They were together in the bed in his room every weeknight for over a year, feeding on each other like prisoners downing their rations. Weekends were work nights, the only gigs he could get, and she was too young for the clubs, so she took the train north to her mother’s upstate and held her breath until Mondays when she could get back to him. One night at the mirror while getting undressed, she astonished herself by dancing for him to the rhythm of the jazz on the radio. He named the tune and identified the players and lay back on the narrow bed and watched her slither; she only knew that it sounded like sex, and the saxophone sang like a woman imitating a man. She hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties and straightened her arms. A long solo on a standup bass took care of the rest. It made him unbearably uneasy. And then she sang. He took her to dinner after they made love; he laughed and talked and flirted with the waitress as if nothing had happened, but every time he looked at her he saw her audaciously naked, half-pretending to avert her eyes, imitating shame but covering nothing and it made him want to run back home and leave her with a bottle of Chianti, a plate of Alfredo and the bill to pay. “Where did you come from?” he asked her instead. “I’ve never seen anything like you!” Years later she saw him at a club in the Village, imitating bebop legends with the same old band. He pretended not to see her. A little girl with made-up eyes smoked cigarettes like a beginner and waited at a table by the edge of the stage until he was finished playing.

Copyright © June 2, 2007 David Hodges