Friday, July 9, 2010

a minor interlude

a minor interlude

He came for the music. And the romance.

Summer at the big international jazz festival. He had decided to go,
not because he was secure in his tastes and passions, but to help create
his burgeoning self-definition -- the true function of the summer of our
lives. It was time to escape the endless malls and predigested
televised opinions into the heart of a city that pulsed with life. And
here, where no one knew his name, he was finally free to become what he
could be, wandering unfamiliar streets and imagining himself to be, at
last, truly home.

He was staying at a cheap little student-ghetto hotel, barely more than
a hostel, in a compact room with a cot and bathing facilities down the
hall. There was also a breakfast room, where complimentary coffee and
pastries were provided, along with the chance to meet and greet his
fellow travelers. Many of them were musicians -- not the big names that
drew in the international aficionado crowd, but someday would-bes, young
folks, like himself, trying out their talents on the streetcorners, in
the parks, in the breakfast room of their temporary quarters. Some knew
of local bars where for the price of a pricey beer you could hang for
hours enjoying the late night sets of local talent, more intimate venues
than the big street-stage and theater performances of the daylight and
early evening.

He loved her wide, infectious smile, and the sparkle in her dark,
shining eyes. He had noticed her immediately at the bar, sitting with
her friends, enjoying the music, and at his hotel where she worked as a
desk clerk on the day shift, making the place feel more like a happy
home. She worked there for a small room and a smaller salary and
waitressed at a nearby coffeeshop for meals, tips, and a small hourly
wage -- altogether it worked out for her, and life was mostly fun, with
occasional high drama. So she smiled, widely, infectiously, so that
everyone loved to be around her. Looking at her, he felt so overwhelmed
with joy that he wanted to cry -- like at the end of a truly meaningful
book or movie that touches you so deeply that it seems to speak to you,
to speak only to you. He looked deeply into her eyes, dark and shining,
across the room, where she smiled and swayed to the rhythm of the band,
lost in the music. Saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, keyboards, backed up by
a big, bass fiddle -- sometimes wildly raucous, sometimes slow and
dreamy, as each soloed, duoed, came together in soaring syncopation,
dropping in or out with inspiration or exhaustion, all so achingly
beautiful -- the music, the soft summer night, the girl.

Because he was the kind who stood back and observed life without really
taking part in it, he could see and admire her propensity for jumping in
with both feet, never looking back. He watched mesmerized while she
danced and flirted to the music, making it her own.

Being a true student of life, he carried with him always a small journal
into which he would write quick impressions, ideas as they occurred.
So, now, as he sat hidden in the darkness, allowing his imagination to
sway to the rhythm of the band, he wrote:

"They would have to find a way to come together, he and she. After all,
if there were no meeting, how could the story begin? From where would
the story come, to be told? The 'jazz scene' is not enough. We need
characters to form a plot, the experiences from which those characters
can develop and grow. We need relationships in our lives within which
we can learn to become ourselves. And all this is just deep
philosophical shit for the basic premise that, hey, I am drawn to this
girl, more than just attracted by her adorable appearance. I am
developing an actual need to get to know her, to learn about who she is,
and who I can be in relation to her. So why don't I just do the prosaic
thing and go ask her to dance?"

So he did.

And they danced. And laughed. And kissed on the dance floor, hugging,
and laughing, and dancing -- just like young lovers to be.

"Come back to my room with me." he murmured into her ear, as it
conveniently came into contact with his lips.

"Can't do it. How would the other guests feel, not getting room service
and all."

"Then I'll go back to your room."

"Hey, I'm not that kind of girl. Think of my self-respect. Besides,
what would our kids say when we told them."

"So far as I know, we don't have any. And what about my self-respect,
being shot down when I've finally gotten up the nerve to ask you."

"Tell you what, then, tomorrow happens to be my day off. I'll let you
escort me to the Festival -- a date like."

"Sounds like fun. I'll meet you in the breakfast room around 11:30 and
treat you to your second cup of coffee wherever you suggest."

"It's a deal! By the way, I'm Celeste."

"A pleasure to meet you, Celeste. You can call me Paul."

And so they went, twirling/embracing in a romantic daze to the
ever-changing, expanding band of after hours musicians, until at last
they walked each other home, separating at the stairs, parting with a
kiss "to seal the deal." -- a very passionate deal, indeed.

The day dawned bright and warm, but by 11:30 had deteriorated into
overcast and sweltering. She took him to a corner cafe for iced
cappucinos to go, to keep them more comfortable on their walk to the
Festival grounds -- several blocks of temporary music-mall on streets
closed to traffic for the occasion, dotted along the way with stages and
concession booths centered by a large, flowing fountain which was
surrounded by chairs and umbrella'd tables, surrounding several
temporary out-door cafes and bars. The music was everywhere, from lone
guitarists plugged in to mini-amps along the fountain to big, shiny
bands taking their turns on the stages -- so that as you moved far
enough for one to fade you came into the aural purview of another.

The crowds of revelers made a colorful array -- many of them dancing to
the music, individually, in couples, and in groups. Children squirting
each other with their water bottles darted in and out amongst the
longer-legged. The concessionaires were in their glory selling cold
drinks, snow cones, commemorative clothing and cds. Despite the heat,
everyone was taking full advantage of the party atmosphere, joining in
the general soundscape with their own gleeful screaming and applause.

It seemed like the perfect time to be in love. Celeste and Paul found
themselves falling into that marvelous, magical natural high, and
gladly, giddily, let it carry them bubbling above the crowd into the
pure realm of jazz vibrations and each other's eyes.

It was the one perfect moment in my life. In the dark winters of my
discontent, I am always trying to go back to it -- my own transcendent
summer of love.

Thunder and scattered raindrops had them dashing from the festival
grounds and, as the downpour hit, ducking into a neighborhood bar to
stay dry. They ordered beers and punched up some dreamy tunes on the
jukebox. Then sat for hours talking about everything. It all seemed so
important -- giving each other the gifts of all their hopes, dreams,

They wanted to say there forever, to Vulcan mind-meld, to touch and
never let go.

As it got later into evening, the bar started filling up. A band set up
and a chanteuse came out to sing hauntingly beautiful songs of love.

Eventually they walked each other home, but did not separate at the
stairs. There was still so much they needed to express. So much that
they didn't sleep at all and never separated until Celeste had to leave
for work, leaving Paul to think deep thoughts while luxuriating in the
magical spell that seemed to surround him.

At that age he should have been free, open to limitless possibilities.
For a time he was able to fool himself, to believe that life should be
that way. He hadn't intended to fall in love, only to flirt with
romance, the romance of anonymity, of, for a short time inbetween, the
chance to reinvent himself any way he might choose.

But now, here was this cosmic gift, this beautiful woman -- not only
beautiful but intelligent, funny, incredibly fun to be with, a
powerhouse of energy with a smile that could transport him directly to
paradise -- this woman whom he could not help but to love in ways he had
never believed possible; and she loved him, mind, body, soul, exactly as
he was, here and now. He had not even realized how lonely he had always
been until now that suddenly that burden had been lifted. He felt like
he could fly on wings of song, and never, ever need the touch of land --
only the touch of Celeste to keep him flying eternally.

Once she set her mind to something it never took long to have it done.
In a few days time, she had quit her hotel clerking position, and gotten
a full-time waitress job at a place where the tips were good. Through
her vast social network, she found him various odd jobs, under the
table, and a small furnished apartment, just right for young lovers.
She was even able to find a local arts rag that would pay him for his
stories, albeit not much. It helped them afford the beers and munchies
at their favorite neighborhood bar where they could share intense
conversation with her friends, who in deference to her were now becoming
his as well, and dance intimately late into the night to the local
bands. An idyllic life to settle into, filled with love and fun and,
for Paul, a great adventure.

For several weeks he just went along for the wild ride, thanking his
good fortune, learning about the ways of love on hot, sultry nights.

Perhaps he was at heart a coward. He hadn't been raised to the wild,
but carefully taught to honor responsibilities. He knew he had a future
to go back to, one that revolved around college classes, a part-time
job, studying and making contacts, occasional dating of course, but not
these new found friends, his new found life and love. His parents had
sacrificed to give him a better chance, a high-priced, prestigious
education. He was expected to take this seriously, make the very most
of it, make them proud. Perhaps he just did not have whatever it is
that it takes to stand in defiance of all that one has been taught to
honor. When the time came, it wasn't even a decision -- he just did
what he had been programmed to do, with wrenched heart and staunchly
blankened mind.

They said they'd keep in touch. And from time to time they did.

She runs a successful bed and breakfast in a tranquil resort town, along
with her ever-cheerful husband and their two cuddly kids. The place is
somewhat famous for its largely musical clientele.

He is a reporter for a metropolitan newspaper, covering the local jazz
beat, without an alter-ego as a caped crusader.

The music keeps me sane.

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