I had dreamt I was at Florence’s concert, trying to suppress my laughter. The others were laughing uncontrollably all the while she continued singing, oblivious to it all. Cole Porter sitting to my left let out a short giggle. Eventually he gave up trying and quite literally rolled on the ground laughing, but as if in pain.
She had, in the unflattering sense, quite the voice. No voice mixer could fix her deficiencies. No musician could play along with her. Invariably they would all miss a beat or miscue notes. Mildly put, she was tone deaf.
And the dress! She wore the most hideous of creations! Hand-stitched by her or her mother, no less. One had to be embarrassed for embarrassment.
When she had finished butchering the song as best she could she came to our table. She sat down in the empty seat beside me. Cole regained his composure somewhat by adjusting his jacket. The crowd watched and talked in whispers.
“How was it, Darlings?” she asked.
“Couldn’t have been more magnificent,” I replied suppressing a grin.
Cole took out a cigarette, tapped it upon the case, lit it, dragged on it, and blew a steady stream of smoke toward her.
“Bravo! Now where’s the champagne?!”
The waiter nodded and walked away to fulfil the order.
Florence lent forward passed me to take the cigarette case from Cole’s hand. I saw the gentle brush fingers upon his. He didn’t flinch. She didn’t blink. I offered her a flame. In the glow I could see her eyes stare intently at Cole’s gaze. Never once did she look at me. In that moment I had been invisible to them. Their private connection was severed only by the returning waiters, as though for my sake. But secretly, I was happy they had found each other like two ships in the night.
And like a key, the tacky metaphor woke me from the impossibility of the situation.