Sunday, February 18, 2007

He put his trumpet case down on the bench next to me, sat, and sighed. I looked over and smiled, and he nodded back, inquiring after the bus. My smalltalk exhausted, I leaned back against the bus stop's shelter just as he leaned forward and took a long look at me. "You're a singer, aren't you? A lead singer, I'll bet." "Nope, not a singer. Can't sing at all." I shrugged apologetically, hands spread wide. He had a pair of drumsticks in one pocket and softly greying hair. His shoulders rolled forward and he looked as tired as I felt.

I have fallen into the habit of talking to magical strangers whenever I find them, so we meandered into a conversation about our respective talents. As the discussion lapsed a moment he looked at me sideways and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, by the way. You married?" "Nope." "Good. I think that's good. I was married once. Woman left me up in Alaska. Took my best trumpet and my guitar player with her. He was mean as hell but that cat could play anything with strings." At this point, I started to suspect that he was having me on. I've met many an old jazz man who spoke in the same way, scattered in broken down joints in red dirt states, but in Seattle? On Eastlake? It was just a little bit much. But he looked the part, about sixty and with hands knotted from years of heavy use, and who am I to say where magical jazz men are to be found? I smiled again and patted the aging hand resting on the case between us.

He nodded at me again, flexed his feet, tapped the toe of one of his shoes with a drumstick. "Yep, little girl, I'm getting old. These shoes here, they've got a lot of miles left on them. It's the soles of my feet that are wearing thin."

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