Save The Last Dance
Author: Eric Joseph & Eva Ungar
Publisher: Hargrove Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross were teenage sweethearts who grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in the late 50’s and early 60's. They set a wedding date when they turned fifteen. The day came and went. For most of their lives the two were out of contact.
With their 50th high school reunion approaching, Adam and Sarah reconnect. Email exchanges - after the first tentative "hi", then a deluge- five, ten- by the end of the week twenty emails a day. Soon Sarah admits, "All my life I've been looking for someone who loves me as much as you did".
Written entirely in email and texts, Save the Last Dance allows the reader to eavesdrop on Sarah and Adam's correspondence as their love reignites. It also permits the reader to witness the reactions of significant others, whose hum-drum lives are abruptly jolted by the sudden intrusion of long-dormant passion. Can Sarah and Adam's rekindled love withstand the pummeling they're in for?
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To: Paul Bishop <Paul.R.Bishop@dewey.com>
October 12, 2014 4:54 pm
Subject: Finally saw Sarah, virtually
Oh Paul — “L’avventura” continues. No pauses for breath or thought. Since the last email, this thing with Sarah has detonated. We are now writing each other all day, every day, sometimes at night, on the way to work, at work, lunch, at intersections, on the back porch. I spend my days longing for her messages and panic when an hour goes by without. No more tentative phrases and innuendo. No more stuff about vague ambiguous longing. It’s full blown, Paul. Jesus H — it’s sweet passion and sexy -particularly exciting because we never had the chance in our first go-round way back when.
The day came. We decided it was the right time to finally see each other — to Skype. I was in Cleveland, alone. Sarah picked a time when I would call. I brought three changes of clothes and tried each of them on before we Skyped — stood back from the mirror and rejected them all. I finally settled on a button-down light blue shirt with one of those newfangled small-ish collars, and a dark blue crew neck. (I remembered that Sarah doesn’t like V-necks.) The pants, Izod chinos with the pleated front and room to grow. I was now prepared with my best Belmondo charm to woo Sarah into bed.
It wasn’t like that, though. I don’t know what it was, Paul. Maybe it was modesty, perhaps fear about what we must look like now to people who last saw us when we were young. The mask of age. Anyway, whatever it was, when the time came we both sat in the shadows in our respective rooms and just peered at the camera. First there was giggling over nothing. Eventually, I decided to thrust my face forward into the light, regardless of the consequences. Sarah leaned forward herself for a moment, her hand over her face, just briefly let her eyes show and stared at me nervously. Later she said she thought me so handsome still. I told her I would recognize those beautiful baby blues anywhere, if only she would let me see them clearly.
I couldn’t really see her face. The light was arranged so only a silhouette was visible. For a while she resembled someone being interviewed in the witness protection program. I expected her voice to sound shrill and electronic. “I foist met Vinnie da Butcher Bugliosi in 1946 at a pizza parlor in Passaic. He showed me a good time. His last words to me were ‘keep your mouth shut’.”
As for the rest of her, I conjured up the worst — telling myself I will love her no matter what. I had visions of Sarah Ross now — cauliflower ears and 7 teeth, four of which dangled precipitously. I feared her neck would show signs of some old rope burns from 10 years ago, when she tried to hang herself in the mental ward.
When Sarah finally spoke, her voice was soft. Softer than I remembered, sweet, more confident, deeper. At first she spoke out of the darkness. She said, “It’s you. It’s really you.” The conversation deteriorated from there. And I said, “It’s you, really you,” but I wasn’t sure. Except for the voice it could have been Golda Meier there, for all I knew. When she finally leaned into the light, I must have lost my breath. I saw her — and despite the few wrinkles, the face more set in place, she was immediately my girl, her smile now even sweeter. Her gestures were more refined and confident. She was dressed elegantly for me — a silky salmon top and a paisley shawl. The years dissolved, and the fears about age were gone. My Sarah and she beamed at me. We talked softly, nothing sexually charged about it, just soft remembrance. We imagined that we were back in her sunroom, with the low red love seat — tamely making out — her hand caressing my belly but- ton, just under the belt — how we slept together at 15, quite literally, in that hot room, napping together in the heat — or about her head on my lap when we watched The Twilight Zone Friday nights — or the path we took through Cain Park when I carried home her books after school — or the people we routinely met along my paper route. At some point, Paul, we stopped talking and simultaneously touched our fingers to our lips and reached toward the screen.
Eric is in public health, a consultant/educator at hospitals and clinics, concentrating his career on Native American health services across the country. Eva is an art historian who taught at Williams College in Massachusetts for 40+ years. She specialized in African and African-American art; the history of European painting: also Holocaust Studies - memorials and museums; In addition, she has performed in and written Sounding to A, a multi-media work about inheriting the Holocaust. It premiered at the Ko Festival of Performance in 2004.
Learn more about Eva and Eric and their history together by visiting hargrovepress.com - At the website you'll find memories about their time together in the late 50s, early 60s, as well as interviews from today.
Their latest book is the literary fiction, Save The Last Dance.
Like the characters in our novel, we too were teenage sweethearts who set a wedding date when we turned fifteen. After high school we lost track of each other for decades. A couple of years ago, though, around the time of our 50th high school reunion, we exchanged emails. Three the first day. Four the second. Twenty-three the third day. By the fourth day we were writing lines like this: Eva: "There has always been a chamber in my heart reserved for you." Eric: "We were lost in the stars with love." Yeah, that's how it happened. That fast.
Before long, as our new relationship continued, we recognized that the story might make a compelling novel. From the outset we envisioned a plot that unfolded entirely through email and texts. We wanted readers to feel as if they were eavesdropping on people caught in such an extraordinary situation. Using our own experience as a basis, we let our characters, Sarah Ross and Adam Wolf, cover the same terrain, but travel their own paths. We believed the novel needed to be more complex than the usual lost-love romance. The narrative is kept authentic because it includes the responses of those who disapprove, and seek to disrupt, the reunion.
We sometimes wonder where the confidence came from to write a debut novel at age 68. Frankly we're not sure. Although each of us published in our own fields, neither of us had written fiction, not for quite a while. In his teens, however, Eric had been a prolific writer - short stories for the high school literary magazine, and even a novel at age 15. (Eric can't remember what it was about - probably some cowboy shoot-'em-up in Pittsburgh.) Just as we reached back in time to rekindle our romance, we also revived our dream of becoming novelists.
I'm not sure if, in the end, we would still be together, had it not been for the book. It bonded us. The collaboration was seamless. Exciting. We wrote together. We wrote separately. In the end we passed every word by the other and shaped the prose jointly. We took turns writing the voices of different characters - invented some out of whole cloth - and laughed at their bumbling ways. One of the benefits to us in writing the book was the ability to use our characters' words to communicate with each other. When Sarah, for instance, grows anxious about how, at 68, she may look to Adam when they finally meet, Adam reassures Sarah/Eva that it doesn't matter. His love can see through the mask of age.
Age, of course, is a major player in our story. On some days we feel like teenagers again, but we realize the needle is at the far right of the timeline for us. This is the dichotomy - the infirmities and obligations that accompany you into your 70s are weighed against the chance to nab vitality again. In the end, the novel has kept us young. It is not just a product of our new life, but an affirmation that new adventures can await us at any age.