“The king is dead,” I blurted, staring straight ahead. The words leapt out of my mouth before I could see them, let alone catch them.
It was three minutes past midnight. With a jeweled paper crown atop my head and sparkly Cinderella shoes on my feet, I sat alone at a table a few yards from the dance floor when the tall figure in a white cowboy hat approached slowly and asked, “Where’s the king?”
I first came to this dance as a newlywed, but on this night my now former husband instead sent a small wave and slight smile my way. For nearly 20 years I came with my second husband, John, whose figure appeared larger than life flashing on a big screen of scenes from past years of this midwinter celebration…years when he was still alive. Some years I came with longtime friends. This night I braved it solo, confident the place would be filled with familiar friendly faces.
The words I spoke to the rancher revealed the story that was running in my head.
That I am alone. That I am no longer with either of the men who had accompanied me to this annual event over the decades. That it is the end of the night and that I will walk myself to my car. That an empty bed awaited me.
The story had a truthful ring. But more true was that I’d had a beautiful day. It started with the surprise of sunshine and a warmer than expected February forecast. All day I sold raffle tickets and promoted pasta dinners to fundraise for my friend, Jim, who was hurt in a motorcycle accident. Next, I celebrated my favorite cousin’s 60th birthday, chatting with family and getting a warm hug from a divorce client from a decade ago.
For an incorrigible extrovert, life doesn’t get much better than this.
Despite a day being surrounded by people I love and people who love me, I declared my abandonment to this handsome fellow as though it were a royal edict. Like an ear worm from an annoying song, some stories stick in my brain and are resistant to moving on. The grooves of my well-worn neuropathways of abandonment are deep, having first been paved a half century ago growing up in an alcoholic home.
In that split second I forgot the loveliness of my entire day. More than one person said “I love you” to me that day. I received more smiles than I could count and almost as many thank you’s. I danced for hours with no need of a partner because all around me were playful people in silly costumes who were happy to have me join in on the fun.
Stepping outside my story of being divorced and widowed, I can tell another tale that is far truer.
And the next time a cowboy moseys over, perhaps my reply will be more than mere reaction. More real. The Queen of Hearts is without a king. But whether it is because she is divorced or widowed or never had a fellow monarch, her life is full of love and welcoming arms and heartfelt appreciation. I am not alone—and I need not ever be—so long as I am willing to see the love that that fills my realm.
Happy Valentine’s Day.