I see the train coming down the tracks. The smart thing would be to move, to get out of the way, but I’m memorized. I can’t take a step back or a forward, my legs are full of jelly.
Yes, my wife and I enter the high school and take an empty seat in the crowded auditorium. When we sit down, I find the seats surprisingly comfortable. They’re not movie theater comfortable, but they’re not ramrod stiff either. The band director thanks the audience for supporting the high school students competing in the jazz festival. When she steps away from the mic, the stage crew dim the lights.
The train is getting closer now. I think to myself, “no, no, not the lights, anything but the lights.” Now, I love listening to jazz music, but a mixture of factors are working against me. The first group is only through their second song and I’m reminded that I got three hours of sleep the night before, maybe four hours if you’re really generous in your accounting, but no matter how you count it, I’m dead on my feet.
I put sleep out of my head and listen to the music. The students are surprisingly good, they’re no John Coltrane, Miles Davis, or Louis Armstrong, but they’re not half bad. I’ve come though to hear my son play the trumpet and he won’t be on stage for a while. I recognize one of the songs being played and tap my foot to keep beat. I’m really tapping to try to wake myself up, but it’s not working and nobody else needs to know that.
Trying a different take, I imagine myself on the piano, a wannabe Ray Charles or Harry Connick Jr. or maybe even Michael Bublé grooving and swaying to the music. My interest in the song though soon fades. I forget about my willpower and close my eyes for the briefest of seconds. When the band stops and the crowd applauds, my head bobs back up, fearful of how long I’ve been out. Fortunately, it wasn’t long.
The train engineer pulls down hard on the whistle. I’m motionless.
My surroundings are definitely working against me: the dimly lit auditorium, a cushy auditorium seat that I could get lost in for days, and a long wait. It’s like the Jazz Gods are out to get me, tempting me to see if I’m really a fan. If I don’t watch it, I’m going to be out cold in minutes.
The train is upon me now. It’s now or never.
I shake my head and try to get my bearings. I’ve got Dizzy Gillespie and Nat King Cole from yesteryear and Wynton Marsalis, Norah Jones, and Diane Krall from more present day, looking to see what I’m going to do. There’s no time to think. It’s going to be a doozy of a collision. It’s coming. There’s no-way-out and then . . . a miracle happens.
Yes, a miracle: the director announces that my son’s school will be up next on stage. My exhaustion has turned into euphoria. I applaud louder than I should. Another mother looks back at me with a strange side-eye, but I don’t care.
Sleep can wait, the the train can wait, my son is on next!