Just Another Day

Catherine - Birmingham, Alabama
Entered on June 15, 2011
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Milor is sitting on my couch watching a video taken in Washington DC over a dozen years ago.

“Is that me playing the tambou?” he asks. The camera is at a distance, in the balcony. The back of a teal-shirted guy comes into view. He runs down the center aisle, jumps on stage and turns to face the audience. The drumming stops long enough for him to say “Hi. I’m Lesly.” He grabs a maraca and the back of a boy in a bright yellow shirt comes into view.

That’s how we started the second set of our concerts in those days. They wore tuxedos during the first half, and sang French chansons, Latin Cantate Dominos and English madrigals. After intermission they returned one by one, in bold t-shirts stamped with their name: Meli Melo.

“I weighed 118 pounds then,” Milor says. Seeing him now, it’s hard to remember how gaunt he looked when I first knew him in Port-au-Prince.

The music continues and we listen without speaking. A few songs later Milor turns to me and says as though surprised, “We were really good, weren’t we?”

“Yes. You were really good.”

“Cathy, if we had stayed together, we could have been professional. Maybe as good as the King Singers, couldn’t we?”

“Yes.” With their music in the background and Milor sitting next to me, the reminder of our failure stings as though it were only yesterday. My failure. I failed to keep them together long enough to see their dreams realized.

I no longer apologize. The guilt that used to haunt me has gone. But the ache of brokenness remains.

“Cathy, this is the first time I ever saw what we looked like performing.”

For the second time in less than an hour, I’m stunned. How could he not have seen a video of us? We performed two or three hundred times.

But then I realize: I didn’t see the videos either. I didn’t have a TV or VCR then. The images I’ve carried in my mind through the years are from where I stood on stage directing them.

In fact, I have only a couple of videos of our concerts among a box full of cassettes. One audio tape was made the day following the concert we are now watching. On that morning, like so many on tour, we’d loaded into our host’s van and headed out, still tired from the previous night’s concert. I knew we were doing an interview on public radio and figured it would be similar to those at other stops like Atlanta, Orlando, Boston, and places in between.

I now say to Milor, “We were in the elevator on the way to the seventh floor before I realized our interview was with Robert Siegel for All Things considered!”

Milor laughs. “We didn’t even know who he was then. To us, it was just another day.”

I wish I had a cassette player so we could hear that interview now.