Bobby thinks of driving to Cuetzalan with Esperanza, then wonders why he is so eager. Paula, still his wife though they split long ago, finishes Angel Eyes to end the set, and he returns to the table where he met this new woman tonight, just before the set began. Now he drinks a Coke with her. He learns she does not live here, but in the Deep South . . . where exactly he does not remember when he returns to begin the next set and Paula asks if he’d like to sing Body and Soul, and he does.
He wants to calm the heartbeat, get it out of his head at least, and stays away when Sanchez offers to share marijuana with him before the night’s penultimate set. He needs to be himself. The jazz life may be good for music but it’s hell on the heart, he knows that from the inside out, top to bottom. He asks where she likes the food, where you can talk, he says, and she leads him to a café around the corner where he orders huevos rancheros and black coffee, and she seems to be waiting for him to talk and he can’t keep his eyes off her, not when she begins:
“I liked the song you sang very much. You’re not the usual singer?”
“No, Paula is. She asked if I wanted to sing the song, so I did. Did you like her work?”
“Ah, very much. She is a beautiful woman with great soul. She sings like an angel . . . Angel Eyes,” and Esperanza laughs as though amused by her word play, though he knows no one as beautiful as her would bother unless there were more to what she thought than she said.
“Can we talk about you?” he begins.
“There is nothing to say that you will not know, maybe . . . eventually. It depends.”
“Why do you live in the South?”
“I was born there. My father is a doctor in Atlanta. He was born in Texas. My mother was also born in Texas. San Antonio, both of them.”
“Do you live with them?”
“No. I sing for a living in two Atlanta nightclubs. Of course you know Edith Piaf? I love her even now. I have wanted to sing like her ever since I first heard her voice on an LP when I was a child. I would like to try my luck in Paris someday. . . . Maybe I will.”
Bobby learns she came to Mexico to get her mind off her troubles. Her marriage ended not long ago, and now she wants to hear the language. She says, “I do not speak well enough to do anything but listen. I have too much respect for a language I do not know well and maybe never will know well enough to try to speak it with others. I need to listen to songs here and go to Mexico City to hear songs there. If I don’t comprehend the lyrics fully, it doesn’t matter too much. I want to hear the music their words make and the music under and behind and all over the song." She smiled. "I need to hear singers make love with their words and see the way the audience responds, see if I still know what to sing of love sounds like . . . But I’m getting sappy. Why are you here?”
He listens to her talk and he wants the night to go on until they have nothing left to say . . . He tells her why he came here and he tells her about Cuetzalan, of what he remembers happened to him there . . . afterwards he knows he may not remember what he said. He is looking at her and hopes he will see her tomorrow night and be with her before leaving on the plane back to Seattle the next day. He will ask her to ride with them to Mexico City, where they catch their flight home. If she comes along, . . . he wants her to. “Will you sing tomorrow night?” she asks.
“If Paula will let me . . .” and he can’t help but smile, adding, “She’s paid to do it, not me. I just play clarinet now because D. G. died, our sax man who was better than any of us.”
(14-15 September 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander