I didn’t move right away, she stood there rapt, the music poured past us, into the street, across the river, maybe all the way back to where it was said it started with this guy whose horn you could hear all the way from over there. I did back up an inch so I could see her. She was tall, brown, and beautiful would not be quite the word. She did not move, the music kept going, I inched my way into the street, looked around, maybe even the moon looked down, well maybe, who could say . . . in the state I was in. The song I don’t remember, after all it was only a set of drums and a horn, and maybe others were, like me, curious how that could be . . . did they think of that guy, what was his name . . . maybe he didn’t exist, but every body here remembered, every finger, every toe . . .
I looked in and the place was crammed with souls. I kept looking at her watching the stage. She didn’t move, the music didn’t end, I walked away, down the street, by the water, wondering how far I would have to go before I reached the silence. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to stay and listen, but I wanted even more to go read in that book with the Japanese rock-garden cover that begins with “Difficulties of a Birdhouse Builder” and ends . . . well, Reynolds wrote more books and after Mexico City disappeared, they say, though I found his name in something from L. A., maybe it was a poem, one of those cascading, seemingly breathless runs down the scale, like “Que.”
I kept walking, keeping by the river, taking a stroll I'd call it. Maybe I was young, but it felt late. I had to find out what I wanted, what I could do. I loved to read, what nobody understood where I came from, and if you didn't read you had no reason to write, well, maybe I should see what happened when I wrote. But no, what I really wanted to do was get lost.
Someone had left a pen and piece of paper in a pew of St. Louis Cathedral. I wrote my name, “J. C.,” up in one corner, then started remembering the music I'd been hearing, thinking you don’t need much sound, just the kind that wraps around you and holds you in what feels like a caress the tone is so full, the beat insisting this is where it will stay unless sound goes deeper than ever. Something like that. A priest came over, greeting me, the only parishioner there . . . and me the heathen spawn of snake-handlers in hollows of the Blue Ridge, but I felt at home here and said so, and thanked the priest when he asked if there was anything he could do for me and I asked for and received more paper . . .
What I did was write a letter to my mother. I kept the stuff about the music here to myself, though I did say I missed the music there. What else I said was where I was, not with whom, not even how I felt about anything. I gave her some news, that’s all.
I went back to the café. The woman was gone. Ruby was gone, as was the horn man. So was Delia and her drummer. Was the music over? Or was I between sets? I would sit down and have a beer and look over what I said to the paper, which never interrupted . . . but somebody showed up. The Mexican. He would be having a party and asking me to come. I didn’t know why I'd say yes now after so many refusals, but say yes I did . . . I should have stayed with no.
(28 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander