She first met him when they were both fifteen. He had shaggy hair, a soft smile, and an internal peace that made him seem not quiet, not shy, but like solitude had taken on a body. He looked alone but never lonely. His mother called him: “Peace in a bottle.” His friend called him: “The Monk.” His fans called him: “The greatest singer who ever lived.” She called him: “Mine.”
She saw him swaying to the music over in the corner of the gym. His eyes were closed. His lips were echoing the song being played by the band up on stage. She normally didn’t like scraggly looking thin guys. For some reason though, she found him attractive. So she went and stood nearby, until the song ended- and then she said her first words to him:
“Where were you just now?”
He turned a red that matched his hair blade for blade- looked at the young girl in the Mini-skirt, with her brunette hair cut in a short stylish cut that made her neck curve gracefully out from under the sheen of dark hair. Her eyes were brown, wide, and curious. It was the eyes that gave him permission to feel safe, be honest, and just answer her.
“I was singing.”
“Not very loud. I couldn’t even hear you from here, and I am close enough to touch you.”
So she did. A gentle caress of his arm, like stroking the fur on an abnormally long cat. At the end of that gentle stroke, her hand rested in his palm- and snuggled.
He looked down at their two hands cuddled as if the people attached weren’t even there, or watching. It made him smile. He looked back up at her.
“Oh, you don’t have to be loud to sing. You just have to be in the song.“
“Are you a hippie? What does it mean to be “in the song?”"
Her little soft puff of breath that came out as the cutest form of “please do explain” that can be contained in a laugh - made him answer. An answer that would change both his life, her life, and the hundred or so kids there that night.
He didn’t answer with words. The band had taken a break. All around the Gym were just the background sounds of conversation, the clinking of ice hitting the bottom of plastic cups, and the occasional hoot of laughter. He just started to sing.
It wasn’t a song that anyone had ever heard before. It wasn’t sung like anyone had ever heard before. It just made everyone listen.
His eyes had closed, but his grip on her hand never changed. It stayed cuddled, not cramped or tight, contact that blended with the tone in his voice, and melded with her heart.
Like a stone hitting a smooth pond, the words and notes rippled out across the Gym- those close by tried to get closer. Those farther away turned to see where that beautiful sound was coming from; and then they tried to get closer. She even leaned up against his thin frame- almost as if to give him support to hold all that color in his voice.
The band had been drinking behind the curtain- certain they couldn’t be seen by the Chaperones watching carefully to make sure no alcoholic beverages were drunk. They only had one more set to do, and a couple of beers would make that possible. Then they heard him. It was the drummer who shushed the band with a downward wave of his hand:
It was the loudest whispered command the band members ever heard from the drummer- and it was a command- so they did.
The lead singers girlfriend leaned away from the sweaty passionate kiss she had been sharing to listen too. A moment later she whispered:
“Is it an Angel?”
The lead singer just shook his head. It was clear he was listening too. And would answer his girl later. Just be quiet now, and listen.
The band, like everyone else, slowly crept towards that voice. Soon, and time had no meaning as long as that kid was singing, everyone was close to him, everyone was listening to him. The only one who couldn’t hear, was the singer himself- for he was in the song. He was the song.
The lead singer wasn’t the first to cry, nor the only one, but he was the only one who truly knew what that voice meant. No one could sing that well. No one could be that far into the song. No musical instruments were needed, for they would merely blur the true music in that voice. The lead singers first thought - when he could think again and was released from the song the kid was singing was this:
"The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to need a new wing.”
The words kept pouring from the kid in the corner singing. They filled up souls, hearts, and ears, like champagne bubbling down one of those glass pyramids they make at fancy Balls, Dances, and Celebrations. Filling up ears that brimmed over as water pouring from eyes closed to try and hold back something… or everything.
Hearts bubbled over erasing old wounds, kindling new hope, and releasing forgiveness to wash over souls torn open with the emotions pouring out in the song. And then…he stopped.
He was unaware of all the eyes on him. He didn’t understand what his voice, words and songs did to folks. He just sang. And when he stopped, it was to look at her and see if she understood his answer to her question: “What does it mean to be “in the song.” She knew now. Everyone did.
For seventy years his voice brought people into the song. For all seventy of those years, she was there by his side. At eighty five, his voice, his breath, and his life, all stopped at the same time as his heart. The Funeral was streamed across the world; the Hall was jammed with Royalty, Presidents, and Musicians-friends, and fans (not a church- for his voice was a gift for everyone, not just believers).
She never sang. She did speak at his funeral. It was a short speech, that lasted just until the first notes of his singing came to life. She spoke: