I spent Thanksgiving once with a musicy kind of crowd. They were doing sing-alongs around a piano. I was there with my significant other with whom I was heading to an end, but amicably so because of different desires for our futures. It was because of this love and friendship that no one knew we weren’t going forward. We were a team, loved and loving, who to this day a lifetime later, maintain as much.
It was this close-to-ending season which found us all crooning The Best of Broadway over paper plated pies on the Lower East Side when someone handed him the sheet music for If Ever I would Leave You from Camelot. I didn’t make a peep in the corner with my legs crossed and hands folded in my best attempt at contentedness. But they all pushed him: Do this one do this one. After all, t’was a classic. People think it’s a love song. It’s actually the most ironic little tearjerker ever written.
He tried, bless his heart. He tried to get out of it knowing how I would hear it. But when in Rome, and the first measures had already been played. So he began to sing.
It would have looked only stranger if he had sung it to the ceiling or the rug or the peculiar little clock with the ceramic Dutch girl even poutier than I. So in the spirit of embracing the moment and doing what’s expected, he began to sing it…to me.
“If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in springtime?
Knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so?
Oh, no, not in springtime!
Summer, winter or fall!”
Every lyric, every promise of the myriad ways he would never leave, but with sweet apology, knowing what I knew.
Whether making things worse or his humor an attempt to relieve my heartache, he played the scene to crescendo, milking leading man melodrama, and by the last line he was on one knee, both of my hands in his, perfecting the irony in full baritone belt with the song’s final words, “No never would I leave you… At all.”
It reverberated. Straight through my skin and 20 floors down to the tracks we rode in on. Cracked the sidewalks. All of them. I made a choice for bravery and knew I was doing so. I knew this was a moment of becoming something and that I might be proud later, for allowing the joys and burying the sorrows, for everyone. That’s my job.
And there it was, the sweet love of “I am so sorry” in the way he gave up and hit the high notes. “I do at least love you,” it said. We barely held on till January.
Oh the identity of my life in that moment in a room full of loved ones thinking they had witnessed the highest heights of romance and poetry. When your great love weaves his vows in song, thread with tinny piano music and tangled in dirty streets of city snow, on Thanksgiving in New York. But at least it happened. At least there was a small, passing corner of Camelot.
So many ways life can be different from the musical playing on the outside