The canyon walls seemed to close in on Esteban. Sonja was more cheerful than ever, like some exotic bird he rediscovered each day. The rear view mirror showed less and less of his beloved ocean. He felt like a ship drifting into unchartered waters.
“Do we have to stay the weekend?” Esteban asked.
“My sweet silly boy,” Sonja laughed. “We will dance all weekend. There will be people from many different places. We will make many new friends.
Esteban’s vision swam. He breathed deep to clear his head.
“Ah, I see you breathing in the lush canyon perfume, my sweet. Is it not refreshing? As we escape the heaviness of the ocean air, we will become lighter, like dancing on the clouds.”
“Like dancing on a cloud,” Esteban muttered.
Sonja had captivated him from the start. Esteban wrote poetry for her, surprised her with flowers. They took long walks on the warm sands. He had even let her teach him to dance. In six months he thought he had captured the butterfly.
The late sun painted the canyon walls as they arrived. Esteban pictured himself being escorted through the mighty gates of a prison. Would he be able to escape, or would he remain here forever, broken and forgotten?
“See, you laugh already. Getting into the spirit of the evening, are you?” Sonja leaned over and kissed Esteban on his right cheek. “We will dance the weekend away, my love.”
Music and flowers were everywhere, mixed with the tinkling laughter of delicate women and the booming voices of men. They were engulfed, hugged, kissed, and greeted by a veritable swarm of friendly faces and arms. Esteban felt a wave of relief and his spirit lifted as they entered the great hall and were led into a huge ballroom.
Sonja seemed to know everyone, while Esteban knew no one. As she was drawn into a swirling mob of activity and laughter, he stood alone in the midst of the revelers. Alone! Esteban felt overwhelmed as he turned to orient himself. The cavernous room had been cleared of furniture, except for one long back wall lined with couches.
“Come dance,” said a glittering young lady. She took his hand, but another fellow swept her away.
Alone again, Esteban turned to the opposite wall with edges painted like an old wooden doorframe, with a scene overlooking a stone patio on a strand of beach, the ocean just beyond. He shook his head. The painting drew him in; it was more real to him than the room and dancing figures surrounding him.
He heard the distant call of the painted ocean, a table of men playing cards on the patio. A dark-haired lady in a crimson dress stood to one side of the table. Her face in profile, it was upturned with a wistful look.
Esteban knew that look! She was part of a group of people, yet she was alone. Alone! He and this elegant, painted figure were both so alone.
He crossed the dance floor, a man in a dream, part of a multitude, yet alone. The music diminished and dancers parted as he approached the painting. He was embraced by the sounds of the ocean and its salty air.
Esteban stood, transfixed. He looked at the lady and drank in her sadness. She raised her glass, took a sip, and turned to smile at him.
The dream engulfed Esteban. He stepped forward, took her hand, looked into her olive eyes, and smiled. She placed a kiss on his cheek and, together, they danced towards the ocean shore.
Dennis Eamon Young is a writer and professional photographer living out the dreams of his youth with his wonderful wife and a bevy of creative friends on the enchanting Central Coast of CA. Dennis is a current member and Past President of SLO NightWriters, for writers at all levels in all genres. Find them online at slonightwriters.org.