Place at His Tablebymaninconn©
Herb held her hand over the table. It was obvious to her he was falling in love with her, but she didn't know that she felt the same way. She thought life would be different when she left Tom, her first husband. He was a good man, a good provider, a passionate husband and a courteous lover. He had just gotten... gotten..., well he had gotten boring. It wasn't his fault, there were the pressure of raising three kids, paying the bills, keeping the house maintained, mowing the lawn and trimming the trees. His job as a high school teacher kept him busy as well, with night concerts, after and before school rehearsals, trips, dances and all the other stuff that kept him away from her all those years. Twenty five years. A quarter of a century she loved him and watched him change from the wild child rock and roll guitar player she fell for into a suit and tie wearing music teacher. He was so unique, so stylish, so full of life and flair.
She loved his flair, his sense of style the first time she met him. The seventies were not a time when stylish men were the rage, unless paired with a disco queen. Tom was no disco fan. He wasn't a musical snob, but being an amazing trumpet and guitar player, he was picky in what he listened to. He listened to jazz and classical music most of the time, but also had a passion for classic rock. Similarly he dressed in classic styles that weren't trendy, but would have been described as tasteful by any generation. The man could wear a suit.
She had loved his body. He took care of himself, running nearly every morning and lifting weights most nights. The first time he had put his arm around her his strength oozed through her body like an electrical current and made her weak in the knees. He could sweep her off her feet with ease, even years after they had wed and she had gained some middle age "experience" on her hips and waist.
She had loved his face. His rosy cheeks blushed easily when he looked at her. Light brown curly hair that begged to be touched, and piercing blue eyes that sparkled with joy when he looked at her.
He was so smart, so well read, and so passionate about his beliefs from religion to politics to his favorite sports teams. She knew that passion would be as strong to the loves of his life, and that made him even more attractive.
The first time she saw him his band was playing on the main stage at her college's spring festivals. His voice was mesmerizing, his guitar was incredible. And those moves! The man could dance. As he soloed he practically made love to the guitar sweeping it around his part of the stage in ways that had women of all ages lusting for him to play them as well. That passion was evident in his face. He sang the songs he had written, with lyrics revealing a deep capacity for love. She couldn't get close to him though. He was mobbed after the show, with many women vying for their shot to meet the band. She felt intimidated in crowds. They always made it to their van and drove off just as she got close.
She took a sip of her rum and coke as she remembered how badly she had wanted to meet him. Herb squeezed her hand hard, bringing her back to him. A waiter had obviously been waiting for her dinner order. She hadn't looked at the menu, but didn't need to. Monty's had been a favorite over the years and she knew the menu well. She ordered, and thought back again as Herb began his routine of asking the waiter dozens of entrée questions before his order was placed. Monty's was the first place she and Tom...
She was sitting at the bar waiting for her friends to show up when a man plopped down on the bar stool beside her. She had been following the band with the guitarist who was her current dream man. Concert, club, and festival stages framed images of him for her that were now filed deep inside her mind, and were available for her mental pleasure any time of day or night. She still hadn't talked to him. The band was enjoying tremendous regional success, and fans followed them wherever they played. She heard they sometimes came into Monty's to play a set or two just for fun on Monday nights, when the stage at the popular restaurant/club near campus was dark. For four straight weeks now, she had shown up with friends in the hope of hearing and maybe meeting him. It appeared her friends had finally tired of supporting what they now considered an obsession, and tonight she sat alone.
She was barely aware of the man who sat beside her at the bar and ordered a beer and a burger, but her ears perked up when the bartender asked him "You guys gonna play tonight?"
Her head spun his way when he answered that he was alone, and wanted to do a solo set just for fun. Realizing he was the target of her obsession she swiveled the bar stool and turned towards him. The bartender nodded his head in her direction calling Tom's attention to her. He smiled and she froze. He introduced himself, and she began to tell him how much and how long she had wanted to meet him. She was a big fan! Looking back at it, she realized what a fool she must have seemed to be. She was just another groupie to him, stalking him for what, an autograph? A dance? A song? A night in his bed? She didn't want any of that. She just really wanted to meet him, and that's what she got. He was so genuine and friendly. She was instantly at ease and comfortable, and they chatted through dinner like old friends.
They ate dinner, he sang a set. She listened as he spent the break talking about music. He sang another set, she listened, he spent the next break talking about her. He walked her home like the perfect gentleman. He called the next day, and asked her to come hear his concert that Friday. She trembled on the phone throughout the conversation knowing she was already in love with this man.
Her mind snapped back to Herb. He laughed about her being in another world. She made small talk with him until their dinners were served. He was a good man, and fun to be with, but she couldn't help compare him to Tom, and he didn't measure up. The men she had dated since her divorce just seemed to lack in one way or another where Tom had...
He didn't tell her that the concert that Friday night wasn't with his band. He gave her a ticket at dinner, and ordered dessert and coffee for her before paying the bill and leaving to warm up. She finished, and crossed the street to Symphony Hall, wondering what the night had in store for her. It didn't seem like the place for a budding rock guitarist. She entered the hall and took her seat just as he stepped through the stage door carrying a trumpet. For the next hour she saw him in a different light. Gone was the rock guitarist, here he was as a serious classical musician, playing trumpet with a world class orchestra, and could the man wear a tux!
They began to spend time as a couple. He was studying music at the conservatory and funding his education by clubbing with guitar. He played frequently with the symphony as a sub and on a per diem basis when they needed extra brass players. She was studying to be a teacher at the University. They both began studying each other more than school, and married before the year was out.
"How is your fish?"
Herb called her back to the present and she answered that her fish was delicious. She had to put thoughts of Tom away, it was unfair to her date. She had been divorced for six months, and it was time she moved on. She had left Tom hoping to find an infusion of excitement, a jolt of energy in a life which was becoming overwhelmingly boring and mundane. She managed to hold a conversation with Herb, but she wasn't very invested in it. She was remembering the early years of the marriage with Tom.
Symphonic trumpet jobs were very difficult to obtain, it was a very competitive career track. He had managed a couple of successful auditions, but they weren't for tenured positions, so he had to re-audition after his season ended. Their first six years included three with him unemployed, hustling gigs to pay the rent. She had worked to change his goals, and in their seventh year of marriage, he took the job teaching high school band. It came with good benefits and an adequate salary. For a while, he augmented that salary playing guitar in clubs and taking occasional trumpet gigs.
The second year of his teaching, their first child was born. She talked him into spending more time at home and gradually he stopped playing guitar with the band. Trumpet gigs dried up as well, as his teaching schedule left little time to practice, and his chops lost the edge that had let him continue to sub with the symphony. His tuxedo remained wrapped in a plastic dry cleaners bag, and his crisp style of casual dress was replaced by the off the rack and discount suits she bought him. He sold his van and replaced it with a sensible hatchback that was more economical to drive. He never complained about these subtle manipulations, they were sacrifices he was happy to make to ensure the well being of his wife and daughter.
Their two sons came next two years apart from their sister and each other. They bought a little house in the suburb, and immediately she asked him for a white picket fence. He worked hard, and soon his school band was well known as one of the best in the state. He still ran, though not every day, and more to clear his mind now than to keep in shape. He played guitar as his "therapy" now, but on an acoustic. His electrics and amps collected as much dust in the basement as his tux collected in the closet. They had the three kids, the dog, and the white picket fence, the American dream. She smiled.
Her conversation with Herb was difficult to maintain. Her mind kept drifting back to visions of boring old Tom. Tom carrying all those bags and umbrellas to the beach, Tom running to get the door for her, Tom holding her hand those nights in the delivery room, sharing the efforts of child birth. He was always there. Yep, good old responsible Tom. Always ready to make a ridiculously painstaking gourmet meal when a burger would do. Damn that man could cook. He was a provider all right. He even stopped skiing when she told him it was costing too much when 3 kids were eating them out of house and home and outgrowing clothing as soon as she bought it. She smiled when remembering him refusing to buy a new suit so the kids and her could have nice new clothing. No wonder he began to look less "spiffy" in those shabby suits he used to wear.
She idly finished dinner, smiling at Herb at strategic points so he would never suspect she was distracted. A band was tuning up, and she knew he would dance all night with her. Tom had loved to dance. He had taken her for dance lessons before they went on a cruise, because he had wanted to do her justice on the floor. She had loved that, but then he had pressed her to keep dancing after she had hurt her leg the next summer. He had gotten ridiculously sullen about her not going dancing any longer, but she just wasn't up to it, and she resented his disappointment.
As the kids grew, their activities dictated the family calendar. Sports, plays, dance classes and clubs took their toll on Tom and the family mini van, while she ran the home like a general. By the time the kids reached high school, she had begun to look for excitement, She joined book and bridge clubs, and volunteered at the local hospital. She met authors, husbands of bridge partners who were lawyers and businessmen, and doctors who all seemed so glamorous beside her husband, the music teacher in the shabby suit. He lost luster in her eyes, and soon she began to lose interest in making love.
She knew he was frustrated, and she knew it was wrong of her. He was a good man, and deserved a good wife. She just wanted something more than their mundane world, more than a mini van life. They began to drift apart. The kids went off to college, and though living in the same house, they were living different lives. She didn't know what he was doing each morning when he left early. She didn't care. He always came home to her at night, and followed the routines a lifetime had established.
She began to look at other men. They looked good. They stirred feelings deep inside she hadn't felt since she had followed Tom in hopes of meeting her own personal rock star. Oh they looked good! She never cheated on him, she was proud of that. But she wasn't giving him what a wife should either. And he was spending all his time at school, or down in that basement workshop, or wherever he went so early in the morning.
He wasn't surprised when she left him. She told him she needed more out of her life, theirs was tedious. She was tired of the picket fence....it needed paint! She was tired of the mini van. She was tired of his boring suits and boring job.
He let her go. He wanted her to be happy, and didn't want to stay where he wasn't wanted. He gave her the house, in exchange for keeping his pension. Her job had ensured her of enough income that she didn't ask for alimony. He only took his personal items and furnishings that had been handed down within his family. Certainly he deserved to keep heirlooms, but she was sad to part with the anniversary ring he had given her on their 15th. He had it custom made to fit with her engagement and wedding rings, but used the diamonds from his grandmothers rings which he had inherited that year. He had bought the engagement an wedding rings with his inheritance from his grandfather, so when he asked, she had tearfully given him all three. Still, her life remained essentially unchanged but for his absence.
The house had seemed empty without him or the kids, but she had gotten used to it. She moved bedroom furniture into their old home office and lived entirely on the first floor. She couldn't afford to trade in the mini van, and keeping it in repair was a bit expensive. She cursed the long driveway during that snowy winter. Tom had always shoveled it, and she was in no way prepared for that job. Maybe she could hire a neighborhood kid to do the job. She had made a note that she'd also have to investigate someone to cut the grass this summer.
She dated quite a bit. There was Dan, who took her skiing for a day. He was terrible, and she had spent the day remembering outings with Tom. Tom had loved to ski, and was so good at it. He had taught her beautifully, and she was competent to negotiate even the steepest slopes. She remembered, and deeply regretted making Tom stop something that made him so happy. Damn, look at the way that guy floats, through his turns, just like Tom used to. Here I am waiting for George to get up and start snowplowing and that guy is tearing up the slopes like we used to. He looks a lot like Tom. Wait, is it Tom? She never caught the mystery skier, but spotted him later in the parking lot, driving a shining new four wheel drive SUV.
George professed to love the symphony, and asked her to go with him. Dinner was lovely, as they discussed what they were going to hear. He seemed knowledgeable, and remarked about how he loved late Romantic pieces and the way their composers experimented with sound. Tonight's piece made use of off-stage brass which would be placed antiphonally around the hall. The dinner was lovely and the concert was well done. She was beginning to think she had found a man worthy of a second date when George dozed off. His snoring brought the attention of the head usher who requested they leave at intermission. Later as they sat in the coffeeshop next door George sipped his wake-me-up-to-drive-home espresso and she skimmed the program of the concert she had half missed. She noticed Tom's name among the off stage trumpeters, just has he passed her on sidewalk outside her window seat. Oh could that man wear a tuxedo...
"Would you like to dance?" Once again Herb brought her back to the table. "Sure Herbie, I'd love to. I'm sorry, I guess I'm distracted tonight. A dance would be just the thing."
Herb was a lovely dancer, but again her mind drifted. She thought of her date with Allan. They worked together, and he had been after her for weeks to come let him cook her dinner. The wine was wonderful, the music was an elegant jazz she loved...Tom had taught her about jazz. Coltrane ballads. He could tell her everything about every side man, tell her what Coltrane was doing with his solo relative to the changes, or he could dance with her silently. Allan served chicken Marsala. No one made chicken Marsala like Tom. Herb stepped on her toe. Tom never stepped on her toe, and always made her look good the many times she had trampled his. Why was this man so on her mind, damn it! She left his boring ass, and here she couldn't get her mind off him. And why did this singer have to sound so much like him!?
She finished a set of dances with Herb. He was really a good man and an excellent dancer, in spite of what her throbbing toe told her. She had probably missteped and was now suffering. There was a double entendre for you! Had she ever misstepped into her own suffering. She misstepped all over Tom. Poor man, he didn't deserve that. Damn, that singer is singing his song alone with a guitar that sounds too much like...
"Did you say I've got a lot to learn?"
She had instantly recognized the old jazz standard that Tom had so loved, and often sang himself to sleep with after they had disagreed and argued. She loved hearing this song from him, it was his very personal way of saying he was sorry they had fought, before either of them actually mouthed words of apology.
"Please don't think I'm trying not to learn."
Her heart skipped a beat. The vocals were punctuated with those same guitar licks she had heard so many times wafting through her house when she was his only audience.
"Since this is the perfect spot to learn teach me tonight."
It had to be him. Her back was to the stage, and not even acknowledging the fact that her date was in the midst of a sentence she had totally ignored, she spun her back to him to seek a view of the singer onstage.
"Starting from the ABC's of love,"
He looked good. The man looked good in a crisp white shirt with the deep olive green of a T=shirt peeking tastefully through the open collar, deep blue jeans, and an olive corduroy jacket rounding out the ensemble. Leave it to him to match the elements of simple class with the jacket of a suit to look that stylish without looking trendy. The man could make jeans look good! And could he ever wear a suit!
"Right down to the XYZ's of love,"
He had to be running again. He must have started on those mornings when he went missing before school. He was trim, and his chest looks buff and full. I could just feel the energy from here as I felt it that first day he put his arm around me.
"Help me find the mysteries of love."
"Oh come to Mama Baby, I've still got plenty of mysteries to find!" she thought to herself. She hadn't realized how much she had missed him until that moment. And she had never been so desirous of a man before.
"Teach me tonight."
She had been totally unaware of Herb's attempts to get her attention. She was totally focused on her husband, damn, her ex husband onstage, singing this song that meant so much to both of them. A beautiful song, a beautiful voice, and fluidly smooth guitar, and such potent memories.
"The sky's a blackboard up above you."
Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of how she had downplayed his profession all those years. His children loved him. Her parents loved him. His work with them was beautiful. The damned husbands of her club friends and the doctors at the hospital could take lessons in class and glamour from him. She made him wear those suits in the first place, and they were only shabby because they were cheap and old. She had saved money buying his clothes by rummaging through bins while she bought from the stylish boutiques. What an ass she'd been.