Yellow Chrysanthemums


Artist: Gary Tucker

Fabric brushes against the floor, barely hitting it. The sound of music rushes through the air, meeting everyone’s ears. Tireless feet hit the floor to the beat of the music. Under the music lingers a silent focus. Your eyes widen as you observe the dancers swing and glide across the ballroom. Every person is watching a different dancer. With every beat, eyes slide to a new subject, as the dancers trust the lead with everything they have. The big room emits an afterglow of a June day. The music creates a swell with each crescendo, one that comes crashing down with every decrescendo. Nothing can stop them except the ending of the song. Each dancer is a puppet of the music.

As the sound fades, you look around to see the one you are going to dance with. Music fills the room again. A soft but powerful piano opens the song and is soon joined by the melancholy strings of a cello and violin. Though the bandshell has only three musicians, the power of the music sways you. You lock eyes with your dance partner. They grab your hand and hold it fast on their own. The sorrowful tune fades into a sly, bouncing beat. They push ever so slightly against you, gently taking the lead.

The first move is announced in the last waltz. As you glide across the ballroom with you, everyone else in the room disappears. The only eyes that matter are theirs. You slowly get lost in the golden-brown eyes but you lose focus by the smile growing on their face. And every so slightly, you return it with a tender smile.

The gracefulness of the musicians guides your dance, them working together with the beat to push you across the floor. The memories you share fill the room. With every turn, an image flashes past, like a merry-go-round of your history together. You try desperately to hold onto each memory as you twirl and dip. As they escort you across the floor you take their eyes on your own, wanting nothing more than to look into them forever. But you need to stay focused, for each movement brings a new memory, and you need to remember each one.

The other dancers are fading away now. You feel the grip on your hand getting tighter. The bouncy melody turns soft once again. Gentle piano chords ringing through the hall, bringing with them kinder and warmer memories that flash before you with each turn. The joy is evident on your face.

You try to focus, you need to remember. But the high pitch violin breaks you away. The rest of the bandshell has joined together once again, and the joy you feel courses through your veins. The musicians know too, that this is your last dance. For a brief second, the music stops, and the world around you disappears. But then it changes. They dance faster; it gets hard to keep up. They are trying to lead you away from the floor, to something else… someone else.

The smell of fresh dew on grass fills the air as trees replace the walls. Far off you can see a field of dandelions and marigolds. The afternoon warmth hits your face. Somewhere in the distance are children laughing and a dog barking. You hear the buzz of a honey bee pass your ear. The first memory you have of them. Not wanting to miss a moment, you take in everything as if it were the first time. Every detail is to perfection. Their face is crystal clear and their smile shines brighter than the afternoon sun. The smell of them feels like home, it is home.

But the music spirals and you are dragged back. They run with you down a staircase, down that staircase. You feel the music once more begin to bounce, but this time it’s heavy- much too heavy. The dance is growing sluggish with the music, and it is their doing. You can no longer feel their hands on your waist, and for the first time, you are supporting yourself. Their warmth is gone. But a brief burst of strong piano carries you, and it spirals back to a soft light dance.

The room slowly shifts again, this time into your home. A new memory. An old memory. Even though you were last here only just this evening, it’s different. The walls are barren. The family photos are gone. Your furniture is missing and the fireplace stands cold. Just an empty house. You step into the room cautiously. Moving from place to place looking desperately, hopelessly to find something that belongs to the two of you. In the living room stands a chair. . Their chair- their empty chair. You are brought back to the ballroom where the music once again takes over.

As the melody strengthens in chord and tempo, you feel yourself weaken. The crescendo is deafening and the room grows more and more chaotic. You bring your hands to your ears as tears stain your cheeks, screaming for it to stop. You want it to stop but it won’t. Then it stops. The ballroom is gone, and so are the people. All that is left is you standing in the kitchen, alone, holding a small slip of yellow paper.

“Killed in Action.