The hot, thick southern air clung to everything, sticking her skin to the tight white cotton nightgown that fell just below her hips. Savannah walked along the moss covered, tree-lined cobblestone streets all hours of the day and night. Some days she wandered with purpose, other days aimlessly, admiring the beauty in her simple understanding that she was doing exactly what she desired. She wondered if she would see him again tonight.
Would he be there, lying on the same wooden bench as if he owned the entire square, smoking with a slight smirk upon his face and writing in a black leather-bound journal that to her must contain all of the words in the world her own soul had been longing to hear? Would she say something, or would she simply pass by, for it had been her experience that the thoughts occupying her head and emotions filling her heart far exceeded the realities that had been her relationships with men in the past?
Perhaps he would be different, he would be the one, the teacher who would allow her to become the student and for once in her life be captivated by a man whose arms held her rather than merely stuck.
She rounded the corner and there to her delight he was. Only this time he was waiting on her as well. She wondered what she should say. “Ask for a lighter? Too predictable. Ask the time? Too transparent, as anyone meandering the streets at this hour couldn’t possibly be concerned with time, and neither am I.” Here, she was free, if only for a moment.
She was nothing more and nothing less than Savannah, a thirty year-old, divorced, newly remarried mother of two, and a daughter, sister and friend, yet here she was alone, a girl walking through a southern square in the middle of the night.
She stepped beyond the safety and certainty of all that lay just short of the curb, and her heart quickened as she yearned for any change from the monotony of what her days back home had become. Then, suddenly, without intention or provocation, a scene from the not so distant past began playing as if on an old movie reel she was powerless to shut off.
“Yes, honey, I signed your permission slip, and please tell your brother to stop pouting. I am chaperoning his class trip to the museum next week.” Nothing seemed to differentiate one day from the next, other than the nightly prime-time television shows to which she fell asleep alone every evening. Divorced from her children’s father and newly married to a Lieutenant in the Air Force, she spent many days living as a single parent to her two children, Francesca, ten, and Sawyer, eight.
She recalled the countless times people had stopped her and her ex-husband on the street to compliment them and their beautiful children, remarking on their “perfect family.” She remembered feeling drastically, sadly disconnected from their comments, a feeling worsened by her husband’s glowing grin each time the remark was made. She was fortunate to have her beautiful children, of course, and appreciated the stability and affection their father provided, but to her these comments tragically echoed the sentiments he held about their life, but reflected little of the feelings that she had until the very end kept locked deep inside her heart.
When she finally did leave, the reason was not because Jack was anything short of a wonderful husband or an even better father. She left because she could no longer muffle the restless cries of her dancing soul, the ones begging her to live rather than to merely exist. Yet she wondered if she had left only to find herself married again and living a majority of her days alone while her new husband was deployed half way around the world. She began feeling as if she had spent the past four years playing the same old game with new characters. She longed to discover a way to live that provided an escape from the past that seemed to do little to enhance her life rather drain the very passion of living from her magical soul.
Therefore, she instinctively plopped down next to the intriguing stranger, whose “lost yet found” outlook seemed to mirror hers. They continued to sit in a comfortable silence, as the space between them lacked any of the awkwardness one usually expects between two strangers. He finally turned to her and said, “I have learned that all who wander are not lost.”
She grinned, knowing that for the first time in as long as she could remember, she was in the presence of someone who understood her better than the family she left back home and most of those she had known a lifetime. She replied coolly, “I read that somewhere.” The stranger, who almost instantly had become a reflection of her soul in one simple sentence looked directly at her and remarked, “I knew that about you.”
Savannah blushed, for all her life, or at least the most recent years as she struggled through her twenties, she longed for someone to see her for what and who she was in all the ways that were important to her.
He continued on by admitting, “I have a confession to make. I saw you today down by the river.” Savannah, a bit confused, wondered to herself, “How did this beautiful stranger who I found by chance sitting alone in a square in the middle of the night already know me?” Now more intrigued than ever, Savannah let out a giggle and inquired, “You did?”
“Yes, you were talking to Mosses.” “Mosses?” she thought. She didn’t know anyone here, let alone by name. “I was?” she asked, slightly confused by the stranger’s assertion.
“You walked up to him as he played his saxophone, and when his song stopped, you placed your two dollars in his old worn out black case. “O.K.,” she thought, “I clearly remember the evening’s events, but as to why he was so taken with her on account of them she failed to see.
“Mosses, gave you his standard line, ‘What do you want to hear, kid?’ and it was what you said next that not only took me by surprise, but also flustered old Mosses. He couldn’t stop talking about the girl who had done what no one in his twenty-two years of playing down by the river ever had. You asked him what he wanted to play for you! And you asked him, “‘what song came to his mind when he looked at you!”
She smiled bigger now and turned her head in slight embarrassment and disbelief that she was the only one to have ever asked him such a seemingly innocuous and, to her, obvious question. Unable to mumble anything representing a concise, witty reply in the instant following his confession, she softly whispered, “Satin Doll, by Ella Fitzgerald.”
He said, “I know, and for the rest of my life, when I hear that song, or see old Mosses playing down by the pier, I will think of the girl who was everything beautiful and different that I seek in the world daily.”
The enormity of all he was expressing was what she too yearned, an undying passion to witness and observe thoughtfulness and find no evidence of disinterestedness in daily life that most people had. For to her, truly seeing people is to believe that they all have a story, regardless of circumstance, status or appearance, yet no one else until her random stroll through a sleepy southern town in the middle of then night had what she trusted to be unique to her been recognized by another.
In that moment, she was compelled to admit to her heart that she felt more connected to this handsome and unfamiliar soul than to anyone she had ever known. She also became strikingly aware that regardless of how the rest of her adventure may bear on her life, this moment was to be the highlight not only of her time away from home, but also, quite honestly, of her entire life. For she had found the beauty in discovering the true depth of one’s unshakable impulse to act rather than spend the days reacting to life.
The essence of her being was heard not by what she said but by all she did not. Her inner beauty and vibrant soul was discovered in listening to the words and songs of two strangers created from a serendipitous symphony, a fleeting entanglement of three lives, who were now forever changed for the better by recognizing the essential goodness in humanity.
Written By: Sarah E. Howard