by Dee Newman
I was about to take a photo of The Marshall Ford Swing Band at the Bicentennial Amphitheater in Nashville when someone in the crowd bumped me from behind. Ironically, at that very moment the band began to play and sing Irving Berlin’s ‘Marie’.
It had been a long hot day. The humidity had raised the heat index to nearly 100 degrees. And though the setting of the sun had brought little relief, the 73rd National Folk Festival at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall had attracted the largest audience in the Festival’s long history.
Turning to confront the clumsy oaf who had just ruined my shot of the band, I encountered, instead, a very attractive woman. Despite the fact that it had been more than thirty years since I last saw her, as our eyes met, I recognized Marie, immediately.
For awhile we just stood there, staring at one another as a stream of memories rushed through my mind like a swollen river overflowing its banks. And then, without saying a word she grabbed my hand and lead me up the stairs through and beyond the crowd until we found a bench in a quiet, secluded area of the park.
At first, it was difficult for either one of us to say anything. Finally, I asked, “Where have you been Marie?”
“When I left here,” she said, “I moved to San Francisco. Within a year or so I met Roger. We lived together for nearly twenty years in a small house in Corte Madera, north of the city in Marin County. After Roger died I accepted a position as a family therapist in Butte, Montana, and have been there ever since.”
“What brings you back to Nashville,” I asked?
“The Festival,” she said, “As you probably know for the past three years Butte has hosted it. Last year I worked as a volunteer and when I heard that Nashville had been selected as the next host city, I immediately began to make plans to come back for a visit.”
“Where are you staying?”
“With Cynthia – Cynthia Forester, my ex-sister-in-law.”
“Cynthia? I haven’t seen Cynthia in years. I didn’t know she still lived here.”
“Yes, I know. Cynthia told me that she saw you at the Greenhills Mall a couple years ago and that you walked right past her without saying a word.”
“Where is her brother, Dan, your ex? Have you two stayed in touch?”
“No, not really. When we divorced he married Joan and moved to Chevy Chase, outside of DC. They have two kids, both in college.”
“Marie, I am so glad you came back. I have wanted to apologize to you for so long.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“For being insensitive . . . for breaking my promise . . . for being so impetuous – so young and wild and free . . . for taking advantage of you. You were in need of compassion and comfort – certainly not some unrestrained and exhausting affair.”
“Shhhhhh,” she said, placing the tips of her fingers to my lips. Alan, there is nothing for you to apologize for.” And then, she kissed me.
I awoke the next morning singing to myself –
Marie, the dawn is breaking,
Marie, you'll soon be waking
to find, our hearts are aching
tears, will fall, as we recall
the moon, in all its splendor,
a kiss, so very tender,
oh "will you surrender"
to me, my Marie
I would like to thank Irwin, Dan and Jack for their editorial suggestions and revisions.