I don’t know what it is about this weekend that makes it so striking in its memories.
Perhaps, it is just because the time of year finds some things ending and others just beginning. It is like spring in that regard where newness takes on a personality of its own guiding us into the upcoming unknown – whether it is season, project, or feeling, with seemingly little effort. We don’t struggle as much with this season because it eases us into the change with such beauty – all of nature calls to us: cooling winds and comfortable sleep, shorter days cut by silent seconds, calling geese practise overhead, and trees slip silent into their golden frocks. There is a change that comes with turning the calendar page to read: September. The long weekend is like taking another stab at failing summer, hoping to get in one last… … …
For me, one of my favorite short stories is written based on a trip to the mountains I took many years ago. It has morphed in length and words to become the compact piece provided below. In recent memory, the long weekend signaled the true ending to several emotional events including acceptance that a trip east did not work out as planned and a passionate one night stand signed off a no hope relationship. It also warns of impending work over the long stretch ahead and planning is realized. But of the simpler times when young hormones raged and understanding love was yet to be discovered, Keep on Smiling is a memory written from those emotional depths and as the Stones said… I was looking for an “emotional rescue.”
KEEP ON SMILING
I remember the day I met RJ like it was yesterday. It was the long weekend in September and my friend and I had driven to the mountains just to get away. At 23, I was having difficulties with dating and love. I was “sowing my wild oats,” if you could refer to a woman as such; working hard and partying harder. I equated sex with love and if it were true I might have found happiness.
I had recently dropped out of University and was searching for myself yet wondering if Mr. Right would ever come along. My efforts to find him were futile. “Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places” was my theme song. I thought I was supposed to find Mr. Right and get married. Up until then I had been so sure of my future. It would have included law school but when I discovered I enjoyed immediate things, I picked the easy way out.
That weekend in Banff found us doing things we loved. We did a lot of sight-seeing and a little shopping. A cool breeze was already starting to blow down from the snow-covered peaks but it was a glorious weekend.
After a full day, we changed and headed back to the evening crowds. We chose a quaint little restaurant where we ordered our meal complete with wine. After nine o’clock, most of the local eateries transformed into dance clubs and we remained there for the rest of the evening. The crowds, the dance beat, the drinking until all hours; “Emotional Rescue” by the Stones was playing. And there he was.
He was medium height and athletic; dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. What I noticed were his eyes ~ they pierced your very soul. His dark hair was on the long side with one of those light patches in the front. Striking!
We danced. We connected. My heart was lost in one fell swoop… again. We talked. He was going to Vancouver to make his way in the world. He was fun to be with. He stole my heart. We spent the night together holding each other close trying to make the magic last. I remember lying awake at one point thinking about the morning fast approaching. Daylight. It would soon be here and we would be leaving. So would he.
I tended to forget I was with my friend and by morning she was frantic when I hadn’t returned. Didn’t she realize I was clinging to another chance at love? My indignation was unfounded as my feelings usually came first with my exploits leaving someone in the lurch while I went about my quest.
I left RJ in the early morning. My friend had packed in a frenzied worry. She cruised the streets; making a stop at the local RCMP detachment, she was advised I was not yet considered a missing person. She returned to the B&B. There I was. She was not impressed but I offered no excuses.
As we drove away, it was not just silence that returned home with me. I couldn’t explain my feelings. My heart ached in that empty sort of way. RJ had come to mean so much in such a short time, it was painfully hard to accept, let alone explain. I felt like I left something behind.
Looking back over that weekend and my fondness for it, I remember something he said to me; something that has remained with me all these years. When we parted ways (me in that tearful way I do), he gently touched my face. He didn’t say good-bye. He just said, “Keep on smiling.” Then… he went his way… and I, mine.
That chance meeting remains one of my fondest memories. I often wonder what happened to RJ. I never did know him by anything other than RJ. I don’t even know what RJ stood for. To me, now, it represents the temporary happiness of the time even if the void I felt afterwards lingered. The memory of the time embraces me with a warmth I cannot explain and when I am filled with yearning I just remember all I have to do is…”keep on smiling.”