Truth be told, I didn’t go anywhere but to work next day and those that followed.
I hated to jilt Blanche, but I did. I rationalized it by telling myself she would’ve done the same if she’d been in my place. I did go back a week later and ask the desk clerk if she was still there, and she was, so I handed him an envelope to put in her mailbox, which he did; it contained all but a few dollars of my first paycheck, which being a stevedore, was considerable. I wrapped a note around the cash saying how fine a woman she was, and other things I suspected would anger her, but I had my say because I had a fine time with her and she should know it, even if she would be angry for a long time until she forgot she’d ever known me. I know that sounds self-serving but so be it, I’d rather say it, if only to myself.
I hate to think about what a bastard I’ve been, but it would have been worse if I'd kept it up.
Ruby and Delia introduced me to the music. They’d only been there a little while–they met up in Memphis and got the lay of that town before they came through Mississippi here, where they really fell in love with the music of the place, the South I mean. And we thought that being from Virginia we knew all the music there was . . . but hell, that’s how it must always be, going from one place to another to live: you thought you knew enough to gauge what it would be like anywhere else, at least until you arrived and wised up.
Ruby and I got back to being where we’d been, once. Delia found a kid she liked and he showed her the town. Being young, younger than Ruby and me, they had a good time and were gone all but when Delia came home for a change of duds. Her friend was a drummer, he said, and I took his word for it until one night Delia and Ruby asked me to come along and listen to the music.
I loved being by the river even if I worked there. They had the door open, it was a warm night, and I decided to stand by the door while Ruby and Delia went to find a seat. The sounds outside and inside mingled and I felt like I was in the middle of something I loved. Not that I knew why. I had experienced feelings like these in the mountains when the birds and the animals made their sounds in the wind blowing through the trees. Here, it was like living on the water, which made me feel new, I’d never been down by the water until now, and once I got used to it I knew I would overdo it the way I overdid everything I learned to love alone.
I also knew it was dangerous to get so wrapped up in something you started dreaming you were swimming, say, when you were sleeping. You had to stay at least a little conscious if you were going to surface to breathe and not get pulled under where, hell, no one can keep living just to learn to love water. But this was something I'd never felt until now.
The kid on the drums laid down the beat and the guy on the horn was damned good, I said aloud. The woman who’d stepped through the door, standing beside me, echoed my words.
(27 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander