After the grueling trip west for a national conference I was overjoyed to get bumped to first class for the trip home. While preparing to load I think of the spaciousness that will allow me a chance to get some needed sleep. Feeling more and more relaxed as I settle into my seat, I stare out the window becoming aware of my seat mate getting settled in beside me. I glance at him briefly, hoping he won’t be one of those overly friendly types, or someone with a disgusting habit that would irk me all the way east. At first glance there didn’t seem to be anything odious about him. Giving him a curt nod I turn back to my book when it hit me, HOT DAMN, that’s a musical icon sitting beside me! I dared another quick glance to the left, noting the remnants of the natural curls, gone to gray; telling lines of his life on his gaunt face. WOW, I was going to be sitting beside one of my all time favorite people for the next 5 hours! The thought brought a flutter to my chest and a sudden discomfort in my bowels – anxiety had always been a great laxative for me. I reach for the overhead light when I hear,
“It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light babe.” I look to my left to see if he’s speaking to me. He is.
“Why is that?” I ask. Babe! he called me Babe!
“They say ….. the darkest hour is ….. right before the dawn.”
Hmmm….I think…..interesting. “Well, I was hoping to read”, I reply.
“They say we …. never did too much talkin’ ….. anyway.”
Okay, clearly a cue he’d like to chat with me, so… “Where ya’ been?” I say.
“No place special.”
“You look different.” I’m thinking about his aging face as I say this.
“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to criticize. I just meant, well….I don’t know, actually.”
“It don’t matter anyhow. Look out your window and I’ll be gone.”
I don’t do this; under the circumstances it feels very much like what he says might be true. Without moving I say, “Where are you headed?”
“Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice.” he replies, a twinkle in his eye.
“And ride a horse along a trail?” I ask.
“I’m walkin’ down that long , lonesome road babe.”
“Well,” I reply with a grin, “I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways.”
“And what did you see, my darling young one.”
“I seen pretty people disappear like smoke.” I quip.
“Friends will arrive, friends will disappear.”
“On a night like this, I’m glad you came around.” I say, really meaning it. Our lyrical banter continues for most of the flight. As we prepare to depart his final words are, “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true.”
And may your song always be sung.