Grief’s name is Lola. She was a showgirl.
Let me explain. This is not an attempt at humour. Before I begin, before she comes forward and speaks, I need you to understand why she is my grief.
My late husband and I have always had an appreciation for music. We love the classics and over the last few years we’ve been building up our music collection. There were many songs that we recognized from over the decades of the twentieth century being children of the 80s. Songs that we all know, even if only the first line or the chorus. Copacabana was one of those songs. When I rediscovered it earlier this year I actually listened to the lyrics properly for the first time. I had always assumed it a fun song about a club in Havana. I listened to the song again and I was sad. The tragedy of it all stuck with me. As an adult it was a realization that what we assumed as fun and carefree as children, wasn’t necessarily so, if you actually listened to the words of a song that had a catchy rhythm. How could I ever have known that a Barry Manilow song from the 70s could affect me so much. I want you to understand where this vision of my grief comes from, so just in case I’ve copied the lyrics down, minus the chorus, to create this understanding. I hope not to make anyone think me strange for this post.
“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star
Tony always tended bar
Across the crowded floor, they worked from 8 til 4
They were young and they had each other
Who could ask for more?
His name was Rico
He wore a diamond
He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancing there
And when she finished, he called her over
But Rico went a bit to far
Tony sailed across the bar
And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two
There was blood and a single gun shot
But just who shot who?
At the copa… she lost her love
Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl,
But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola,
Still in the dress she used to wear,
Faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind”
Lola sits up straight despite the evident weight of despair pressing down on her shoulders. She stares across the empty room. She hasn’t noticed me at the booth in the corner behind her table. I see her startle at the sound of a glass breaking. She doesn’t look around but rather shifts further forward on the edge of chair and takes another sip of her drink. I hear the sound of a broom sweeping up the broken shards, the shuffling of feet as the evidence of the accident is brushed away.
Her head tilts slightly toward the bar but she turns back quickly as if her heart couldn’t bear it. “I still see his smile,” Lola declares as she glances over her left shoulder towards the booth I’ve been sitting in quietly drinking my cold cup of coffee. This time I startle. She turns in her chair and looks up at me. “I still pretend he is going to walk through the door at any minute and pull me up into his arms and kiss me.”
I hold my tongue and let her continue. Tears well up in her eyes.
“Some days I remember how many weeks it’s been since I lost him. Other days I can’t even remember how many years have passed.” She pulls a faded feather from her hair and looks down as she turns it around in her fingers. She was beautiful once, her outfits were exquisite, her dance was flawless.
“You want to be like me,” she sighs, “You want to give up on the world. You want to sit in the same chair every day, wearing the same outfit every day, feeling the immensity of pain every day.”
I cannot answer her. I am afraid to answer. I do not want to lose my mind as I have lost my love, my life, my person. She looks up at many again. Her piercing eyes glaring straight into mine. Do I want to embody her for the rest of my life? I look away and sip my cold coffee. I remember other words I have heard before.
Learn how to carry your grief, do not be crushed by it, because when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.