A hand touches my arm at that moment and I’m brought back to the present.
“Are you okay, Uncle Nate?” asks Olivia, studying me closely with those big blue eyes of hers.
I nod and sigh, “Yeah, just took a little trip down memory lane. I met some of my best friends in this place.”
I give her an inscrutable look and ask, “Now what makes you think that?”
“You had a little smile on your face,” she replies with a grin. “It’s the same one you always get whenever you tell me stories about my godmother. God, how I miss her. She passed away when I was only seven, but I still remember how full of life and sass she always was.”
“I know what you mean,” I tell her and look out at the empty theater. “She’s the reason this place is still standing.”
“I thought you had a hand in keeping this place alive,” remarks Gina who has joined us. “Don’t you own the building?”
“I do, but it was your girlfriend’s famous godmother who made that happen,” I explain and once again my mind slips back across the years. This time it only goes back to 1970, when a phone call brought me back to this building for the first time in thirty years.
The entryway was dark and there had been a bunch of red posts plastered on the doors. The frames on the walls which usually held posters about the coming performances were empty and dark. The sight had saddened me. Overall, things didn’t look too bad from out here. But when I slipped inside, that was when the truth really of how bad things had gotten really hit home.
The old concession stand was still standing, just at the bottom of a grand staircase. Both had seen better days. The shelves were empty, except for dust and cobwebs where an industrious spider had been hard at work sometime in the past. But there was no sign of the arachnid now. I stared forlornly at my surroundings, and remembered how it looked in the past. This area was always teeming with people waiting in line to purchase some goodies to enjoy once they’d reached their seats in theater. Some would make their way up the staircase, passing through the ornate archways at the top, while others would head for the doors here on the ground floor, which led to the main seating area.
In my mind I could still hear the hustle and bustle of the crowds who were eager to see my cohorts on stage, performing and delighting the audience to no end. But there were no sounds now. Just the echoes of my footsteps across the tiled floor. Yet I wasn’t alone. I could sense a familiar presence nearby, watching me from above.
Turning and looking up I see a vision of beauty from my past staring down at me. Even at 77 she still made my heart skip a few beats.
A warm smile crosses her lips as she puts one hand on her hip and leans up against the railing and says, “Well, are you gonna stand down there all night or are you finally gonna come up and see me?”
Needless to say I practically fly up the stairs to. I could’ve actually flown, but sometimes my abilities made her a little uncomfortable. Although on this occasion she gave me a look and shook her head. “What kept ya? I half expected you to just leap up here and into my arms.”
“I still might, Baby Mae,” I smiled.
That made her laugh. “There’s a name I haven’t heard in decades,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
But I could tell she was delighted, deep down.
“I’ve missed you,” I tell her.
“The feeling’s mutual,” she replies, and I can tell she means it. For one thing, she’s dropped the sassy act.
Then she takes my arm and we start walking. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you to come here. tonight,” she says after a moment or two.
“The thought has crossed my mind,” I admit, but I’m mostly enjoying being with her again. It had been too long.
“I wanted to show you something,” she explains, and then gives me a look. “And I don’t mean anything naughty.”
Naturally I protested my innocence to no avail.
“Don’t give me that old routine. I’m the one the one who taught it to you, remember?” she laughs.
“Like it was yesterday,” I reply.
Here she became more quiet and said, “A yesterday that had a lot of months and years in front of it. And here’s the proof.”
She opened the doors to the upper balcony seating and carefully stepped through…
TO BE CONTINUED…