Somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt that I had been there before. The lights were dim; the music on the record-player was soft and offbeat. Nina Simone was telling us, as only she can, that ‘It might as well be Spring’. Of course, I had been in there before, many times, but it was more like returning to a place in time, returning to something that happened long ago.
Maybe you know what I mean. When you walk into a strange room, but it isn’t unfamiliar. And you say to yourself, “I’ve been here before, and what I am doing now, I have done before.” And then it goes, and you can’t remember what comes next, although you try to drag it up out of the grey nothingness, but it won’t return. There is a term that I have heard: Déjà vu. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. Déjà vu is some sense of familiarity that many people experience… but it’s nothing more than that. It’s brief, it’s more a feeling that the person has been in a particular unfamiliar setting, but little more.
That is the way my whole life has been, the only difference is that I do know what comes next. My mind gives up its secrets, and I know when a certain person will arrive, and I know when a chair will be knocked over, and I know.
I know, and I hate myself for it. I can’t get away from it, no matter how hard I try. At a dance or a party, this thing takes me in its soft hands and moves me to one part of the room where something will happen, and I can’t stop it. I have to stand and watch and not try to prevent it. I have to because I am not brave enough to intervene… because something may happen to me.
There I stand like an all seeing hat stand, able to look into what is about to happen, but unable to lift a finger to prevent it. Or without the guts to try.
Sometimes the thing lifts from me, and my mind is at peace. I find that when this thing isn’t around, I am living and thinking and experiencing the now. Just like everybody around me, and it is so peaceful. That was how it was in the coffee lounge that night. That was how it was until they came in.
There were only two of them; unless you want to count the dog. They both wore casual clothes; jeans and big, floppy sweaters, and their hair was thick and dark; falling over their foreheads. As they came in, I noticed that they looked very much like brothers. One of them carried the dog under his left arm. It was a lovely looking animal, a light tan mongrel, but one of those mongrels that look as if they should be a definite type. It was a dog that looked as if it was meant to have a pedigree.
The two young men found a table and sat down. The one with the dog placed it on the ground by his feet. It unwound itself and looked up at its master with love in its eyes; a hand instinctively went down and fondled its ears. There was a bond of friendship that would have been impossible to break between the two of them.
The dog suddenly decided to explore its surroundings, and looked around him. He saw mc and I clicked my fingers. He understood, and came to my table; sat beside my chair, and rested his muzzle on my knee. I felt the warmth of it through the thick corduroy. As I stroked his smooth head, through the hum of conversation I heard the thump of his tail. His soft brown eyes looked into my face as I murmured to him... warm, meaningless sound, that’s all.
Soon the urge to explore seized him again, and he left me to move from table to table as different people called him. As time passed, his excitement mounted as the puppy in him came to the surface.
He rushed about the room; then darted out through the open door into the dark street.
A cold wave broke over me… I started to rise from my chair.
Then I knew. .
I sat back in my seat…waited. I tried desperately to listen to the music. Dakota Staton was singing ‘The Late, Late Show’ with all her heart, but she couldn’t distract my mind and thoughts.
I knew what would happen…
There would be the screech of brakes,
the horribly drawn out, agonized yelp,