His hair was gone on top. What remained on the edges was shorn with clippers into a neat fade. Judging by the light of the fire and the soft glow of the lamp on the piano and the candles scattered about the bar that illuminated the lines of his face, I guessed he was sixty-ish.
Occasionally he’d take a sip from the glass of Red wine in front of him on the coffee table – Merlot maybe. He was a rather tall man sitting on a short wooden stool – he should’ve been uncomfortable, hunched over like that – but he wasn’t. I never saw a man with a more contented look on his face.
Next to him – close – was a woman on a stool of her own. It fit her much better.
I don’t recall a point all evening when a part of one of them wasn’t in contact with a part of the other. Their silent passion was a seated Tango – a brush of the knee here, the prolonged rest of a hand on a shoulder there.
Her hair was black and grey – more grey than black – and cut short, like the tall man sitting next to her on the stool. Initially I thought it was odd that a woman her age would elect to wear her hair so short, like a soldier in Basic Training a week after their first buzzcut – a half inch of stubble all around. Then I noticed the black and blue tiredness surrounding her eyes and the IV hits on both hands and arms.
I wondered, just for a second, what the cancer was, and whether the Chemo was working, then just as quickly pushed the thought from my mind. She was alive – now – in this moment – and that’s all that mattered to them both.
She was cradling a glass of White wine in both of her frail hands, smiling and swaying gently to the easy twinkling sounds of the husband and wife musical team just a few feet away– hubby on the piano, wifey in black dress on the stand-up bass.
They sprinkled Johnny Mercer tunes and Sinatra songs and some Bossa Nova standards between the old Christmas classics: O Christmas Tree, Come All ye Faithful, Silent Night – and even the music of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.
When the first bars of “Moon River” played, the woman in the stool turned quickly to the man beside her with the excited look of a child who’s just beheld the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. He returned the look to her and bent close so she could whisper in his ear. The man nodded his head and smiled, reminded by her of some secret meaning the song held for them. Maybe it was on the radio when they first kissed or held hands, maybe the band played it at their wedding. No one knew but them. It was a special secret between lovers. A shared moment – one of many in their collection that made their love affair uniquely different than any other – past, present or future.
I sat across from them for an hour or so, though it’s really hard to say because the atmosphere was so festive and congenial that time seemed to fly – and stand still – all at once.
Finally, she touched his hand with hers suggesting to him it was time to go. He stood first and helped her to her feet. They smiled at all of us – a small group of strangers sitting together in the cozy confines of Planter’s Tavern –
before slipping between the leather couch I was sitting on and the Baby Grand piano with a bouquet of Chrysanthemums atop it in a white vase dressed in a red velvet bow.
They slipped away into the enthusiastic crowd gathered around, leaving a trail of “Merry Christmases” and “Happy Holidays” in their wake before ascending the stairs that led to the sidewalk – and to Chippewa Square – underneath a Silver Dollar moon playing peekaboo with intermittent clouds and the crooked, wide-open arms of Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.
A happy young couple slipped in to sit in the now vacant stools across from me.
A wedding party was posing for pictures in the Square. The old married couple smiled at one another and recollected on their own wedding and all the time that had passed since then. They held each other close and knew that the hourglass of time allotted to them was nearing its end – but that was okay – they were certain they’d spent each grain wisely – and were thankful they’d spent them together.
Arm and arm they disappeared into the cool Savannah night, serenaded by the distant sound of “Silver Bells” being played, Blues style, by a lone man on a horn a couple of moonlit Squares away.
**Originally Posted on 4 Dec 2017**