As it has been so much lately, it was chillingly cold last night. I met up with a friend, we had dinner then went into the city where I caught up with another friend at Bennett’s Lane. For the rest of the night we were in the audience for some excellent jazz.
I went into the evening looking forward to it theoretically, but in practical terms feeling physically weary and somewhat beaten down by the unending negotiations I’m party to. As I was catching up with the woman from last week that was unfortunate.
As it turns out I managed to spark up when I needed to. I sat beside her and we talked before the performance began, and murmured to each other throughout it.
I’ve become so accomplished at carrying the conversation that it sometimes feels like performance. It isn’t, all of it’s real, organic, nothing acted out, though it’s fair to say I have some idea of how it will be received. I like listening, and when it comes time to talk want to be interesting and even a little challenging. I’m good with words and like to use them, feeling them on the tip of my tongue and in that split-second weighing them up before giving them away. Of course it’s different when the audience for my words is an attractive woman. There’s a purpose beyond mere communication, but even then it’s all natural. All that changes is the attitude. It’s the fact that I snap to it so easily that makes it feel suspicious sometimes, but I’ve snapped to it so often now that I just accept it for what it is: a fortunate and very natural reflex.
Still I sat there as the show began drifting further from the conversation and immersing myself in the music. If it’s even half decent I’ll always give it my complete attention. I’m not one of those people who will mutter and laugh in the middle of the performance. My concentration doesn’t really deviate from what I’m watching, and that’s when it’s only half decent.
Last night’s show was a bit better than that. I love good jazz, but I’m very particular. Last night, the first set particularly, really got to me.
For the most part they were great jazz standards, and I knew them all. So many memories came back to me as I leaned forward from my seat, my eyes fixed on the singer. I’ve mentioned before that before my mum married she was briefly a jazz singer. I grew up with her singing around the house, and absorbed the songs, and my mother’s love for them, almost by osmosis. It got to the point that I was word perfect on so many great jazz standards, and whenever I heard them would sing along feeling the current through me, and occasionally would belt them out singing in the shower.
So the music was great, but so were the memories, which seemed especially poignant as it was my mum’s birthday the day before. It was an hour or two of rich remembrance, not just of time’s past, but of feeling still existent.
The feeling was never stronger than when the singer took on one my mum’s favourite songs, Cry Me A River. Have to say this is one of my favourite songs too. It’s probably the song mum sang more than any other, a song my mum and I would discuss back in the day. I inherited mum’s love for music, and her feel for it. It moves me like it did her. Many great versions of this song, but we both agreed that Julie London’s version was the classic.
So I listened last night all of me in my eyes and ears and heart leaning forward to take in this performance. I sang along to it, knowing every word, appreciating every nuance of feeling, at the same time feeling it full in me because of mum. It was a brilliant 3 minutes.
By now I’d shifted into a different mindset. The room was dim, tables and chairs set out in seemingly ad hoc manner beneath a low ceiling, the band lit up in the corner. We sat by the wall. I had become conscious of myself. Conscious on two levels, the man sitting there as a physical entity, and the man I am in the situation I’m in. It was rich stuff.
The singer looked to me as she sung. I’m sure that’s a common illusion, but I felt it as a man. Part of that was sexualised, but the most of it was of me as a male taking up a space in the room. I sat beside an attractive woman. I leant forward, a larger man, dressed for winter but with bohemian style, long, thick, slightly wild-looking blonde hair, and dark rimmed glasses like Clark Kent. You walk around as a pair of eyes mostly, but sometimes you’re given cause to consider the physical presence you impart to the world. I felt more, but in a very modest way. (The singer actually sang a Roberta Flack song later, a different song of whose describes that sense – Killing Me Softly).
It was in this heightened state of awareness that the second level came into play.
Hell, there are probably people out there whose special subject is the misfortune and woe of H. My situation is more than well documented. It’s pretty much here chapter and verse. And in a way that’s what this was about, except the focus was not the practical or even the financial, but more the metaphysical.
What does it mean to be the man sitting here with the wavy blonde hair listening to this music and recalling my mum and with this back story dealing with the fucking misfortune and woe? Who am I in this? Who is this man sitting here who walked in from somewhere else with another story?
The music became both soundtrack and prompt for this intense interior dialogue. The songs, one after another, seemed like a commentary on my life and the mental conniptions I was putting myself through.
I found myself separating the practical realities of my situation from the moral underpinning of it. You can act one way or another because it is logical or because you have been forced to, but it is not always in sync with what is true of you as a man. It was this ‘truth’ my mind had focussed on – what was it?
I couldn’t find it. Perhaps it didn’t exist. I wrote the word dialogue before because one argument would be raised in my mind, prompting another to rebut it. In prosaic terms I was torn between an eternal sense of myself, which is very masculine; and the liberating notion that I did not have to always act in accordance with that. Here I have fought for so long and with all my might and I have as much as anything else because that is what I do, I fight, I can’t contemplate not fighting. But what if I didn’t?
Words came to mind: let go of the fight. What if I just let it happen? What if I just stopped fighting and let it happen and go on from there? What if I just let it be?
Right on cue the chorus of the song I was listening to, Feeling Good, was belted out:
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,
And I’m feelin’ good
Yes, I thought, I wondered, what if I give it all away and start again? Save my energy for the ‘new life’? It seemed sensible, particularly as it seems likely I’ll be forced into it anyway. Instead of kicking and screaming, why don’t I go quietly?
I recognise the sense of that. Regardless of what happens I know I can re-build if I can endure this – and I can.
We left the club and it was even colder and the ground wet from rain. I carried on as before, perfectly social, but with this in the back of my mind. More than anything at that moment I wished I had my own bed to go to, somewhere I could retire to with this in my head to sleep on it. I had confidence in that situation that I would wake knowing what. I don’t think it works though sleeping on the couch.
This morning I woke and rolled through my routine and was at the shop as normal. There was no revelation in my sleep. In the wet and cold Saturday morning I had done my sums again for the hundredth time and realised no matter how futile that I must fight. That was the practical reality of it, and I knew it coldly and without emotion. If I lose, which is likely, I know perhaps to just let it be. But that’s only if I lose.