The streets were desolate. True, in these times of a never ending pandemic, of violence, and natural disasters I'd expected less traffic but this was different. All the store fronts were empty, the side walks and crossings devoid of pedestrians and no vehicles in the street.
This had to be a dream or a nightmare? Could, as some speculated, the world always have been a virtual projection, one that had suddenly been switched off by its creator, signaling game over?
I began to fear there was no one or nothing left except me, but then I spotted it. A bus sat at the corner painted in psychedelic hues that reminded me of the 1960s tie dyed shirts.
Those times weren’t easy on the world either. There was war, civil unrest, and confusion. My own life hadn’t exactly been idyllic. There was the battle for life my body had come close to losing in its early stages, not taking in enough of what it needed to sustain itself.
The sometimes even fiercer struggle to find love and acceptance in a world I never could totally understand and never really understood me. There were a few people who tried, others who didn’t make an effort and those who were out and out cruel to one that was so different.
At some point it became easier just to pretend that the majority of my actual existence could simply be erased by disappearing into the alternate realities of the mind.
My imagination was one of the few strengths I possessed, and the music, books, and television shows, I’d surrounded myself with in reality provided the fuel to add to it and sustain it.
My feet began moving toward that one spot of bright color in the other wise beige barrenness.
Part of me feared getting on that bus but something told me I had to because there was something I had to accomplish, a debt that needed repaying. It didn’t matter that very few would get why I felt I owed it.
As I approached, the door opened. Putting aside my nervousness I climbed aboard. The driver was dressed more like a chauffeur in a black uniform and hat. He kept his head turned, and did not acknowledge my presence. There was a passenger in the seat directly behind him but he was holding up a newspaper in a way that kept me from getting a proper glimpse of him.
Being ignored still stung a little but I'd kind of become used to it through the years and much preferred it over being berated for simply existing as had happened more than once.
I frowned as I wondered whether the imaginary universe where I’d always felt accepted was closing its doors in my face. I mean many of the people who had populated it had passed away in the real world, maybe they could no longer exist here either.
Tears began to fall but then I heard a familiar British accented voice say, “Hey now! Don’t cry love. I’m still around for you. As long as you’re alive and have your memories, I’ll always be here, when needed.”
I looked up and there he was looking exactly like he had when my five year old self had first laid eyes on him. He had long dark hair and kind chocolate colored eyes. He was kind of short, and over the years as I’d grown in height, I’d come to prefer to add taller guys to my very nice to look at gallery. It didn’t matter. He was still my first celebrity crush, Davy Jones of the Monkees.
At that tender age I didn’t really know what physical attraction was or what adult relationships entailed. I only knew when he smiled he made me smile, and hearing him speak and sing so soft and gentle calmed my fears.
Whenever I turned on the TV on Saturday mornings, he and his three mates would make me laugh so hard, I’d forget the mean faces, the sting of the ruler against my bare back, and the taunting words of my teacher who’d punished me just for laughing.
They reminded me that being happy was not only not wrong but wonderful. During the rest of the week I had their records to sing to and that always made me feel better no matter what bad thing had happened at school.
That made me want to live in a world where they were actually a part of my life. I even remember putting on my communion dress and veil and pretending I was marrying Davy, at age seven, even though I knew I was way too little.
He patted the seat next to him. I moved forward and did as he indicated. “So talk to me,” he said. “You’ve listened to our music on and off over the years but you’ve really been thinking about us again a lot over the past few. Why?”
“Remember the song you and Peter did the duet on, “Shades of Gray?”
“Yes, it was a beautiful one.”
“After the World Trade Center was hit, that song came into my head and I needed to hear it again. Especially that line, “We had never lived without or tasted fear.” It described exactly what I was feeling. The terror, the doubt, and confusion. The people who wrote that song for you in the sixties and you guys who performed it must have felt much the same way back then as we did on 9/11, and like the way we feel again now.
You all experienced those dark times but you not only survived but found a way to remember the joys of singing and laughter and shared it with the rest of us.
“Like a sad lonely little girl?”
“Yes. It reconnected me to the Monkees music and reminded me how much you guys meant to me, and how much I owed you. Then you died, then Peter, and a few weeks ago Mike too. Three of the four of you are gone and I never got to say thank you, because I didn’t ever get to meet you,” I said.
“You’re telling me now, and you also told them.” The bus driver turned around and I saw he was Mike Nesmith. The man with the paper lowered it and grinned. It was Peter Tork.
“But you’re not real,” I protested.
“Hey, the critics claimed we weren’t a real band but we were. You know why because when we played and sang we played with love, and when all of you fans watched our show, bought our records, came to see us, and still remember us after 57 years, you returned that love. Love is always real, man!” Mike said.
“And it never dies! Plus there’s still Micky in your verse,” Peter added.
“They're right you know, love, and remember what I said we are always in your heart and mind ready to cheer you up, and despite that “Don’t Listen to Linda,” song I once sang. We will always listen to you,” Davy said.
“Love you guys!”
“Love you too.”
With that I was back in the actual world with all its problems but even though there was darkness and gray there was light too. “Alexa, play Laugh by the Monkees. I said. Davy’s voice filled the room with song. I smiled knowing as long as I live I'll remember those four talented guys who taught me never to be ashamed of that joyous sound. To Davy, Peter, Mike and Micky, thanks guys for being there then and now.