Whenever Shirley came over to visit, the first thing she’d say when the kids couldn’t hear was, “So how long has it been now? Still since June 26th two years ago?”
“Yep, it’s been a long time,” I’d answer, and then we’d both giggle uncontrollably, like teenagers. I missed having Shirley right next door, but at least she still lived close by. And I had a telephone of my own at the apartment by Jump Off Joe’s.
“Well, we’ve gotta take care of that.”
“Really, Shirley. It’s okay. I don’t know…”
“We could just go out and have fun.”
Shirley insisted, so our mutual friend Pammie watched the kids while we went out one night to a place called the Pip Tide down on the bay front, which was like a tiny Fisherman’s Wharf and smelled of fish and salt.
The Pip Tide was a restaurant and bar with a large stage for live entertainment. A live classic rock band filled with good-looking guys with mullets played rhythmic music we knew, songs by Foreigner, even older Beatles and Rolling Stones music, my special favorites. I was barely 30 years old and had not been out with adults much since leaving Germany. I had been so engrossed in my life with the kids that going to nightclubs, talking to new men, dancing and having a few drinks together was unfamiliar terrain.
But there we were, Shirley and I, laughing and joking around. For a little while, I felt young and free again. Then the band played ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” Shirley dragged me to the dance floor and soon I was could feel the rhythm of the music flow through my body and I moved and gyrated as if I went out every weekend to dance. It didn’t matter who was there and who wasn’t anymore. I just felt the rhythm and went with it. Then we all yelled, “Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man!” and the distinctive guitar riff brought me back into the groove.
The song ended and I stopped to breathe. I looked over at Shirley and noticed a tall guy with long, blondish brown hair and glasses standing next to her. He wore blue jeans and a blue-button down cowboy-like shirt. He must have been a friend of hers because he yelled, “Hey woman.” Then he grabbed Shirley, hugged her, and lifted her up. I smiled, amazed at this man’s strength; Shirley was not exactly a small person.
“This is Toby,” Shirley said. “They call him the Oregon Outlaw in the CB world.”
“Hi woman,” Toby said again as he held out a hand and winked at me. For a second, I thought he would pull me in for a hug, but he didn’t and I was relieved – kind of.
“Hi Toby, nice to meet you too.”
I looked over at Shirley, who wore the hugest smile I’d ever seen. Uh oh, she’s playing matchmaker. I could just feel it.
“You sure have some nice dance moves,” Toby said. “Hope you don’t mind me saying that.”
“Ummm, thank you.” I felt like a teenager again. I didn’t know what to say.
Here we go, I thought, but then I figured once I told him I had three small kids, he’d run like hell.
But he didn’t.
By Paul DeLong
On January 8, 2023
I would have read this just because of the title. But the exuberance and the hint of promise at the end made it even sweeter.