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Shaba Begins Here - Part I
“If dreams don’t become their people. People become their dreams. He didn’t understand at the time, but now he knows exactly what it means. I am the Hallelujiah man…” The song continued to play in his head. Not exactly a Christmas tune, he thought to himself. But there it was playing away, over and over again in his mind.

He walked out into the cold, damp, fresh air. It had snowed that morning. It was the first snow since last winter. The snow felt like a bummer and a gift at the same time. A bummer because it forebode the cold winter ahead, and a gift because it made everything look so wintry magical. And it had arrived just in time for the holiday season.

He started walking but didn’t really know where he was going, so he decided to stroll through Doughboy Park on his way to Roosevelt Avenue, where he stopped at LaFlor for a late afternoon cup of coffee.

"How are things?”

“Good, Sam, good. And you?”

“Not too shabby. Hey, have you seen Julie today?”

“No, she hasn’t come in. And usually if she hasn’t come in by now, we won’t see her.” Sam wondered whether to stay and drink his coffee or take it with him. He really had to speak to Julie. He was kicking himself for what he didn’t say last night. He ordered his coffee to go.

With a hot cup of java in his hand, Sam walked down to the small park in Woodside near the 65th Street Station subway stop. He cleared the snow off the bench seat and sat to drink his coffee. As he gazed at the Christmas tree lights, he started running the events of last night through his mind.

Sam bumped into Julie at a small holiday function the night before. Sam and Julie had known each other for years and had a friendly, acquaintance-like relationship. While he was always fond of her, he had never made any advances because she was seriously involved with a boyfriend to whom, within the past couple of weeks, she had gotten engaged.

When Sam arrived at the small restaurant party, the group was sitting around a table. To his surprise the only open seat was next to Julie. So he ordered a beer and sat down next to her. Around 11 PM the party started breaking up. The group's members had exchanged presents and everyone began leaving. Somehow, everyone except Julie and Sam.

The connection between them was strong, but intangible. This was a rare connection, both exciting and yet oh so familiar. Sam had long ago given up on the concept of love. George Bernard Shaw's insightful quotation had always sounded the alarm before: 'Marriage is the gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everyone else.' They walked up to Queens Blvd, which they strolled along until they came to The Gaslight bar, where they sat down and continued their conversation.

Frequently their discussions had a philosophical bent to them. Philosophy and questions of the universe seemed to be shared interests. And as the interplay between fate and choice was one of his favorite riddles in the universe, they eventually began journeying down that road. The wine enhanced and distorted the dialogue and this is where Sam knew he had slipped up.

She was preparing to be a minister at the Woodside Presbyterian Church. She was a thoughtful woman, from a good family and was now engaged to an enterprising man. Sam looked at her, staring into her big brown, hazel-green eyes. They were lively, animated and full of excitement as she spoke. As she rambled on, his mind began to wander to her most recent choice - whom she had agreed to marry, her boyfriend Robert.

Sam and Julie had a non-relationship relationship. This means that it was a relationship that both had allowed to be entirely governed by the social roles in which it had first began: organizational committee meetings and social events. Tonight was the first time that they had stepped outside of the safety zone of their protective institutional chaperon. Why, Sam thought? Why are we doing this now? Now that she's engaged?

She talked about the choices she had made in her life and how they did or did not affect what happened later. She had always had an open mind, so sometimes it was hard for Sam to know exactly what she thought. He knew that Bob provided her with the security that she needed, but he was also pretty sure that he didn't ring Julie's bells either. Actually he wasn't sure if anyone had ever rung Julie's bells. Maybe that's why Julie was comfortable stepping outside of the organizational cocoon now. Now that she was officially engaged, she had her magic engagement ring to stave off advances. And stave off ever letting any man shake her entire being down to its very essence.

Sam reflected on that for a moment, thinking of a time gone by when his bells had been rung soundly in the past. There was a longing for such a feeling. And it was once again inhabiting his heart.

The Christmas tree lights broke through Sam's train of thought. The dark of night was coming and there was a knot in his stomach. He had to see Julie...today. He finished his coffee, took a long last thoughtful look at the Christmas tree, and headed toward the subway platform.

As he was waiting for the subway, he recalled a scene from the movie ‘A Passage To India’. It was a story of fate and choice blended in with some awareness of the forces of the universe. The old wise man in the movie instructs the young man: “Do what you will. But it will not change anything.” Sam wondered, “Is this true?” He pulled out his cell phone to call Julie to tell her he was on his way ...