Sunday night, the dark and lonely place in which we bury the rest of the week's body. Despite this melancholy bent, I still had to work. She was feeling insecure and was out there in the audience watching. Maybe she just had nowhere else to go.
I tried to steal a look, but the lights were too bright. I did not let it bother me too much, in a minute or two I would temporarily achieve a kind of state of grace, horn in hand.
When she wanted a drink, she would make her hands flap like a bird in flight. When she thought about us, she would press her index finger into her top lip.
Her being here was in no way a defeat. Long before my residency she was a regular, I knew she was following me although it would appear otherwise.
Lapin was taking his solo. There were two women in the crowd he had begun to chat up right before the start of the set, so he would pull out all the stops. Ah, the Rachmaninov quote, I had plenty of time to look around.
The back of the room as I imagine it, she is dancing in a glass half filled. Bourbon dreams, nails across the back, lipstick valentines written on the bathroom mirror.
I could see out the window by the corner table. A cold wind, in the street, the shadows of the parking meters, negative posts from which to hang nothing.
The absence of the sun brings out appetite, truth. Somewhere, someone is dying, somewhere someone is scared. I thank god, horn in hand, I can briefly paint over the savage tragedy of the human condition. Horn in hand, I thank god it is not me, not this time.
All I can offer up as sacrifice is a song. Lapin stops, horn in hand, I rejoin the fray.
The set ends and despite the applause, now I must rejoin humanity, exiled from an Eden which had existed for exactly twelve choruses.
A quick drink backstage with Lapin. I had to guard against him stealing my lighter, again. Lapin was going for chop suey with one of the two girls, I headed to the bar, to her.
I asked her if she wanted to tag along with Lapin. I knew she did not, I knew she hated him, but to not make the offer would only give her ammunition for a future fight.
She was always after me to drink tea, thought it would improve my health. Tonight I did not mind if some eggs were involved too.
We went to the diner close to home, I liked the way they burnt the hash to just the right degree of crispiness.
I let her carry my horn, she already knew how to fasten the old belt I used to keep the case shut. She put her free hand in mine. In this one act was defeat, laziness and endearment. How I interpreted it largely depended upon my mood.
"It was a good set" I said to myself.
"Was there some Debussy thrown into his solo, or one of those Russian guys...?"
I often did not want to talk. The waitress takes our orders, she too is hungry. I am beyond reading too much into that.
I often did not want to talk. My words were just ghosts of what mattered, that which passed through the bell of Maxine first.
My offstage silence, she felt this honored her.
"We do not have to talk."
She would sometimes talk for the both of us. Lost in thought, I still had impeccable timing, I always knew when to nod.
She would talk.
Despite her protests, I often undressed myself, but she still choreographed everything, top, oral, doggy.
Sometimes it would grate my nerves. When she seemed to lose the spirit of the whole thing and just became bossy. Telling me to kiss her, kiss her hard, dream about her...
Even still, even when devolving into a sort of vulgar street fight gone horizontal, to me there is always a purity, an honesty to be found in appetite. This I always appreciated.
We finish. She rolls over, she will catnap awhile before washing up. I decide to shower. I keep the light out. That of the sink which was not covered by dirty laundry showed a pock marked crescent moon to the dark of an indifferent room.
I turn on the shower and let the water heat up. Standing in front of the mirror my fingertips trace the tiny holes. Here she had left her cigarette to burn while soaking in the tub. Someday, when I leave I will have to pay for that.
(Image: 'Cufflinks' by Wayne Wolfson)
FICTION & POETRY ARCHIVE