I. When We Two First Met
The band starts up a set. People talk about it. I don't know much about the Jazz, but people seem excited by what's happening. The woman in the blue dress sitting two tables away, facing me, her plum lips wrapping around the rim of martini, smiles and puts her drink down. She stands, revealing the all too revealing slit in her skirt. Some legs run for miles. Some run for days. These legs run beyond time and space and make you beg for their attention. It's a strapless, backless number meant to ensnare guys like me. Show what we can't have and such.
The trumpet player is getting me in a way I never knew a trumpet could. I don't know this music, I don't know how it should make me feel, all I know is that it kind of makes me want to dance despite its less than upbeat sound. My eyes are closed, head bouncing with the bassist; I sip my whiskey sour, and am unaware when the woman pulls up a seat next to me.
"It's a Miles Davis tune,"
I open my eyes, "I'm sorry?" I say, even though I heard her well enough. Her voice meshes with the music.
"Miles Davis. It's called So What, kind of a standard. But I didn't expect much more from a place like this."
"Mmm," I sip my sour.
She smiles and slides a cigarette from her purse. "Got a light?"
My Zippo flips out almost on its own.
"Didn't think you were allowed to do that anymore, Miss?"
Her eyes are mahogany, her hair cherry wood. Ash drifts from her cigarette to the pristine table cloth. I smell a field of heather. She winks.
"I take it you're not a Jazz man. No, from the look of you, I'd say you don't take any special interest in music at all."
"Everyone likes music," I light up a smoke of my own. I can't tell her brand. I lick mine to make sure the self-rolled seal stays.
"Save you, Mr.?"
"Now, now Miss, I like my music fine. Just never been much of a Jazz fan before."
A waiter comes by and hands Miss Blue a brand-new Martini despite the still half-full one sitting at her other table. A saxophone steals my attention. I don't think I've ever heard one live.
She laughs, "My favorite sound in the whole wide world is a good saxophone solo."
Between her voice, and its satin touch, and the saxophone's cries my eyes well up a bit. Nothing that can't be wiped away, but she notices. Playing it cool has been all but played out, so I quit the coy and go for the bold. Her eye shadow sparkles in the dim light and the band, as if on cue, slows it down.
"They call me Mab,"
I chuckle, "Like the faerie queen?"
"A dream weaver." Her lips, ripe and juicy, wrap again around the glass. A chill runs through me.
"And so you are, Mab. You can call me Oberon."
"I like a man who knows his literature. What's your music then, my Oberon," she leans in and raises her eyebrows.
The trumpet makes me sway. "I'm thinking it'll be this from now on. Normally though? I guess whatever is on the radio. Come to think of it, I don't own a stereo," I lean into her, "Think you can still be interested in a man without quite so sophisticated music tastes?"
"I think I like a blank slate to work with."
Her hand finds mine across the table. She glides a finger along my palm and I try to resist, but somewhere between the cool touch and the fire it inspires I quiver a little. More trumpet. It's something about the horns.
"What do you say we get out of here?" On my very tippy-toes under the table.
"My place, the music is better."
Davis seems to follow us onto the city street. We walk arm in arm, the early winter chill presses her close to me. "Here," I wrap my jacket around her. "No coat on a night like this?"
"I don't usually walk back to my place."
A few cars go by from time to time, the occasional person here and there, otherwise a quiet night in the windy city. A perfect night to bask in streetlight.
Her place is only six or so blocks away from the nightclub. In the elevator she presses those lips against mine, her tongue searching inside my mouth. A curious cold is left behind. A comforting one, like a chilly night under a blanket.
I still hear the bass and the drums playing us off into the night.
Morning is a long way off. I think I hear the band start up again. She's the queen of dreams and I'm her king. If this ain't love I don't know what is. And just as we're about to fade to black and let the credits roll I ask her, "What about conflict? Isn't a story supposed to have it? I can't think of one piece of literature that doesn't."
"And what if we're a song? Something to dance to, no conflict needed."
"Aren't songs short-lived?"
II. The Radio Edit
I find myself driving to work, listening to The Killers or whatever poppy shit's on the air, wondering exactly what the fuck I was doing at a Jazz club last night. And whatever happened to Mab? I remember waking up at her place, lipstick on nearly every inch of my body, and there being a note on the table next to me. At least I think I remember this.
Someone cuts me off and the music chokes my thoughts.
I fold paper footballs at my cubicle. I color each one with a brand-spanking new purple sharpie. My radio drools out the same old dribble that's all starting to sound way too much alike after the Jazz club.
Bird's eye view: twenty or so schmucks sitting at computers pretending to work as much as they work all wearing white collar shirts with only haircuts and ties to separate them. The four female temps all work close to the boss's office. Any of them would kill for the kind of night I think I had.
When it comes time to do some actual work focusing becomes a problem. The radio which used to help me concentrate might as well be a snowy TV. I shut it off, but the cubicles on either side of me have the same station droning on.
At lunch I run to Best Buy, with the radio off, to pick up something, anything, by Miles Davis. My hands shake as I scan through the rows and rows of pop/rock CD's until I reach blues/jazz. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Track one: So What. I stand staring at the album in my hand. Maybe it was a dream. That's sure as hell what it feels like. I've never been to a Jazz club and I can't imagine why I would go to one. I buy the album and sit in the parking lot listening. That's the song. Our song.
Women are always compared to some kind of flower or something. She wasn't a flower. She was something from celluloid. Pulled from the silver screen, brought down from the big screen, but why? It had to be a dream. It's Miles Davis, it's been played on so many stations I must've committed it to my subconscious.
So what did I do last night? I remember calling the ex, after that I decided to go out didn't I? Or did I just fall asleep on the couch again? Been doing a lot of that lately.
Where did I wake up this morning? Her place? I was in the car, I know that. But before that.
I'm losing it. Nothing happened, like any other night, you called her, she didn't answer, and then you drank whiskey sours until you passed out. This is a sign that you need to get out more. The days are running together. Becoming part of the combine and such. Okay, what do we do.
Well, first we stop sitting in the car talking to ourselves.
Okay smartass, then what?
After this little bout with the crazies? Well, we get back to doing what we were doing before the ex.
Fine. Okay, so, get our lives back on track. Then we won't dream about amazing women in Jazz clubs.
Can we keep the Jazz?
Yes, me, yes we can.
I have Greg from human resources on speed dial these days. He's number five, smack dab in the middle of the number pad. "Hey Greg, I'm going to have to take the afternoon off. Doctor's appointment," he should know my voice by now.
"Last four digits please."
"Alright, management will be notified."
"You don't know me by now?"
"Sorry, sir, I get too many calls to pick out anyone in particular."
"But I used to be down there with you."
"What's your name?"
"Didn't you just see it on the screen?"
He sighs, "I really don't have time for this sir."
"Fine. Sorry." It's times like this I wish my cellphone made that click noise when it hung up. Instead it beeps meekly. Greg doesn't remember we used to play paper football and discuss the finer points of various take out places. Jesus, why do I remember that?
Whatever. It's time I got my shit in gear. Becky and I are over, the woman in the blue dress was a dream, and it's just me and some jazz now. I'll go back to school. Accounting was a mistake, I told her that, but she said it'd get me a sure job out of school. If we were where we'd planned to be now I wouldn't mind the soul-crushingness of it all.
I get home and pour the rest of my bourbon down the drain.
Yeah, shit in gear sounds good.
And no more crazy shit right?
III. Air Time
Everyday I wake up, go to work, listen to Miles Davis, and at the end of the day forget to call the school. Scratch that.
Everyday I realize I'm driving. I get to work and buy a Miles Davis album, take the rest of the day off and listen to it. Scratch that, everyday I'm in my car and at lunch I get the same Miles Davis CD. I plan to call the school. I have a crazy conversation with myself. Then I realize I'm driving. And I know I'm not losing my mind because I leave myself little post-its wherever I can and they're not there the next day and I start to realize that I'm goddam Bill Murray in that stupid Groundhog day movie except that I can only do certain little things differently. I'm on repeat. And I can't stop it.
IV. Club Mix
Laser lights pierce the smoky atmosphere. Rolling my head to the beat, hopping with people around me, beautiful people, with pacifiers around their necks, I drop what they hand to me. Ecstasy possesses me.
I dance. Dance. It's all that's important, that and the girl in the purple pleather miniskirt rubbing me.
"Mmm," she purrs. A break in the beat, slow, I stare. Glitter around her eyes, she winks, whispers in my ear, "You feel fantastic."
I turn to her as the music resurges, revitalizes the need to dance. I slip my hand around into the small of her back, her shirt as silky soft as fur. We thrust into each other as the beat picks up, and I throw my head back in a howl.
"I never knew techno could feel so good."
"It's electronica," she says, as she slips her hand down the front of my pants, "The songs always go so long. I love it."
Convulsing I pull her close and taste winter on her lips. Smooth, cold, and comforting, like getting into bed when it's freezing outside, I anticipate the coming warmth. Her hand is masterful given the restrictions. Her tongue tantalizing.
We push our way through the crooning crowd into the women's bathroom. Mab all but pushes the coke heads and other legitimate restroom patrons out and locks the door, and then locks her long legs around me. Between the bass and the banging on the door we got a beat by which to go.
Think, when have you ever gone to a club?
Her eyes bore into my brain, "Stay with me Oberon," So I shut my head up and do what she says, pushing her up against the wall with strength I never knew I had. We breathe in unison, in-out in-out in-out rest in-out in-out in-out, interrupted by her moans and my grunts. She digs her painted claws into my back drawing lines of red that seep the smallest rivulets of blood. I tell her deeper. The beat goes faster, harder, louder, until I feel it in my chest and as I'm about to scream I reach nirvana. The pounding fades, my knees quiver.
We collapse and I find myself in Mab's bed again. The beat fades. My heart slows.
"That's up to you," she touches her fingers to my eyes and I sleep.
V. The Oldies Station
I'm not on repeat. I'm on autopilot. Here, there is no music. There are images that move too fast and too slow. Everything takes forever in a blink. Life is a dream and I find myself clinging to the reality of Mab's world.
I watch my life progress. School, graduate, marry, kids, house in the suburbs, a dog, grandkids, and persistent apathy.
I find myself searching an old box of junk and see Miles Davis. That night I tell the wife I'm going out, I'll be back soon. I drive into the city. I find the jazz club, it's not so hard, she's showing me the way. She's been on the periphery all this time. Luring me.
"Our song is playing," she says, we're both as young as ever. I sip a whiskey sour. I'm crazy. I'm dreaming. She's fading, and this time I'm going with her.