I have to tell you a story.
It’s a story that is made up of both fiction and fact. A story told in episodes much like that of a journal, but in a mostly nonchronological order.
It is woven with rich and vibrant colors. It’s much bigger than just a weblog…it’s the events that categorize one person’s life. And I have spent much time living it, this tale I have…that I will now share with you.
I have to tell you a story.
Being An Allegory Of A Flooded Basement
There are many stories I have to tell. Some have been told to me, others I have experienced…some others just need escape into the open air, to be freed from imagination.
This Ocean City story is one such experience.
Now, there are many Ocean City stories…there was the burglary of my hotel room in 1982, the humorous attempt with my antique saxophone to imitate Grover Washington Jr. as seen in an old television ad, and the Tram Riding experience while I was under the effects of various illegal drugs. There was my close friend leaving a prized apparel purchase inside a restaurant there, some music I heard that will never be forgotten from legendary radio station 100KHI, sleeping on the beach (and another time that featured sex on it at dawn)…and so on.
And, this is Ocean City, Maryland. Not the imitation in New Jersey that shares the same name. (If you’re from there—I’m sorry.)
This experience occurred just before I came to live here in the Southwest…I was wading through the flooded basement of my love life, looking at things here and there that were still floating on its surface. A relationship that I had for almost 3 years was behaving like a patient slowly dying of a nasty infection. We had named our future children…we had bought art and knickknacks for our future home. Now, dealing with this thing that sure seemed like the flooded basement of our past lives together, I was left as many ARE with flooded basements, wondering how it happened.
This is a whole ‘nother story altogether, however. In the days that I wondered around in that metaphorical basement—for about three months—I questioned many things, chiefly love and romance. And I found myself in Ocean City about three weeks before I was to move away, for what I thought might be my last visit, with one of my best friends and his college roommate. After we had gone to some of the local drinking establishments, hoisting and toppling a few, we were ready to head back to where we were going to spend the night, and I determined at that point that I wanted to walk the Boardwalk one last time, and “traffic with the ghosts”. The hotel where I had stayed for years was many blocks away, and my little group objected, but it was something I believed I should do…so I started off.
I was near 4th Street…the hotel is at the north end of the Boardwalk, at about 26th Street. Because all the action was more and more going on behind me, and it was 11 o’clock at night, there were fewer and fewer people out walking as I moved on. For those who have never seen a Boardwalk…well, it’s beyond my scope here to describe it. Besides being the subject of a great Drifters song, it’s just something you have to experience.
And, in my walking, I expected to find nothing but the end of the Boardwalk and the hotel situated thereon. I was alone now, walking all by myself…except--wait! What was this?
People all dressed up. I mean, really dressed up. Suits, and formal dresses (and this was June!).
I approached…I was invisible to them. As memory serves me, I sort of floated by--as a spirit, able to see but was unseen--and I could not stop staring at them.
Here, a man and woman, probably 30s or so. Two children, boy and girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, also dressed up in that sort of junior formalwear that makes young children look so cute and adorable.
And, just coming off the beach, walking up the wooden steps to the Boardwalk and the street light where the others were…a teenaged couple, also dressed up.
Well, honestly, this scene all by itself was not all that noteworthy…certainly not so much that it would still burn in my memory years and years later.
But what made it so was what happened next…I was just passing them now, but I stopped and turned around, observed in wonder.
When the couple got to the top of the steps the girl said to the man, “Look, Daddy, I got engaged just now. Just NOW!”
They all looked at her left hand…all attention was on her left hand. She hugged her father, her mother hugged the young man, then she turned to her mom and they embraced. Her new fiancé turned now to the father, and shook his hand in that awkward I’m-trying-to-be-really-mature way, the young man stretching to his full height.
The two children, stretching to see what was going on…now she held her hand down for them to see, to admire.
I witnessed all this…I was enthralled. I believed I was meant to see this…not that it was staged just for me, or anything—because clearly it didn’t need ME there to have it happen. And, a few seconds in either direction—late or early—and I would’ve missed the whole point, the reason it was so special.
I believe that life is full of bad news to be sure…but there is plenty of GOOD, too. The trick is being able to find it, to recognize it when it happens, and spend as much time enjoying it as dwelling on the bad times.
I thought of emotional flooded basements…I thought of leaving and starting over, perhaps, in a new home, a new place, leaving my past life behind. Going through what I was going through at the time, this sure seemed to be a sign meant for me. That I should not give up on romance, that I should not become bitter, that there could actually be…hope.
Years later, I still remember this scene. I try to still believe there is hope. There are many times since when I have thought back and wondered why I was shown this…what it means. Maybe it means nothing…or maybe it means that hope is still there.
I have never forgotten…and I’m still waiting.