The soft soles of my newly purchased shoes loveslap the pavement as I emerge from the century-old, unpainted brick apartment building I have been living in these past several months. Jack’s place is where I want to be tonight. I smile at the sight of it, directly opposite there on the hillock across the four-lane street. A beautiful old house that shelters a speakeasy noted for its glitz. Plush times for those of us who know on which door to knock.
Trucks on the main drag hurry along dozens of little Japanese cars. Alas, the roaring 20′s are almost a century in the past. I sigh. Jack is long dead. And for 75 years, that grand old house has been a funeral parlour. Last weekend, walking back home, a cavalcade of mourners wheeled its way northward. I lost count after the fiftieth car, each greyish flag flapping in the cold winter wind. The deceased must have been much loved. Or quite wealthy. No doubt the hearse was headed west to the history-filled cemetery, where graves for veterans of the Revolutionary War were dug. Instead of a pension, the soldiers were given land here on the frontier. The last Indian Nation to leave the State, the Wyandot, was pushed away to a reservation in Kansas, and the veterans and their families settled in north of the city. Well, I won’t be forced to leave this time, and I am certainly not yet ready to rest in the earth. I’ll leave the car parked out back in the alley and proceed on foot in more lively fashion.
With eddies of memory whirling in my head, I walk north, deeper into the neighborhood. This is the third city on the third continent. My third escape in life from the lifeless suburbs. It takes all of my willpower not to fall to the ground to kiss it. The third time truly is the most charming. “Always look where you’re going,” echoes through me. “The rearview mirror is only for seeing what’s on your tail. A quick glance will do. When your foot’s on the gas, you keep your eyes forward!”
The unpleasant voice fades as I breathe in the city air. Free. The decision to go north or south is mine to make. The moon is almost full as it sizzles higher in the sky, rising over my right shoulder. My shadow creeps before me on the pavement. The oncoming headlights obscure the joggers and the dog walkers coming towards me. They flitz by, faces alight. Breathing loudly. Chasing the moon.
I stop at the first street corner. Close my eyes for a moment and listen. From the east comes a drawn out howl. The train! A comforting sound tying together all the cities in which I have lived. I am in the Far East walking past a plum tree, its subtle blossoms doused in finely woven strands of moonlight. I am just south of the Main River in the old apple wine quarter, moon-slicked cobblestones coddle my feet. Opening my eyes again now, I turn slightly to look back the way I’ve come. On impulse, I turn completely and begin walking south with purpose in my stride. No slouching. I walk proudly. Beginning to feel the pulse of the place I am headed towards. That familiar dive bar filled with characters. The closest thing to a speakeasy here and now.
Live Jazz oozes out into the night. I hear it from down the road through the opening door as I draw near the place. I pay the slight cover charge and join the crowd, ease in through the long narrow entranceway. My favourite table by the window is free. There’s a gin and tonic, extra slice of lime, already wending its way towards me in the strong gentle hand of the owner’s son. We smile at each other, unable to talk over the music. Who needs words?
I revel in the music and glance out of the window, steamy round the edges. I find that I am in a train, only this train sits stationary on the tracks while the world out there passes by. There are people who slow down to peer in through the window. Very few return my look. Perhaps the moon reflected in the plate glass obscures my eyes. Or could it be a displacement of sorts. A shift in the fault line of time. Transported by this timeless music, by jazz pieces that were known when the 20′s were golden, I sigh. Once. Again. And with the third sigh, any desire to escape leaves me.