What Becomes a Legend's Ghost, or
The Momentary Loss of Ego
Ralph Greco, Jr.
“Excuse me, but aren’t you Thomas Ryons?”
“I used to be,” I quipped, but recovered quickly enough to offer a smile.
“Man, I am a big fan,” she continued, those tiny pinpoint baby blues glaring up at me from under what could only be described as ‘impudent’ blonde bangs.
“You’re a little young to know my stuff,” I chuckled.
Not too young though.
‘Too’ never enters into the equation; like too short, too tight, too willing...
“My dad lived for ‘Midnight Blue Tide,’” she continued, recovering herself to add: “But I got into Steam in my own right. Actually I just bought that three CD set.”
My retirement cache: a just released, digitally-re-mastered (although I had thought the songs were swell on the initial recording!) retrospective of my career with my mid-seventies, semi-popular rock quintet, Steam.
“My name is Sandy Eaton,” she said, extending her whisper thin white hand.
I took it and shook it as hard as she shook back.
Did I happen to mention…no ring?!
“Mind if I ask if you are planning anything new?” she asked. “I mean I have “Exile Palace” and “Downtown”. I just love them.”
‘E. and D.’, as I affectionately called them, my last two solo albums (I still call them albums, sue me!), appeared to a lukewarm reception in 1995 and 2000 respectively. This pretty girl might just be one of the few people in the western hemisphere who owned copies of these CD’s, let alone would care for more these many years later!
“I’ve been out of that game for a while,” I answered, trying to neither discourage nor encourage her with another of my patented smiles. I added a flip of the old dusty brown locks for extra effect.
Old habits that used-to-work are hard to give up, even if their current effectiveness is up for grabs.
As any self-respecting retired rock has-been would, I had had my barn-of-a-recording studio converted all digital a few years back, had the latest Mac installed and kept pretty well practiced on the ol’ trusty SG and Les Paul, but I didn’t ‘do’ music in the commercial marketplace all that much any more. When you’ve seen and done all that I have it’s hard not weighing the glory years with how much your mid-fifties comeback (if there would even be enough fans to afford you one) would pale by comparison.
“I really liked ‘Downtown’,” beautiful, tasteful Sandy Eaton informed my ego there on that sunny noon-day Saturday in the upper level of our local suburban super-mall. We were standing on the edge of what Americans call a “food court” and I turned to bade her to the empty table to our left. Ok, so I was probably her senior by more then twenty-five years, but she had recognized me. It was worth at least a soda and a sit down.
“Can I buy you lemonade, Coke maybe?” I said and waited for the thunderclap.
“Shit yeah!” wonderful Sandy said and jumped to the table I had been trying to subtly indicate.
The Ti-Chi has left my legs long and lean and my ass still pretty high, so I knew walking to the Arby’s-where they serve a killer lemonade-was worth it. What fifty-two year old guy wouldn’t be proud having a young girl like that checking out his ass; even if she wasn’t, the thought that she might and that I had the ass for it was enough to get that special place in my jeans all tight.
Truth was, I haven’t been ogled in a long time and miss it greatly. The long hair and the silly little laugh lines make an interesting mix with my Grecian nose and deep-set brown eyes, but there comes a point in any man’s life when he literally becomes invisible to young women. I have friends though who still feed my ego and occasionally the one–off fan recognizes me but Sandy was a different animal then the usual well-wishers in that she wasn’t a leather-clad forty-year old ‘dude’ who wants to get a band together with yours truly.
She was a warm young female, always my downfall.
“This is one of the things you Yanks do to perfection,” I said coming back to the table and taking a seat, placing the cups down between us. I had given up any stronger drink in the late eighties when I realized Steam was never going to get back together and I’d have to survive without them.
“Are you a student?’ I asked sitting down with the lemonades. “Not a musician, God forbid?”
“Student,” she said, smiled and reached for the cup to take a long gulp. Nice white throat, and this time I got to stare at her heavy chest as well, as she couldn’t catch me over the cup. If this didn’t turn into anything beyond these few fleeting seconds at least I’d have material for a few masturbatory nights.
“And you know who a crusty old crone like me is, yeah?” I asked and took a sip of my lemonade.
“You’re not crusty!” she giggled…she actually fucking giggled! Yeah, so I was fishing for the compliment, but a man’s got to be allowed some vanity.
“But old,” I completed and sipped.
“Older,” she corrected and the nostrils of her thin nose flared.
Ok, so we were flirting. She had gone beyond the ‘I’m-really-sitting-across-from-him’ to the ‘he’s-a-real-guy-I-can-tease’ banter. I could play the game as long as she wanted; I had nowhere to be. If I could be truthful, I usually gave myself these Saturday afternoons in the hope of being recognized, whispered over or waved to. It was a tragic game to play, but once a star always a star, even if the light you give off doesn’t make it out of your own little sad solar system.
“So, do your friends know who I am?” I asked. “I mean, do you guys go in for older stuff like mine, or are you a rare case?’
“I don’t know,” she said, her eyes beaming over her cup. “I guess they’d all know who you are, at least I know some of them have heard some Steam songs, but I guess they aren’t fans like me…I hope that doesn’t insult you!”
“Not at all. I’m just happy when a pretty girl agrees to have a lemonade. It happens so rarely these days.”
“I doubt that,” Sandy said and sipped again.
Ok, we were well beyond flirting. I had known enough women in my time to know when I had a chance…Sandy was giving me a golden opportunity. I had had less openings lead to sex-capades…even some I hadn’t seen coming. I always wondered if a good memory is a blessing or a curse? The amount of abuse I delivered unto myself in my day hasn’t lessened my recall where the opposite sex is concerned; I remember plenty of side-short glances that led to plenty of female derrières being exposed, or giggles like Sandy’s being stifled by that part of me symbolically represented by my guitar.
The way I had to figure it, Sandy reasoned I had a house nearby. This was a richer then most section of New Jersey; the young student probably assumed I lived close, in what had to be ‘quite the house’. This was close to the truth, my home was comfortable and a little pricey but not so nearly as elaborate or big as most of my neighbors. Inside Sandy might be imaging an entire range of eclectic expensive art, where in reality I had a few pieces, but mostly comfortable chairs and prints, a wood-burning fireplace and a kitchen that was way too big for me and my part-time cook. It was certainly not a lifestyle Sandy would have seen on MTV‘s “Cribs” but then again VH1 had yet to do a Behind the Music on me.
If what Sandy wanted was decadence I was not her man (although I could pretend). If she liked comfort, I could give her that in spades.
“I know this is gonna sound strange…” she began, placing her cup gingerly on the table before us.
Shit, how long had I been musing?
“Shoot,” I said smiling, with again another flip of the hair.
“What was it like…” Sandy continued, hit the table quickly with her open right palm. “…Shit, this is gonna sound like an interview…” she sipped her drink then put it back down to continue. “…I, what was it like to be you back then? Not that you don’t look good...well, you know what I mean! I just can’t imagine how it was in the mid- seventies. When you were popular. I ...how?...”
She stopped. She knew she was rambling and probably by my look she sensed I had had enough. In reality I was shocked by the question, I should have expected it, but my ego had convinced me her inquiry would be something of a more salacious nature.
This girl had to want to bed me, how dare she ask a legitimate question?
I smiled as she did. God she was cute. I have seen, been with, played over, fucked over, hurt, been hurt by, and generally been in the company of so many women in my life (two ex-wives non withstanding) and I could say with no fear of faulty recall that this girl was the cat’s p.j’s. Sandy held herself erect and confident but deep down she was a young girl sliding (I hoped I was making her slide even a little bit) into womanhood. She had power and majesty with just the right edge of uncertainty. In that busty frame with lithe taut legs, with her strong thin chin and even thinner nose, deep in those piercing cool eyes and the flip of loose curls was a woman I could fall for easily and possibly make fall for me. I wanted to provide her with an answer that would lead quickly to me bedding her; I knew the game, I knew how to play it, and I had not played in this league for a very long time. Lemonade could easily lead to dinner, then my bed, it was simply that easy when you had a reputation like mine and stories of madness and mayhem at your disposal to loose unsuspecting girls from their panties (actually ‘thongs’ nowadays).
But looking at this girl before me something broke free from my swagger. Call it a sense of propriety, speculation if I had the testosterone to handle her, exhaustion. Whatever it was, my usual need for conquest dissipated as I sat across from Sandy and actually fucking considered her question, really considered it and not just the flip answer I would have normally spat with a cocked chin and wide-eyed grimace.
I simply answered with one honest word:
“Glorious…” I sighed, sipped my lemonade and tried to will the tear from my eye. “…it was glorious.”
And that’s how we sat, the noon day sun streaking though the translucent plastic roof panels overhead, the day shoppers streaming around us, maybe one or two recognizing me-or thinking they did. Sandy and I sitting across from one another considering possibilities: Hers, a future laid out before her and a chance encounter with some-one who had experienced much more then she probably ever would and mine, a momentary lapse of libido where I did not act on what I knew I certainly could.
“How ‘bout a burger?” I asked, Sandy smiled and for the first time in a very long time I had no idea what was about to happen…and liked it very much.
Ralph Greco, Jr., is an internationally published author of essays, poems, short fiction, button slogans, children's songs and phone sex scripts. Mr. Greco is also an Ascap licensed songwriter and lives in the wilds of NJ suburbia.
Photo Courtesy of 123rf.
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Fiction Copyright © 2008 Ralph Greco, Jr. All rights reserved.