I hate the morning mirror. Just another reminder on a daily basis that time keeps inching forward, and my waistline keeps inching outward. With all due respect to Sir Paul; no, I’m not half the man I used to be either. More like one and a half times the man I used to be. And, if wisdom comes with age, I must be a freakin’ sage. No matter, I have to concentrate and get rid of the horrific white stubble that makes me look rather like a vagabond. Today of all days, please let me get through this without severing part of my upper lip or excising an ear lobe. Is my hand shaking with too much excitement to do this? All I ask is that if I can no longer look young and handsome, at least let me look acceptable; passable. For tonight, I have a date with the girl of my dreams.

I hear it even now....

I hear it even now….

Somehow, I managed to get the cold, multi-bladed instrument of torture to navigate around the gourd that masquerades as my nose, with no loss of skin or blood. All in all, a pretty good start to the day. Hey, I’ll take my victories wherever I can, no matter how small. Now, I just need to make sure my shirt is clean and pressed, my slacks are neat and for gosh sakes, try to make sure my dammed socks match. Preferably with no holes.

Twenty years have gone by. Twenty. The same anxiety I had that night buzzes through my body now, just as it did then. My stomach is doing the same back flips. It’s simple really; I worried for a whole week twenty years ago leading up to that night, hoping that somehow I could convince her to say yes. Since then, I’ve been hoping to convince her she made the right decision.

Twenty years. The restaurant is gone now, replaced by who knows what; probably some quickie mart or local Hallmark store or whatever. She loved it there. The food was always fantastic, the service was welcoming and friendly. The atmosphere was so relaxed, dim and romantic with plants and flowers all over the room. It had to be there. Had to. I’ve never asked her if she expected it. I never asked her if she noticed my hands trembling like an addict’s in withdrawal. Thank goodness that the room was candlelit or she may have seen the red tinges of my ears, the flush in my face. Or was I terrified white? I can’t remember. I do remember the pain I felt in my right hand, jammed way down into the front right pocket of my slacks, tightly gripping the ring, rolling it over and over in my hand, stopping every so often to squeeze it tight enough to dig into the fleshy part of my palm. I was afraid to let it go, convinced that I was going to lose it, drop it on the floor, misplace it somehow in much the same way I can misplace my keys or glasses with alarming ease and frequency.

I managed to smuggle a small poem that I had written on simple white paper, in script, in a beautiful black frame. During a casual walk to the men’s room, I nervously slipped it into the hands of the waitress and she quickly became a co-conspirator. Well, actually, her and a couple of the other waitresses. She managed to bring it out just after our meal, right before we were expecting dessert. I wish she wouldn’t have waited near the table with her co-workers; it felt like a thousand eyes upon me. I was only interested in two; two beautiful, bright blue eyes that mesmerized me from the first glance and have enthralled me ever since.

I had to write it down. I would never have gotten through it otherwise. My mind was racing and scattered, my tongue had no master and my mouth would never be able to adequately convey my thoughts without rushing or stuttering. Somewhere between the heart, the mind and the lips, emotion takes far too many twists to be expressed the way that it’s truly felt. No way I was going to risk this; no way.

It was simple. She read it slowly, at first not quite sure what it was when it was placed in front of her. And in that moment, I realized that there is nothing quite so beautiful in the world as the reflection of candlelight in her tear-welled eyes. As she read it, I realized that I might have just managed to have another person peer directly into my soul. I let her read it over again before I said a word;

Diane;

Marriage is a dance to love,

which is the music of life;

Please dance with me until the music stops.

Love;

Jeff

Twenty years have gone by. Twenty. That she said yes still makes me tear up. Twenty years. And in all that time, I still hear the music. What was once a soulful ballad, sung softly by a hopeful lone voice has become a symphony with rich, deep lows and breathtaking crescendos. I hear it when she walks into the room. I hear it when she speaks, or when she sighs. I hear it when I’m alone and my thoughts wander to her face. It lulls me to sleep every night. It echoes in the deepest part of my being.

Please tell me, dear Diane, that you hear it too; that twenty years hasn’t dulled the beauty of the music for you. Does it make you sway involuntarily? Does it wash over you, warm your soul the way it does mine? Does it still have meaning, this symphony, twenty years after it became the soundtrack to my life?

If it does, then dance with me for another twenty years. Diane, give me your hand; stand and embrace me.

And I will waltz with you through eternity.

Jeff

 

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