Love, Life, Death, Coincidence: The 11/16 Society

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was told by a wizard from another dimension, “There are no coincidences.”   A few months later he asked me, “And you still believe in coincidence?”

Yesterday was one of those gloomy, misty days that grow colder as the day progresses.  By the time I had left work and was headed for home, it was raining in fitful spurts.  I reached into the console and blindly pulled out a CD to play.  A few seconds of silence and then began “Seven Bridges Road.***”  At that point, I had to pull over to the shoulder.  It is one of those CDs I avoid but there it was.  As the rain spattered on my windshield and cars hissed by….Seven Bridges Road  – a time machine of a song.  I looked past the dull brown skeletons of trees to the equally dull sheet of river beyond and gave myself to memories.

Last night, whether it was because of the song or….whatever, I dreamed of when I saw JT in London, 1988, as he was going into a men’s clothier on Jermyn Street (“and you still believe in coincidence?”).   He was as shocked as I and then he grinned that glorious grin of his and said, “Well, as I live and breathe, if it isn’t the Carolina Cherry Blossom.  Come in with me and help me buy some shirts.”  As the doorman held the door for us, JT looked down and said, “I was sorry to hear Kenata-san went back to Japan.”  I sighed and said “I was sorry to hear Laura went back to California.”   We both shook our heads and a bit later, as we were mutually caressing the material for a shirt, he said, “Come back and spend the rest of your stay with me at my hotel. The tub is big enough for two.  And I have a friend nearby I can talk into letting you make us fried chicken and biscuits in his kitchen.”  At that point, the dream changed from memory into dream and in the dream, instead of him seeing me off at Heathrow, I was seeing him off.  And then the alarm woke me.

The dream hung around me all day today, persistent and grey as the rain.  When I arrived home, my mother gave me a look and said, “there is a message for you on the phone”…and she paused.  “JT  died last night in Duke Medical Center.”  I..we…or rather, members of 11/16 Society had been expecting this. (And you still believe in coincidence?”).  I sat for a few minutes while my husband looked at me strangely.  Mama explained that JT is, or rather was, a childhood friend.   My husband nodded and understood.  Many things though, he can’t understand.

JT  and I had both been born on 11/16 the same year and grew up within a block of each other.  When children and together, we had often been mistaken as twins, or brother and sister – dark brown curls, sharp brown eyes behind thick glasses, observing of our surroundings, reading the same books, playing the same games.  He, myself, my cousin Billy and Billy’s father were the original four members of the 11/16 Society.  Other members were added in later years.  Some of you are familiar with the 11/16 Society through previous posts.

When we were six and playing “doctor”, JT said to me, I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up.  For sheer perversity I said, no, you are not.  When we were 13, he was practicing his piano lessons and I was waiting for him.  He turned around and said, with a growl and a bang on the keyboard, “I shouldn’t have to do this, I’m going to be a doctor.”  I sighed patiently and explained to him….Again. You are not going to be a doctor.   When he was in pre-med and playing piano at bars around town for extra money, sometimes we’d meet and he would say, I’ll be glad when I’m a doctor!  I persisted, No you won’t.  You love the piano too much.  This argument persisted through the years until he graduated from medical school at Duke, went through the steps and became….a doctor.    Some years later, when I was living in Philadelphia, I returned home from a free lance photography job and found him folded up and asleep by my apartment door.  I nudged him awake with my foot.  He awoke and looked up at me, “I hate being a doctor.”   “Yeah, yeah.  Come on in.”  He unfolded his lanky six foot frame and followed me inside.  After a bath and with JT dressed my too short robe, we drank coffee and  talked.  I took him to work with me that night and afterwards to a local watering hole where he played the piano for tips and charmed the house.

 JT left medicine behind and threw himself into music.  Women came and went – for awhile,  I was one of them – the music always stayed.  He began making good money and was often requested to play accompaniment for recording sessions.  He traveled the globe and became a well-heeled musician.  When I saw him in London, we were both of us still grieving painful breakups.  As we sat in that huge tub in his London suite, pushing a toy boat back and forth to each other, he said, “It’s a pity about us. We always fell in love with someone or something else.”  I had to think about that.  I mean, I had taken baths with him before since we were three.  He and I had played Doctor, choo-choo, got into a fight over a paper route,stolen kisses on the front porch during hot summer when we were teens.  We had had an affair.  And here we were for a brief sojourn in London.  “No. We are as we should be. We’d have killed each other.”  He piddled with the toy boat for a moment….”but Kenata-san has the same birthday and is a doctor and you and he were magic.”  “And Laura has the same birthday and is a photographer and dumped you.   JT, you and I are friends – first, last, and always.  We have always been there, with and for each other.  We don’t need magic.”   He batted his eyes with those impossible lashes at me and then reached over the edge of the tub to refill our wine glasses.  “Yeah……but…..” and he left it hanging.

A few days later at Heathrow, JT asked if I remembered that night we and some other members of the  now 11/16 Society had been together at Kenata’s and my house, and had played “Seven Bridges Road”,  improvising for at least an hour.  Kenata had taken the piano over from JT because he wanted to learn the song.  I remembered looking at two of them,  there together, in the same room.  Men I loved as expressed in the song – same, yet very different.

Now I have loved you like a baby…

Like some lonesome child,

And I have loved you in a tame way,

And I have loved you wild.” 

Now in 2013, I sat on the side of the road with rain drumming on the roof of my car and listened to that song and remembered.  Less than I hour later, I learned one of those two men had died.  (“Do you still believe in coincidence?”).   I visited with JT last fall.  Thin and frail, I held him close to me.  I tried willing my strength into him.  “Not to worry love.  I am fine.“   Members of the 11/16 Society that are in the States and who knew JT. visited.  We all expected it.

JT died last night.  “Now cracks a noble heart.  Goodnight sweet prince…”

“There are stars in the southern sky.

And if ever you decide you should go,

There is a taste of time sweet and honey

Down the Seven Bridges Road.” 

 

***Seven Bridges Road by Steve Young recorded for his album in 1969, Rock Salt and Nails and also performed by the Eagles and various artists.

 

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jotsfromasmallapt
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:58:13

    A lovely remembrance of a well-loved friend. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    R.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jan 16, 2013 @ 08:03:43

      Thank you. I had accepted his death awhile back, but it still always hurts, doesn’t it? He was a lovely charming and passionate man who was not afraid to live his life. And that was a blessing to all who knew and loved him.

      Reply

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