I loved his body in tight black motorcycle leathers. I loved his keen mind and tender heart. He smelled like All-Spice deodorant mixed with an acrid trace of two-cycle motorcycle oil. He broiled steak and baked potatoes, made salad and poured red wine. He took me out for breakfast after our first night together. Eggs over easy and hash browns with rye toast.
We went to anti-Vietnam War rallies and chanted with other resisters: “Hell No! We Won’t Go!” In 1966, I stood beside him while he and other men burned their draft cards in a garbage barrel in front of the student union.
The deal was sealed by his record collection. We owned the same albums, the same cuts scratched from heavy use. Heavy on Motown and black rock with a gospel influence. Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, the Temptations, Aretha, Dylan.“Oh, Happy Day!”
Like me, he loved to dance. Put vinyl on the turntable, sway and rock. Usually just the two of us, twirling and swirling, holding hands, mirroring each other’s moves.
Judy Hensky’s smoky voice singing “High Flying Bird” was new to me, but not Waylon Jennings with his mournful harmonica. Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go” became our song, the one that said I would wait for Vic to be sure.
In 1967 and ’68, we added a wave of women with beautiful lyrics and gentle rhythms, especially Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro.
In 1969, we danced our way to California, hauling Vic’s record player in the station wagon. The player was essential when so much else was left behind. We packed Joni, Laura, and all of Dylan in the boxes mashed against the mattress where we slept at night.
In 1970 with month-long scholarships to Esalen Institute, Vic set up the sound system and we danced to Dylan and Johnnie Cash in our room with a view of the Big Sur Coast. We drove back to Ithaca listening to “Nashville Skyline.”
By then, my belly was round and my breasts dripped with milk, but Dylan kept us dancing.
So happy just to see you smile
Underneath the sky of blue
…On this new morning with you
I gave birth with Joni Mitchell’s lyrics spinning in my head:
I feel like I’m just being born
Like a shiny light breaking in a storm
There are so many reasons why I love him
After David was born, we bounced him on our shoulders, held him close, passed the fussy baby back and forth, danced until the three of us gave in to sleep.
After we met our first spiritual teacher and began meditating, after we gave up smoking and drinking anything with a kick, we danced. Along with opera and classical music, we played the old records. We hosted drumming parties beginning one cool summer night in 1993. The barn was hot with vibrating drums and gyrating bodies.
Our last love song was “Dance Me to the End of Love.” Leonard Cohen’s lyrics were inspired by the holocaust, but I didn’t know that then. I only knew Leonard played the music that helped me grieve and learn to dance alone.
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love…
It’s harder to dance now when music hurts my ears. It’s harder to dance without my favorite partner. Still, I sing those lyrics to myself and hear the melodies within, swaying to the music, swaying to what was. Swaying to what’s over now, swaying to what is.
What was the music of your love or a time you miss? Do you remember the lyrics–and the feelings? For other pieces about the poetry of our lives, see Bookends of a Marriage. For a piece about dancing with my brother, my first dancing partner when I was 12, see Waiting for Another Dance.