It was a dark and stormy night…sort of…
It was the kind of night that made Miami Beach famous. The moon was full and the stars twinkled in a clear, midnight blue sky. A gentle breeze lifted the hair off his brow as he lay on the moon drenched beach. The quiet was broken only by the waves breaking gently on the shore. All was well now, but I must back up to tell you my story.
I met Johnnie one dark and stormy night. Actually, it was last night. I had been clubbing with my girlfriends in Miami Beach. I had not a care in the world. Having just finished my freshman year in college, it was time for some R & R. The summer stretched before me like a red carpet. I just knew it would be a memorable summer. I deserved some pleasure after a grueling year of study. Going to college after being out of school for four years was not easy…
We no sooner arrived in the Flamingo Club when a fast and furious storm blew in from the Atlantic. It was typical Florida weather. We always say that if you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes and it will change. Such was how the summer storm appeared, then was over…just like that. Kind of like Johnnie and I...
Johnnie was sitting at the bar when we entered the lounge. He turned towards the door just as we entered. Our eyes met and it felt like the room took on static as a connection deeper than understanding took place. It is a look and connection that happens once in a lifetime and for some, not at all. It felt like we were long separated souls who found each other once again. I was drawn like a magnet to the stool next to him at the bar. In no time at all, we were chatting like we knew each other for years.
The evening moved on past midnight as Johnnie and I danced the night away. Light conversation eventually led to deep kisses that felt familiar and timeless. We walked down on the beach, hand in hand, as we shared our hopes and dreams. It was the kind of moment that dreams are made of.
As we walked and talked, Johnnie mentioned that he had been in a terrible accident. He told of facial reconstruction so extensive that he looked nothing like before. While his jaw was wired shut, he lost 75 pounds. Damage to his vocal cords completely changed his voice to a smoky, sexy drawl. After his transformation from stocky to sexy, he was so happy with his new self that he didn’t want to go back to his old life. He continued his story to tell me about his life “back home” and the girlfriend he left behind. He described her as “chunky” with dishwater blond hair. He had been engaged to marry her at the time of the accident. Agreeing that he should put his military obligation behind him before marriage, he was in Miami to enlist at the US Armed Forces Induction Center. Testing ran into the next day, so recruits were put up in the Biscayne Bay Hotel over night. It was while cruising around with a drunken lot of ex-high school boys that he was in the accident. Initially, it was told in his home town that he died in the crash. When he came out of his coma close to a year later, he never got around to setting the record straight. He simply stayed on in Miami.
Chatting happily about his wonderful new life, he made a hand gesture that sent my mind reeling back into time - back to a happier day when I too was planning my future with my high school sweetheart. He had been killed in an automobile accident just days after high school graduation. Grief sent me into a downward spiral. I couldn’t eat for days and barely ate a thing for months. It was four years after Joey’s death that I was able to focus on getting an education. Now, five years later, I was finally feeling like I had a chance at life again.
As I sat there on the sandy beach, I thought back over the last five years. I thought of the shock from the news of Joey’s death. I remembered the gnawing in my stomach that prevented me from taking in nutrition enough to sustain me and how I wasted away to a shadow of my former self. I thought about the institution and the force feeding. I have a vague recollection of shock treatments. I’ve been told that my treatment had been harsh. Only the past year had seen me a normal, healthy, mentally stable woman. Johnnie was so honest with me that it was only fair that he should know what I had been through as a result of the loss of my one and only love. So, when he asked me out the next night, I agreed to meet him at the Flamingo Club.
The next evening, Johnnie and I had our first date. I watched his every move, hand gesture and facial expressions. I hung on to his every word and unconscious voice inflections. In due time, we found ourselves sitting on the beach again – just like the night before. It was romantic and felt like a new beginning.
Quietly, almost guiltily, I said his name…”Joey?” Without taking his eyes off the distant horizon, he said “Yeah?” Suddenly, startled, he turned his face to me with a puzzled, questioning look…realization slowly spread across his face. In an instant, I knew that he knew who I was. Baring my teeth into what I know must have been a hideous grin, I pulled the trigger.
My last memory of Joey waving goodbye as he drove off to join the Air Force is now replaced with this new memory of him as he lay on the beach under stars and midnight blue sky - his dark hair dancing a delicate beat upon his brow in the gentle, evening breeze. His eyes wide open in an eternal look of surprise.
Written By Darlene Cirinna
(c) January 28, 2010
All rights reserved