As is my way, I stood on the Kings Highway platform waiting to be taken to my place of work. I was at another crossroads and was unsure of which side I should choose to stomp through. I knew what I should do and I knew what I wanted to. Unfortunately those two have rarely wed and if they did it usually ended too soon. It was just my destiny, to be divorced from any sense of being who I wanted to be.
I ran onto the train to make sure that I would get a seat; early morning rush hour; time is 7 o’clock, Monday morning, drizzling and temperatures in the 40’s, at best. I slide myself into the first spot on the row so I can push through my left elbow and I am set.
I am about to open my book when I see, sitting across from me, a familiar looking woman with a guitar on her back. She is wearing wayfarers, has sandy hair, light skin and is wearing a scarf and a leather jacket. She is wearing faded jeans with holes in the knees and black boots. She pulls off her sunglasses, takes the guitar from her back and places it in front of her. The look in her eyes was one of emotional exhaustion with a subtle color of gray, almond shaped eyes with a soft scared look. She is maybe in her late 30’s, her hair is covered by a black derby hat which contrasts with her sandy colored hair, she is staring into space as she embraces her guitar. As I look into her eyes, glancing at and then looking away, I remember who she is.
“Sloan?” She looks at me startled and then smiles.
We had been acquaintances around 20 years earlier, having performed in a community show together. We had hung out with other people only speaking one on one once or twice. She was a quiet girl with a beautiful voice. She was 10 years younger than me, so at the time of the show she was 16 while I was 26. Last I heard she was attending Boston University, but that was 20 years ago.
“You dyed your hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, blonde sells better, apparently. How about you, did you dye your hair?” She laughed.
“No, I have a couple of grays here and there, they dont bother me, I have an agreement with my hair, they can do whatever they want as long as they dont leave.” She gave me a polite laugh.
Then she looked at me and said, “I haven’t seen you in forever – I do see you on Facebook, though.”
“Yeah, sorry about that guy; I don’t know who that is most of the time, so I apologize for him.” She laughed. “You look amazing.”
I gave her an update on my life and then I asked her about hers.
“I was married for an hour after college. Do you remember Frank Davis?”
“Yeah, strange guy.”
“I married him.”
“Great guy though.” She laughed.
“I should have known better – we married and as soon as he heard I was pregnant, he bolted out of the closet.”
“You mean he left you?”
“I mean he ‘came out’ of the closet.”
“Did you know from before?”
“I should have known…there were some tell tale signs which I will spare you from.”
“Did you have the baby?”
“Yes, babies. I had twins, a boy and a girl. They are seniors in high school now.”
“You raised them on your own?”
“Frankie has been involved with them, he is actually a very good father and is my best friend.”
“How did your parents react to this?” I knew her parents were conservative and socially sensitive.
“My parents have supported me financially. They just couldn’t deal with the talk of the town being my family. So, I moved to the 5 towns and I have been teaching music and voice at an elementary school for the past 15 years.”
She told me about her twins, I told her about my kids and how I was approaching 20 years of marriage. We laughed at some memories we recanted and we caught up on each others lives.
“I read your writing. You seem kind of sad, sometimes.”
“I think that’s just a part of who I am, there is a boisterous side and a contemplative side. They offset each other, I think. What sort of music do you play?” I asked her changing the topic.
“All types, mostly folk rock from the sixties, grunge rock from the 90’s.”
“You must love it.”
“I am kind of in a strange place right now.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The owner of a club in Williamsburg offered me a prime slot when producers and other industry type people are going to be at his club.”
“That’s great, no?”
“It would be – but he wants to be ‘compensated’ for that slot. Basically he wants to have access to my slot for me to have access to his prime slot.”
“What a piece of shit. Does this happen a lot?”
“Yes – I am at a point now where I am unsure what to do. This can really propel me into another level for my career – but…” Tears fell from her eyes. She didn’t really need to say anything else. I understood and I felt for her.
“What if you just say no?”
“How many more opportunities will I have to be seen by the right people? I write my own songs and they go over very well with the audiences. I’ve recorded songs and I’ve sent them out, but they want to see you performing.”
I didn’t know what to say so I kept quiet.
“In the past I would never even consider it; but the fact that I am considering it scares me. Where does it end if I give in now? If I do what this perv wants me to do and I get the slot; what happens if the producers like me but only if I like them first?”
I was silent. I knew she was at a crossroads and the only one who could make the decision would have to her.
“You know what you have to do – you just need to believe in the decision you will make.”
“In other words…” She was waiting for me to tell her what to do.
“I, you know, no one can decide for you? You need to decide and you need to have total confidence in whatever decision you make.”
“I know.” She had already made a decision, she didn’t need me or anyone else to decide for her.
“What about you? How is work?”
“It’s all good, thank God.” I stared into space; I always change the subject when money comes up.
“Do you remember how we used to sing in the stairwells during rehearsals?”
“Yes of course and the friends we made there. How we used to go to Caravel after rehearsals and actually eat?”
“Caravel – the best diner in Brooklyn. I used to love their rice pudding.”
“Their salad also was great – they used to chop it up for me.”
“You can tell by looking at us who liked the salad and who liked the rice pudding.” I said and she laughed. Then we were silent for a little while.
“I can’t believe I ran into you today.” She said, “Here I am burdening you with my stupid problem which is not even a problem. I have no decision to make, I guess I just needed to voice it and hear myself say the words.”
“You didn’t burden me and it’s far from stupid. Plus I got to speak with you after all these years.”
We both smiled, she stood up to leave.
“Well this is my stop.”
“It’s all going to work out – just be true to who you are inside.”
The doors closed behind her and I felt a strange sense of….what? Like a ghost came to visit me to tell me how I should live my life? As if I needed to tell myself this advice rather than Sloan needing to tell herself?