Redemption

I'd spent at least forty-five solid minutes staring at my reflection, not out of vanity mind you, but out of a hopeless effort to convince myself that I could, in fact, go to his jazz bar and pick apart every intricate detail of his life's work. This was just a job, not another pathetic plea for sex. I was going to go to fifty-forth street and drink my martini and simply and objectively critique.

And I wasn't going to wear that bra.

I almost felt ridiculous, trying so desperately to find something appropriate to wear, something eye-catching and alluring, even though I was only sitting in a dark corner and scribbling.

"Hey gorgeous, where are you going?" Molly appeared in my doorway wearing fuzzy pink slippers, some man's tattered oxford shirt, and a freshly lit cigarette.

"Just a bar."

"Bar hopping, I see." She eyed me up and down, making sure I wasn't too embarrassing to set loose in public. Then, draping herself meticulously in the door frame with a cigarette balanced between her lips, she asked, "Want some company?"

I'd never remembered Molly being a fan of jazz clubs, though it made sense seeing as how the men who actually went there voluntarily were easier than she was. "No, I'm good."

"Must be a fancy bar, you're getting all dressed up."

"You could say that."

She smiled at me for an instant, "Are you gonna fuck tonight?"

Having abandoned all hope for ever having a mundane and normal conversation with Molly, I humored her and shut the door so I could remind myself one more time that by the age of twenty eight it was perfectly normal to have developed disproportionately large hips.

Having allowed myself three shots of the most expensive vodka I could find, I decided I was prepared to watch him. I don't know why I was so nervous; he was the one under the spotlight. Unfortunately for him, my nerves had morphed into biting, unsympathetic cynicism.

Seeing him make love to his immaculate piano for the first time in nearly a decade was uncomfortably surreal. I crouched in the stuffiest corner I could find, throwing martinis into the back of my throat and brooding. For a brief moment in time I felt as though I was twenty again, shoeless and sweaty with lust. Just the memory itself left me angrier as I drew out phrases like "geriatric metro-sexual," hoping that somehow my words would stab him as deeply as his eloquent "shitty fuck" line. Satisfied with my career-breaking prose, I quickly abandoned the club, careful to slip my phone number to the bar tender who had been winking at me all night as I walked past.

After I turned in my first copy to John, he congratulated me on writing a smashing review, despite the four instances where I questioned Taylor's sexual orientation that had to be removed before print. I was rather satisfied, and informed Molly that she would be throwing me a party for finally having a moderately rewarding career.

I suppose I expected too much out of her, in retrospect. With Molly's planning, an alcohol-binge in my celebration turned into her personalized dating service and a damned good excuse to get laid. For whatever reason that evening, I wasn't in the social mood, especially after she stole one of my heels to play naughty with a man in a blue tie.

Once again, I found myself trashed and single on the mini-turf with another cigarette in the middle of November. As expected, all the half naked men at my celebration party were fondling Molly in the corner instead of fondling me in the mini-turf, and honestly I was fine with that.

Honestly.

I was also perfectly content wallowing in self-defeat until I heard someone behind me. Assuming it was Molly completely shit-faced and asking if she could use my bed since it had that extra springy quality from lack of use, I ignored it and told the person the cigarette was, in fact, mine for once, even though it wasn't. Whoever it was didn't move, just spoke.

"Kate, where's your shoe?"

I froze at the sound of his voice; my brain wobbled with intoxication. "I ate it," I took another drag from the cigarette.

I felt him sit beside me, turn to me, brush his hair from his face, and absently fingered piano chords on the partially frosted grass.

At that point I had begun to shake, but I was unsure if its catalyst was cold or shock or fear that he'd finally read my article and was there to abduct and torture me. "What are you doing here?" I started to take longer, more fulfilling drags.

He didn't answer my question; instead, he handed me his glass of alcoholic orange liquid. "No."

"I'm sorry?"

"I'm not married," he paused hoping to see me turn to him and react. Clearly, the truth in the answer had challenged his sex appeal and he was bitter about it. "Does that make you happy? Are you glad to know that I'm thirty-one and I'm still playing fucking piano for drunken college kids?" I paused at the vague recognition of his last sentence, praying that he hadn't just quoted the article I'd written on him. He laughed sullenly and the alcohol in his breath made me drunker. "Glad no one ever came along and took me?"

I couldn't answer; the response he sought was fairly obvious after my daring professions of love in the previous months.

"I was engaged, but we ended it."

"…Why's that?"

He paused, quickly formulating a response. "Don't think it was because of you."

Minor disappointment. "I…I didn't."

He brushed imaginary dirt from his pants and studied my pathetic disposition.

Frantic, I drank the orange beverage as quickly as I could. "Why did you come here?"

"Your friend Molly-"

"Cohabitater."

"Molly and I know each other well."

I began gesticulating wildly with my hands in my inebriated stupor, "Well that's certainly vague," I laughed and fell into his shoulder. I bet they had some hot, torrid affair in the middle of summer. I bet they lay on his sheet-less bed completely naked, covered in post coital sweat and fatigue. I bet she fed him my bread, the bitch.

He helped me back to my seated position and, I like to imagine, drank in my silhouette. "Now about this review of yours," he reached into his back pocket and unfolded the 8½ by 11 inch glossy I had composed mere weeks before and cleared his throat before reciting. "'After over a decade of commercial rejection, one Taylor Hanson can still be found wooing crowds of drunken college students with his sugar-sweet melodies and operatic high notes.'" He skimmed the page looking for his next quotation while I nervously laughed, "Here it is, 'Despite his questionable talent, this passionate musician no doubt loves his music; at first glance one could mistake his musical enthusiasm for an explosive orgasm. Perhaps the vintage Taylor Hanson is too enthralled with perfecting his sex drive to perform decent music.'" He raised his left eyebrow at me and returned the paper to his back pocket. "Kate," he said, his voice still lacking a bitter quality which surprised me, "you've obviously never experienced my true sex drive."

Rendered speechless by his final comment and that inquiring, flirtatious gaze he had perfected in his years, I just threw myself back into the grass. I couldn't muster up an apology because it was the most innovative thing I had written in years. "Well, obviously," I just laughed and took another drag.

He joined me in my horizontal position on the frozen earth and for a second it felt like we were eight years younger, suffocated by a lazy, humid August night.

"You never did anything for me Kate; you never made me feel any different about life." He took the cigarette from between my fingers and sampled it himself, like he always had. "You didn't open my eyes to new experiences, to new emotions, to new actualizations about life. You weren't anything special, Kate, but you just couldn't accept that."

Thanks for adding to the lousy fuck compliment. "I got it," I wobbled as I stood up and turned for the door.

"But maybe I didn't need a ubiquitous revelation." He kept his eyes forward, watching the horizon. "I waited for you to come back, but you never did." Turning to me, I remembered that he always had this way of generating a gravitational pull by simply looking at someone. "I always wanted you to come back."