Cool Jazz

There’s just something about cool jazz on a hot summer night. The way the notes carry on the breeze and sway through the windowsill. You breathe it in, each gentle run and muted hum of the horn.

I still remember the way he looked standing there on the balcony; smoking a cigarette with a perfected James Dean lean against the cold wooden rail. The way his eyes glimmered when he smiled made my knees go weak.

Everything was still in boxes. The mattress was on the floor, and our living room was made up of one measly futon and an old television set. It was our first apartment. I had just graduated from college and was ready to take on the world. I had one weekend of freedom before real life blinded me head-on.  This was the last night of innocence.  It was the last night of sweet sensations and childish dreams, if only I had known.

He put out his cigarette against the rail, coughed, and then looked up at me with a twisted grin. I always worried about losing him. He could see the desperation in my eyes. But really, I believe it was a hopeless longing. A longing to find the person I wanted him to be. A person I still believe lies deep within his soul.

“Dance with me,” he said, holding out his hand. Before I could even answer, I was pulled through the sliding glass door and into his arms. I still remember the way his heart beat in his chest; a steady rhythm in tempo with my own. His hands held me tightly and with a swing of call and response; wherever he led, I followed.

“The Nearness of You” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong began to drift onto the balcony. The sun was setting and the moon was rising, but the song beat true. None of those things excited me more than being near him. In that moment he was my world.

We danced there through the raspy chorus and lingering vibrato, and weaved in and out of the city light, hiding underneath the branches of a nearby alder. I never wanted that song to end.

Slowly over the next few months the softer tones became violent. The cool jazz turned hot and summer turned into fall, then fall into winter. We crashed into each other with such great force that the echoes of percussion overpowered the melody itself.

But I will always remember that evening; caught up in a mix between youth and adulthood. Between love and utter loathing. Dancing forever in my mind, between Louis and Ella.


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