Can You Forgive Her?

That's the title of an Anthony Trollope novel, but I have my own version:

In years gone past, there was no greater sin in my book than someone who should never have been born interrupting my dancing meditation on yet another iteration of Terrapin Station. At least I never had to endure the unbelievable gall of a group of Mormons who, if my friend Dierdre is to be believed, tried to engage her in talk about her soul while she was in the very act of refilling it. She had rounded on them with a full-throated, "NOT during my Terrapin!" I am surprised to this day that there was not blood.

My own experience took place a few years previous during a three-day run. A young woman had gotten herself on our bus, so to speak, by batting her eyes and rippling her long red hair at my touring (not sleeping) partner, who also happened to be so far gone as to buy her tickets as well. By the time we got to Oakland, not only was I getting a third-wheel vibe from my pal the driver but I was also in possession of the unwelcome bit of information (unknown to him) that, far from putting out for him, she had slept with his best friend on the way down. I wasn't having a good time.

Have I made myself clear?

The first night of the show, I got in line early and when I got in the door, ran for our seats. The first row in the third (or whatever) balcony behind the taper's section. The walkway is below us, there's plenty of dancing space between our seats and the rail, and the entire coliseum is spread out at our feet. Dennis from Salinas was there, shrugging into his glitter vest before blowing up his air guitar. A bit later, Jim and Dean showed up. They were from L.A. I'd been meeting them here for about five years now. We never saw each other anywhere else, but we had become old friends all the same. I spread my jacket and a sweater and some other stuff on the three seats I was saving, and we all sat down to chat and wait for the show. And for my traveling companions.

Who didn't show up until after the second song. I was about to give away their seats - people were beginning to glare in my direction, taking up space that could be used by people who really wanted to be in the show - when they came trooping in.

"So sorry we're late," Lil Red gushed, but I wanted to do a little more shopping and you know the boys just wouldn't leave me out there all alone. Check out these earrings." My first impulse was to rip them out of her ears, but I throttled that impulse to the ground and tried to turn back into the dance, but my hips and my feet were getting the wrong message from my brain and it was all I could do to galumph. The rest of that show went pretty much the same way. The thrill was gone, and nothing Jerry and the Boys could do managed to get over the wall my resentment had built.

The next night the gang showed up on time. I had told them that if they weren't there by the time the first song was done, their seats would be gone. But I still wasn't having a very good time. And that's when it happened.

The band went into Terrapin Station. Terrapin Station is a tone poem, a dancer's delight, full of imagery and musical passages, myth and magic, just begging to be given physical shape by a dancer's body, and I forgot everything else, closed my eyes and went with it.

I don't remember if I had reached the lion's den or if I had survived that and paid the teller off in gold already, or if I was just gazing up at the spiral light of Venus, but suddenly there was a hiss in my ear.

"Barbara, could you watch my bags. I just have to have a hot dog."

I had a vision then, a very strong vision, one which I can still recall vividly to this very day. In this vision, I smile down at Lil' Red, take a firm grip of her long red hair, swing her round and round over my head and sail her out over Oakland Coliseum. Because it was plain by now that I would never get to Terrapin that night.

Later, when the show was done and my people had trooped off together, I stayed behind for a while quietly chewing nails. Jim and Dean were getting their things together and I had looked up to say, "See you tomorrow," when Dean plopped down beside me.

"You're not having a good time," he said. "What's up?"

I told him. All of it. Hating myself as I spoke, because my voice sounded whiny to my ears, petulant, jealous even. I didn't like Lil' Red for what I still consider to be perfectly kosher reasons, but I knew the jealousy was there too. There was no way the boys would ever follow me around like a pack of puppies. If I wanted to do some shopping, my pal the driver would just say well, hurry up, we ain't gonna wait. Nevertheless ...

Dean heard me out, and when I was done we just sat for a while - Jim was holding down a seat at the end of the row waving away one of the people coming to clean up. He laughed when I described my vision, but then he said, "Well, you know what you have to do?"

"What?" I wondered if he had worked out the perfect murder or, even worse, if he was going to tell me that I had to talk to her. I had nothing to say that wouldn't come out as petty resentment, and besides, in my mind she was already lying in an unattractive pose on the floor of Oakland Coliseum. I didn't think it could get much better than that.

"You have to forgive her," he told me. "And tomorrow, wish her a good show." And he patted my back, gave me a kiss on the cheek and a hug, and walked off with Jim. That was all. The clean-up crew was getting insistent, so I picked up my stuff and followed them out. It took a few hours, but I finally caught on to what he was saying.

So I forgave her.

And the next night, when they came in, I wished everybody a good show, and then I forgot about her. The music came back and I danced and laughed and had a very good show myself. I didn't get another Terrapin, but you can. Follow me.