I have to compliment you, after all you ignored me for four years in high school, condemned me to the outcasts, the geeks, the losers, the barely tolerated and then only when the Headmaster was watching.
I didn’t go to your parties, no one without an invitation ever dared, was left to the clubs no one wanted to join, but I have to say I was truly surprised, shocked almost when your letter came, reminding me of our great years of friendship, our camaraderie then, but regrettably I must decline to contribute to our class fund.
It’s jazz, it’s a club, but there what once was is no more, there are no ashtrays on the table, overflowing early into the second set, no cloud of cigarette smoke descending from the too dark ceiling. There is no recognizable odor of a freshly lit Gaulloise, in the trembling fingers of a young man trying to look cool, trying not to cough on each inhalation, in the calm fingers of a young woman who you know speaks the fluent French of her homeland. It is none of those things but it is jazz, it is a club and in this city, now, it must suffice.
It begins lowly quietly, then grows builds until, all players together, it hits a point where you hope it is a crescendo, but it still grows ever louder and you retreat from the club, half-finished glass of wine on the table, knowing that when you reach the back door your evening is over.
I sit in the window staring out over the rain slicked streets to the passing of the occasional car and the three men who glance furtively at the door of the “Adult Entertainment” club. The old oak floors are scarred by too many heels. The railing along the window is bolted into the floor, suspending the white lace curtains. The young woman sits at the next table, Players cigarette nestled between her fingers, trying to conceal her anxiety. She nurses the cup of coffee, staring at the two menus resting on the table. She pulls at the hem of her pink ramie sweater and glances periodically at her watch. Her leg, encased in stone washed denim swings like a metronome as she stares at the Detroit News, not reading. She lifts her head, and a smile creeps across her lips as her friend enters, skirt dripping water, forming a small puddle on the floor under her chair. The waitress, robed in a black satin pantsuit brings the escargot, on their bed of linguine, and the evening washes on.
First Appeared in Eratica: Half a Bubble Off Plumb, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter 1999.