If I've done this once, I've done it one hundred and one times. I'm at a bar, someone asks me to step up to the piano and give a song or two, next thing ya know, I've had a drink, or two, or five! This is followed by my waking up in some unfamiliar bed, with a warm, shapely body asleep next to me. Sometimes I may even remember her name. I do this time, because I've already gone through steps one, two and three of the evening, but, I'm stuck, like a stick in swamp at step four.
"Is it me?"
The cute little brunette clutches the flowered sheet to her chest. The entire room looks like a ruffled pink elephant exploded. Pink ruffled curtains, a freaky looking china doll with blood red lips and ruffled pink dress, matching bonnet to boot is staring at me from a pink and white bureau. I can't remember, but I wager, as my tired eyes set on the brunette that she was wearing something pink and ruffley last night. Her question induces guilt.
"Don't be so quick to take the blame, Cheryl."
"Well, at least you know my name after half-dozen bourbons."
I scratch my matted hair.
"Was it really that many?"
"It was enough to entice you into coming home with me, but, not enough to-"
"It's not you." I stroke the ladybug tattoo on her right shoulder. "I've been out of sorts for awhile. I'm sure my drunken escape had everything to do with escape."
Her brown eyes smudged with day old mascara doubt me.
"But, your playing tonight at the bar was more than groovy. It can't be the music you're trying to run from."
"No," I try nonchalantly to look for my jeans. I don't see them on the pink shag carpet. "Music isn't the problem. And thank ya for sayin' so about my playing."
She tosses me a lump of blue from a sea of printed pink flowers on her side of the bed.
I hug the denim close. It smells like stale smoke and liquor.
"I sure am sorry."
"Don't be. I imagine you get pretty tired of drunken sex. Maybe tonight was one of those nights."
I half-turn for a moment to slide into my jeans. I'm about to say something stupid like I remember every lady I've shared a bed with, or, it's not just sex…but that would be even more insulting to Cheryl than my not consummating our encounter.
She speaks for me.
"Don't say we can try again some other time."
"I wish I could. I really do. I know I've been a jackass tonight…"
A fluffy bathrobe consumes her petit body.
"Well, you don't owe me anything."
She's holding the door open.
"I hope you find what you're looking for, Kurt."
I stop my procession from the bed.
"Who says I'm lookin' for anything?"
"Every inch of your beautiful, perfect body is screaming it. You want to be somewhere else. Maybe it's even a someone else. Either way, I hope you find it, or her."
I palm my jacket from the chair and decide Cheryl would not be happy with a kiss goodbye. I look her straight in the eyes.
"You seem fairly intuitive. If I do find…whatever, solve the puzzle, I have a feelin' you'll know."
"You always say it in the music, Kurt. That's why all the girls love you."
The streets are a laid back kind of quiet. While the sun is only an embryo of incandescent color on the horizon, people are still indoors. I trudge towards the east and my shitty apartment. An abysmal pit of sadness opens in my gut. This must be the thing Cheryl referred to that has me so jammed up. The closer I come to my street, and Julien, the more pain in my gut.
The key slides into the lock and immediately colors start to form inside my head. Since I was a little boy, I could see music. Every song was made up of a kaleidoscopeof colors. When I tried to explain to my mama the dark shades of a Muddy Waters tune, or the fiery reds of Jerry Lee Lewis, mama wigged out. So, I reserved my Crayola observations for my journal. Then, as a teen when I was sure my musical comrades would dig what I was seeing, they laughed it off as an especially good acid trip.
I wouldn't have the balls to claim I was a sane person, but seeing colors while the music and words form simultaneously doesn't make me Norman Bates either! I let myself in. I've got half of what I want to say to Julien unfurling in my head like some kind of National flag.
I'm startled to find him sitting at the kitchen table. I wouldn't have seen him at all if not for the fluorescent light above the stove. My mouth is a bag of cotton balls. I say nothing as I go for a pitcher of water from the fridge, drinking sans glass.
"You have not left for so long before," Julien speaks to the room. "I think perhaps you return to Georgia."
I put the pitcher on the counter and rub my damp mouth with a shirtsleeve.
"Time got away from me. I'm sorry if I worried you."
His huge blue eyes almost swallow me.
"But, I do, you."
"You do me what?"
"I do worry you. This is heart of the matter."
I pad myself down for a cig. This Abbot and Costello-esque exchange is making me dizzy.
"Us, you and I."
He's so damn certain of something; meanwhile my multicolored statement remains unfinished in my head. I light up and lean against the counter.
"Kurt, you are troubled by my presence-"
"Don't put colors, er…uh, words in my mouth."
"I do not propose you are unkind. You are opposite, generous and caring."
I blow out a few rings of smoke.
"Oh yeah? Then why would ya say you trouble me?"
"You know why."
"No, I don't know..." I circle the table. "Look, Jude, I'm tired, hung over and I don't wanna play guessing games. Could ya say what ya mean plainly, like I was a dumbass Southerner."
"You insult yourself,"
He's shaking those black coils of hair.
"This is…"He breaks off apparently to take up a new line of reasoning. "You are man who enjoys freedom. You are gifted. This brings people to you, and you enjoy the company of women."
"Ya lost me after enjoying my freedom."
"I too am a man," he furrows those glorious dark eyebrows, "at least I believe I was and am a man who enjoys the company of women."
I study my nicotine stained fingers.
"Are you asking me to wear make-up and put on a dress?"
"Mock me if you wish. I attempt to explain I understand why you want to leave."
"Because you're sure I dig chicks and pretty sure you do?"
"More than this."
Shit! Ribbons of purple bubble up as if from a lava lamp behind my eyes; I hear the lyrics to an as yet known song.
It would take much more than this to break a love so long in the making.
Julien's voice is on the edge of my consciousness. Keep talkin' babe, maybe the music will show me what ya mean.
"I hide myself with you because it is easy. I do not have to think about great questions I was sent here to answer. Now, I am more complicated by my deep feelings for you. These scare, excite and confuse me."
I close my eyes letting the cig fall into the sink. My entire body is given over to the blending of sounds and words.
It would take much more than talk or dreams, to shake so strong a foundation, more than this.
The disconcerting sound of Julien shoving his chair away from the table rips apart my vision like a bomb blast.
"And now I assume I am too much for you." his hands flail about. "Why you given such shoes to walk in, I do not know. But, it is not fair."
"Jesus, Julien, really?"
The colors and words jell, not into a song but a certainty so strong it has replaced the sorrow in my center.
"Who made you believe this about yourself?"
"You're whole speech just now. You wanted to tell me you ain't worth a good goddamn, before I could. Someone chased you away before."
"You cannot know this, if I do not."
"The hell I can't! I lived it myself. Take this one grain of truth from me. I don't plain on givin' ya yer walkin' papers-"
"But you love women."
"I love the female form…What?" I pound the table in frustration. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"You cannot love me," he lowers his head, "or my form. It is unnatural."
I give him a hard stare.
"Oh, I see. Ya know, I never took ya for a big, fat bigot, Jude."
"I do not know this word."
"I stopped by a comic book shop earlier last night. That Loco god-"
He softly corrects.
Yeah, you left out the part where Loki is bi-sexual. He can be a man or a woman, ergo, he has sex with both. I guess you only talk the talk."
Julien shrinks in the chair like a scolded child.
"Kurt, I am not judging."
Gripping both side of the table so that he can't escape my blotchy red face, I speak evenly.
"I truly don't give a shit what you believe, Julien. That is your freedom here in the good ole, U.S. of A. But, don't flatter yourself. I'm not waitin' on the right moment to take ya from behind. All I'm sayin' is you loved someone, deeply it would seem. They hurt ya bad. I'm not gonna do that. As long as ya need and want a place to stay, yer welcome here."
His voice is a whisper.
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"You go to Georgia still?"
I can't make out if the blinding pink and white shinning behind Julien's head is the sun rising from the half of un-shuttered window, or more notes. After a few beats the words come.
Sometimes the man in you is uneasy; I can see it in your eyes. Just like me you need to know, can you still fly?
I let go of the table.
His face, paler than I've ever seen, is more relaxed. Heavy eyes indicate a readiness for sleep.
"I can't very well declare not to walk out on you and then…walk out, can I?"
"Thank you, Kurt."
Guiding him up from the table, his skinny body leans into me.
"Don't be so ready to give thanks."
He gives me a sideways glance.
"Today, we rest, but tomorrow, I'm takin' ya to that French priest I found. And you're gonna do some talkin'.
"What French priest?"
We reach the bedroom.
"Sweet dreams, Jude."
I push him towards the bed, close the door and stumble to the couch.
More than this.
The words to the song forming in Kurt's head are from a Chris de Burh song entitled; "More Than This."