and it can't be real. He has to believe it's not real. It can't be that... hard. And so the singer is pretending that Danny, Ohh... Ahhh! Shit! Is pretending that Danny is coming back. Like the pain is so huge, it's going to make it not real and so Danny will just sort of wander back when Spring arrives, or Winter, or Fall, cuz he belongs there and it can't be real that he's gone. And you're supposed to know that. And you're supposed to hear their need calling him and agree with them and help them make it not real and help them have Danny come back to them and... and I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you, Brand. Oh, God I hope I die first." His voice curls up into a whine and he sits back down, sort of hard.
I sit down, too. "You die first and I'll fucking KILL you!" I growl, and Dare looks up and starts laughing.
"Oh, yeah? Well then I'll rot all over you and worms and stuff!"
"Better not or I'll kick your ass. I love you and we are going to live for a long fucking time," I said, staring him in the eye. He just looks back at me for a while and seems to straighten himself out.
"Shit," he says, shaking himself off, "are you hungry?"