I remember the night I finally gave in to my curiosity. Desperate for activity, I suggested to Love Affair that we try a jazz club in Manhattan. Enticed by the original suggestion, he agreed and we took the L train to 54th street and began walking. I'd be lying if I said that meandering through the streets of New York in three inch heels was a pleasure, especially on a night like this one. Although it was well past eleven, the air was thick with its own moisture and it was nothing short of suffocating. In the midst of frantic walking and blinding haze, I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, tugged sticky hair from my eyes and noticed the flickering neon sign.
"That's it!" I forced my shoe back onto my partially swollen foot and tugged Love Affair down the stairs into the club.
To say I was overdressed would be an understatement.
My saucy little black dress and three inch heels were somewhat of an eyesore against the torn jeans, 80s blazers, and mismatched patterns of the other customers. Uncomfortably, I eased into the closest seat and covered my eyes with my hand while Love Affair laughed audibly at the fact that he told me not to wear the dress and I did anyway. Frustrated, I demanded he buy me a drink while I collected my pride.
The tiny room itself was just as unpleasant as that Wednesday night in late July. A thick cloud of cigarette smoke and steam accumulated toward the ceiling, blurring the overpriced local artwork adorning the walls. It was easy to tell who had been there for a few hours because small beads of sweat had formed and begun rolling down their cheeks, dampening hair and gluing it to faces. When we arrived there was a set change, so the room was filled with clinking spoons and mundane chatter about the latest grotesque modern art.
As Love Affair returned with very large martini, I noticed the sweat-drenched stagehand struggling behind a very large, very black grand piano. Upon being struck with the blue flood light from offstage, I could see three fingerprints on the side and wondered if the person playing it minded the smudges on the otherwise immaculate instrument.
The stagehand sluggishly wandered offstage and was quickly replaced by a much drier, much more attractive woman announcing that it would only be five more minutes before "He" was ready. When she finished and walked offstage the room full of chain-smoking coffee drinkers began clapping and whistling wildly. At that point I was hoping that it was no longer a coincidence that I'd fallen onto a jazz club whose name reflected the horrible climate of the room on a Wednesday night where the usual was revered.
My wondering quickly ceased when the lights dimmed on stage and again only the faint blue flood light from stage left could be seen. I watched as the mysterious silhouette glided to the immaculate piano, fondled the cover before revealing the white ivories. In the darkness and humidity and smoke the silhouette began to play the most fascinatingly beautiful tune, simple and light to ameliorate the unbearable conditions in the room. The artistic banter that had once filled the empty space had disappeared and now only the piano could be heard. No one moved, no one coughed, no one whispered. We were entirely enraptured. His voice seductively wrapped around the notes as they danced from his mouth into our ears, even the high notes so carefully and delicately exuded from his body.
Suddenly, I wanted him.
Love Affair was clueless that while I sat completely silent I was mentally hungrily ripping off the clothing of the musical genius on stage, begging for him to violate me in five different languages; he just sipped his moderate overpriced Bostonian lager. I wanted to devour the man on stage, to know completely what it must be like to be so damned amazing.
"Incredible," was the only word I could verbalize as I watched him.
Love Affair agreed and tossed his head back to finish his beer.
After and hour of this teasing, the silhouette, the voice, the talent shut the piano and thanked us very much for not leaving or throwing empty martini glasses at him before exiting stage left. Without thinking, I jumped up and ran backstage, leaving behind Love Affair and one of my shoes.
I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be in the cramped closet deemed "offstage," but I had to find him For whatever reason it was necessary that he know, that he remember I existed. Anxious, I threw aside empty guitar cases and kicked over loose electrical cords with the shoed foot thinking perhaps if I made enough noise he'd show. After a minute of this charade, however, I opted for just asking. Before I could find a sweaty stagehand, though, I turned into someone's shoulder.
"Jesus, mother of-" It was him.
"Taylor!" I'm sure I looked like such an unbalanced fanatic with fuzzy, humid hair, sweaty, missing shoe and fallen strap from shoulder.
He paused, trying to remember. "Kate?"
"I-wow," I nervously laughed. "You were amazing."
"What are you doing back here?"
Oh hell, that's not the way this conversation is supposed to go.
"I, um, I just wanted to tell you that."
"You know I go out and drink with everyone else now, right?"
God, was it getting hot in there?
"Just…wanted to make it memorable," I tripped over words, completely embarrassed.
"As always," he chuckled before pausing. He tilted his head a bit and grinned. "May I?" without waiting for an answer obviously having never been denied, he smoothed my strap back onto my shoulder. "Kate," he asked with the most soothing, gentle voice, "where's your shoe?"
Enraptured and clueless, I told him I had no idea. In response, he removed one of his shoes, set it atop a black case labeled MIC-B and offered to buy me a drink he knew I didn't need. As he nudged me out of the small room by the small of my back I remembered the last person to bring me a large martini.
"Damn it." I whispered, unsure of how to handle the situation.
"What? Suddenly you don't like alcohol?"
"Euh," I searched wildly, "Do we have to drink here? It's just, gosh, so hot."
"Are you kidding me? I get free drinks here!"
I lowered my eyes at him, "So then you wouldn't really be buying me a drink then, would you?"
He paused for a moment and grinned. "You win. Find your other shoe and we'll find a more atmospheric bar. Better?"
I couldn't go back out there without having to explain my pending absence. "I don't really need the shoe."
"Kate," he laughed a bit, unsure how to respond, "I don't know what kind of bars you like to lose dignity in, but for where we're going they require at least two shoes."
Hesitantly, I pulled back an edge of the velvet curtain to see the man I came in with tapping his foot with annoyance and looking at his watch. In his left hand was my missing shoe.
"I appreciate your artistic expression and rejection of contemporary footwear standards, but please just fetch the shoe."
"Where's the dressing room?"
"Are you kidding me? This place doesn't have a dressing room. Everyone just strips in the corner."
I leapt to the corner searching for a pair of extra heels.
"What are you doing?"
Successful, I stood up with a pair of revoltingly electric purple patent leather heels with miniature black roses by the toes. Yanking off the roses and tossing them aside, I slipped on the shoes which remarkably were only one size too small and suggested we exit from the back door.
"I'm fairly certain those aren't your shoes." Taylor had no idea how to react to me.
"Yeah, but what a nice fashion statement, huh?"
"You have problems," he turned away and softly laughed for lack of a better retort.
"You have a problem with purple?"
"No, not at all." He smiled, pushing open the backdoor into the hazy darkness of midnight.