Blackhumouristpress's Blog

February 3, 2016

La Vie Noir

I knew when I opened the door and saw Raymond’s eyes, I had to accept things like a man.  Nowhere to hide, nothing to say except maybe to explain that it was all on me.  I keep this diary with me and I’m not really sure who is ever going to read this.  Some copper and then he’ll pass it along to my mother.  Who knows about those things.  When you’re gone, you’re just gone.  I’m getting cold and things are getting distant and fuzzy.  It’s hard to focus.  I’ll try to get this out while I can.

                I came in the joint as I always did.  You know the place- dark with the piano music going.  Some couples whisper to one another, others sit there with that look like they don’t want to be approached but yet are itching for conversation.  That night, Benny was playing Mona Lisa by Nat King Cole.  Benny plays a little piano and sings and then takes out his trumpet with the mute and softly solos over a few chords held by his left hand on the piano.  Benny has a talent for music and a knack for making people feel at ease.  A nice voice, a nice smile and everyone’s best friend.  I dropped a five in Benny’s jar and asked what he thought.

                “She ain’t like most, boss.  Something different bout this one…  You land this one and I think you really got something…  But I could be wrong.”

                Benny was never wrong.  A man sitting at a piano captures certain nuances in the way a person looks, how they sit, what they drink and the look on their faces.  Benny is there for their entertainment but really he’s studying human nature nightly and gets paid for it.  I sat a few stools over from her and made like I was really interested in Curling.  She looked engrossed.  At a commercial, she took a sip of her red wine and asked me what I knew about Curling.

                “It’s something that some people do and …  Well, everyone has got to do something.  Some people go to piano bars in the dark so that nobody really sees them or see what they’re thinking.  There is some comfort in darkness.  Everything doesn’t need to have the light cast on it…  You know what I mean?”

                She smiled a sly smile and looked at me with those sad eyes.  She was everything a man could ever want in a woman.  She was a rare beauty, calm and refined.  She had the type of body that sculptors hope to sculpt. 

                “That’s a profound answer regarding a really obscure sport…  I like it though.”

                I bought her a drink and had another.  I learned her name was Gretchen and that she spent a lot of time drawing things that she felt and then wrote things to go with the drawings.  She would sell her creations through an art dealer.  She never let me know how she made her money.  She asked me what I did.  I told her that I was in to research and development.  I used round about ways of getting to the point and she rather enjoyed analogies and philosophies.  I wanted so much to move over one more seat.  I was drawn in and could not stop it.  Dames don’t usually do this to me.  I like them and some times love them a bit but then things develop that complicates things and then things just change.  When they become routine and predictable, you have nothing.  People force themselves to slug along knowing that they’re going against the grain because they are conditioned to find someone, marry that someone, have some kids, form a family and feel like they belong to something and maybe have something but then like ole Raymond, what do you have in the end?  I’m getting ahead of myself.

                Gretchen asked if I would be interested in seeing her artwork.  How could I resist.  What do I know about art?  Nothing, but then again I was taken in.  We left the club and went up an elevator to a penthouse that overlooked the whole city of Detroit.  A bunch of lights along the river and then a lot of darkness and that’s just how it is in Detroit.  She showed me easels of gray, sad but beautiful sketches of a profile of a girl in a field, on a swing, at the beach.  I was tempted to ask if the girl was her.  I didn’t want to be so simple.  I think she liked that I was abstract and you can’t be abstract and obvious. 

                Gretchen put on an Edith Piaf record on her hi-fi and poured us each a drink.  She put the drink up to my lips and then set it down on a table beside us.  She gently took my hand and put it on the small of her back and leaned into me.  In an instant it all felt as though it was meant to be.  The smell of her, the feel of her.  I was drawn in so strong. 

                I left some time during the middle of the night.  I didn’t think it would be right to be there in the light of day. Nobody wants regret or the awkwardness of having to say something, to force something.  There’s a right way the first time.  You hope to plant a seed and see if it grows. Things change when you put light on it.  I left my name and number on a piece of paper.  I sketched a boy sitting near a pond on the paper with a few words.

                “It’s rare you meet someone that fits so well, so much so that you can’t use words.  I enjoyed the evening and believe I would enjoy other evenings just as much.”

                I slept on the couch and woke to the sound of my phone ringing.  It was Raymond.  Raymond had questions for me.  There was hesitation in my voice and I felt I sounded insincere to him.  He offered to pay me for my time and I told him there was no charge.  Maybe that was the red flag.  I didn’t give it much thought and why should I when I had Gretchen on my mind.  Whenever my mind went blank or had time to rest, my thoughts went back to Gretchen.  I thought about the feel of her body against mine, her smile, her voice and her touch.  I wanted badly to see her and then I heard from her.

                “I make the best food a man could ever hope to eat.  I make the food, you bring the wine.”

                Gretchen wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her.  Beginnings are always good and fresh and unpredictable.  The loving was above average, the companionship was everything a man could hope for and yet in the back of my mind, I knew this all couldn’t last.

                The older I get, the more I realize that things are transitory.  Things come and go and you take them for what they are and go on.  Gretchen wasn’t fading in my heart and I didn’t want it to end.  Men say they know what love is and I can’t say I do.  I could no more explain love than I could air.  I just know the two are things you need and when everything is good, you don’t have to worry about them.

                Gretchen suspected that the cleaners were at the door delivering her clothes.  She was getting ready to go out.  We were taking a boat ride on the Detroit River late night.  I opened the door to find a sweating Raymond with his tie twisted.  His teeth were gritted and he panted as he walked towards me.  He called for Gretchen to come out of the bedroom.  She emerged from the room wide eyed at Raymond who stood in front of her with a gun.

                “Raymond…  Why are you doing this?  There’s no reason for this.”          

                Gretchen was wrong.  There’s always a reason for everything and things like a jealous ex-husband with a gun, can be explained.  Raymond hired me and I couldn’t take the job.  I told him that there was nothing for him to worry about and so Raymond hired a detective to expose a detective.  Raymond’s lifeless body lays a few feet from me and there is Gretchen in my lap while I lean against the wall as I scribble into my notebook.  Should I call for an ambulance?  Will life ever get better than what it has been lately since I met Gretchen?  Probably not.  In fact I know it won’t.  If this is as good as it gets, then why go on?  I reached the top of the mountain and it’s beautiful.  Maybe it’s time to just let go and jump…  Give my best to mother.  That’s all.

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