Empty, the coffee cup in front of her. Smoke billowed melodically around the curves of her body, her head glowing in the reflection of the orange lantern light. The wheezing of the trombone lifted her silken dress, the grooves of the jazz twinkled her toes. The thought that she was surrounded by a ghostly staircase sent a sudden chill through her fingers, etching at the nails of her voyeuristic paranoia. Spiraling downward he came, tackling his velveteen bow-tie with a firm grip, positioning it for a man ready to take on the world.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”
She didn’t reply in kind, but instead hinted by the jarring of her chin that it would be okay as long as he didn’t try any small talk. She was used to this sort of attempted foreplay, though the game had long been lost on her. She’d figured out the rules, deconstructed them with ease and had become a creature unmoved by the traditional mating techniques.
“I saw you here last week. Same seat, but Scotch instead of coffee. Also a cigarette.”
No need to peer over. She’d lose her edge if she showed the slightest bit of interest.
“The question is, why the coffee? Or did you already have your Scotch? Or are we waiting to line-up some Macallan for you?”
Still nothing except, of course, the fact that she was unaware of him. Of whom he really was. Of what he was actually capable of. Of the fact that every once in a while, the players forget to recognize loopholes within the rules of the game.
“I met Miles once. Ran into him at a record shop in the Village. He was a bit fiery, not interested in conversation with a stranger. Just so happened that I had a bottle of Macallan with me, so I took it out of its brown bag and held it up to him. ‘How about me and you go and drink a couple of glasses of this?’ I knew it wasn’t right, he had his issues with that stuff, but I figured a man could only be a man by owning up to what he loved. Couple of blocks down on the Bowery, we sat down on the side of an old garage. I took out a couple of coffee mugs I’d ‘borrowed’ from a local diner on the way there and we shared some stories.”
She looked at him. She didn’t want to, but she had to. And his eyes widened up as he opened his mouth:
“I tell you what. A man like him, he’s just like you and me. We’re all the same. We try to play our games to make sure we never lose footing, but this life, it takes us away sometimes. Fame, no fame, love and lust, everything in between. Everything is just the same for everyone. We just adjust differently. But it’s better, you know, to enjoy it. The sadness of truth kills you otherwise.”
Nobody knows, though, about that story. Miles and him? Did it really happen? But the way she suddenly broke down with a somewhat perceptible smile was just enough to know the hook was on. Maybe the way to happiness is killing doubt with lies. Lies that sound wonderful, fantastic but somehow have enough truth to remain grounded in reality. Miles wasn’t a unicorn; he was there, with you and me, walking down the street as sure as the sun was shining. As sure as the night would come and the day would say goodbye to her strangely blank, glaring eyes.
A couple of neats later, they found each other arm-in-arm, swaying to the music, a little sweaty but experiencing emotions that made them feel anew. There’s a hazy wonder that strikes a being when lust turns into passion, when wantonness redefines itself as love. That line is as delicate as truth is from fiction, and those memories remain stained in our veins until the end of our days. Glimmering, glistening, leaning into our ears when the same rain sprinkles onto the window pane, when the same breeze passes us by in the springtime.
This life is simple. Our hearts are fragile at best. We are what we long for. And for that, premeditated pleasures keep us breathing.