Wrapped together, a knot of white, one lover dies as the other comes to life, only to die again. The burgundy curtains drop. The music resumes, cast bowing to polite clapping. I'm sitting in the third balcony as Romeo and Juliet run from the curtains, immortal. The audience stands and claps and claps and claps. My hands are sore, my arms ache, my eyes droop.
"That was the longest clap ever," says one of the girls from the book club.
"Was it ten minutes?" says another.
"At least five."
I'm a parent-teacher-volunteer-driver tonight as Moira and her friends re-live the Moscow Ballet at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina. The girls in my cousin's van sing along to Z99 on the radio as I drive home.
"Sorry for ignoring you," says my shotgun rider.
"No. I'm happy in my own little world," I say.
I'm home after eleven and I'm a comic grump. Michael and Moira laugh at me. I have only three chapters left in Three Day Road. My eyes are focusing in and out, but I keep reading. Xavier, Little Bird Dancer, is dying on the third day. Elijah's ghost is haunting. The war is still raging. Eyes are blurring the words. Must. Find. Out. What. Happens. Niska, his auntie, is taking him deeper and deeper in the sweat. To live or to die, Niska says, is his choice now. She lays down to dream his dreams. Niska's last words, "By tomorrow we'll be home."
I wake this morning and sleep walk to school. As I cross the tracks in the dark, going or coming, I'm not sure now, I remember how Romeo and Juliet are still alive. And Little Bird Dancer, Oniimowi Pineshish, is still dancing on page 362, just like Keat's lovers from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" are "forever panting, forever young." And how Sandy Pinay Schindler told my students that when she went to school, she learned the names of all the Kings and Queens of England, and about the Treaty of Versailles, and how funny would it have been if her parents had phoned up the school to complain about Shakespeare in the classroom, so really, a little Canadian treaty teaching is long overdue. And maybe I am walking home in the dark, but my heart is light remembering Romeo, Juliet, Xavier, Niska, Shakespeare and Keats who said it best, " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."