The year was 1967. The summer night was sultry. On the floor of a dancehall in my hometown, two teenagers swayed to the Casinos’ bluesy hit song, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.”
We had come of age together wanting to believe our feelings were special and, though archaic to some, would survive our departure for distant colleges. The band reaffirmed our faith by delivering each verse of the Casinos’ song in a close harmony punctuated by big brass: Kiss me each morning for a million years/Hold me each evening by your side.
We held fast to each other, and to our relationship, until the strain of time and distance were simply too great. When the spell was broken, all that remained was an echo of the old-fashioned values we had held so dear. We were to see each other only once or twice more, but by then we were on separate paths. They would never cross again.
For half a century, when I heard that Casinos’ song, the lyrics would carry me back to the old dancehall where, for a brief moment, the notion of love lasting a million years still seemed possible. I would think of her and hope that, whenever and wherever she heard the song, she might also recall that feeling.
A month ago, the hope was dashed when I received a text telling me the girl with whom I had once imagined a perfect life was gone — taken in her sleep by a stroke. I never had a chance to say goodbye.
As fate would have it, several of my other friends had likewise slipped away without warning. With their passing, and hers, I began to realize that, like the Casinos’ song, my life was but a collection of voices woven together in a delicate harmony. Each friend sang their part. Without them my melody was fading.
Today, I decided to return to the dancehall, if only in spirit, to bid farewell to my first love. It was closing time. The lights were dimming, the crowd departing. But when our eyes met, we shared one last dance. It was then she whispered to me, in an awfully tender voice, our song’s final stanza: Tell me you love me for a million years/ Then you can tell me goodbye.