Part VI

Supper is at the Dice ("I have to repay him for looking after my bike.") and the conversation is more topical than exploratory prodding, which I think is something of a relief for both of us. It's always interesting talking to people who have read, but not been told what to think about what they read. He does not disappoint. We talk Walden and Ginsberg and swap Lenny Bruce jokes. He hasn't gotten his hands on Li Po or the Taoists yet. I have only a scanty knowledge of modern philosophy. A brief foray into Kenneth Rexroth brings that lop-sided grin back as I feel my cheeks turn red while discussing the influence of "When We With Sappho". By the time I'm stealing the last of his chips we're hip deep in a discussion of Jazz, an interest most of his young protégés do not share.

"They're into Rock n' Roll, which is o.k. in its way." He draws on his cigarette, "Too structured. Too simple. More so now that the record companies have started white washing it."

"Yeah, now, but it doesn't have to stay that way. I can't think of a single music form that has remained static."

"Maybe, but at the moment there's no room for a Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk to come out and really play with the form. To really make it speak. Jazz was always fluid, of the moment. You go back to what it was during the war and then look at it now. It almost a completely different animal. Jazz can take anything, any song, and turn it into something else entirely."

"You're talking Coltrane."

"Exactly! The most banal sugary song, a kid's song, becomes something meaningful, something haunting."

"Most people are pretty unhappy with him right now."

Unsurprisingly, he brushes popular opinion aside. "They don't see what he is doing with the structure. How he is freeing the melody and the rhythm. How he is opening the door for others. In fact…" he glances over his shoulder to check the clock above the counter. "…you can see for yourself. Come on."

We take both bikes this time and I follow him to a small basement club in town. It's Saturday night and the joint is in full swing, but not unpleasantly crowded. Lots of younger people, but enough folk our age to make the atmosphere relaxed and "cool." My friend gets more than a few nods of greeting as he plows through the crowd at the bar to get us drinks.

He returns several minutes and a couple quick conversations with the bartender and another patron later. After handing me my gin and tonic, he steers me to where a band is setting up on a riser the size of a postage stamp. Steers. His hand on my back the entire time, he introduces me to the band including a gangling lad barely old enough to be in here whom he proudly declares to be "The best axe-man in the north."

"Jimmy." the kid says quietly, blushing from my companion's effusive introduction.

I tell him my name and shake his hand in return.

"Oh, you give *him* your name." my companion mock-pouts. "I've been with her since lunchtime and she hasn't told me yet."

"You haven't asked."

"He didn't either!" he protests over the band's knowing laughter.

"He gave me his."

"Oh, so that the way it works is it? Ricky." He sticks out a hand which I shake and repeat my name again.

After encouraging, no commanding, the band to "slay" tonight, Ricky steers me towards some comfortable couches at the back of the club. We chat for a few minutes about how long he has been coming here and the jazz scene in Durham before the band starts up.

He's right, the kid is blows a mean sax.

Ricky's arm is draped across the back of the couch as we enjoy the music in silence, giving me time to mull over things. Talking with Ricky is as easy a breathing, yet downright exhilarating, and I readily admit to myself that I enjoy his physical presence. Less readily I admit that I even enjoy the possessive gestures he made ever since we walked into the club. But given the rest of his character, I know what they mean. He has only broken into his rhetoric, a diatribe of rough polished rage at the educational establishment, once since we sat down to dinner, but it was enough to remind me what I am dealing with. The ever-simmering anger, the ego, and the dominance. And as much as Leo power-play can be a fun for an evening, or in certain arenas, with a personality like his I would have to engage in them constantly to maintain my own identity and autonomy in his eyes. The idea itself is exhausting. That is if there is a relationship. Monogamy is not something high on a Beat's priory list, if it appears on their list at all, and as progressive and independent as I am, I'm just not wired that way.

During the last song, his fingers start to toy with the back of my neck, taking a hearty whack at my resolve but not shaking it.

"You're not coming home with me, are you?" he says flatly as the last of the applause sputters out.

"No." He withdraws his arm with a look of smoldering disgust. "Before you go spouting off about the silly left over mores of a Victorian society, this is me. Alright? What we've done this evening, that was fun. This has been fun and I appreciate all of it. I know sex is not marriage and mortgage and a picket fence, but it does mean something more to me than an evening's entertainment. I spend the night with you, I'm going to be sticking around a while and I'm not sure either of us wants that. We had a beautiful moment. Let's just take it for what it is."

I find myself pinned under a piercing steel grey glare.

"You've been talking yourself out of it since we got here."

"What?"

"You have. You been sitting there the entire time working out reasons why you shouldn't come home with me. Jeezus, the bike, dinner, all this shifting, keeping us off course."

"That's not true!" Well, half-not true, I was actually hungry. "And you never asked if I wanted to take that "course." Shit. I silently kick myself for revealing the half lie and hope he doesn't catch it.

He does.

"How many faults, I wonder, did you tick off with that little clockwork brain of yours? How many problems did you have to conjure to overcome that moment? From the way you were kissing me earlier, I bet it's a list as long as your arm. Always the outsider watching, too afraid just be in the moment, to let anything really touch you."

"Are you actually *daring* me to sleep with you? Oh yeah. That's a wonderful reason to go to bed with someone. Look, real freedom is the freedom to say "Yes" *and* it is the freedom to say, "No." He looks away, unable to counter that argument. I look at stage, unable to look at him. "Please don't make this ugly. I had a wonderful time today, I really enjoyed being with you."

"So the truth is ugly?"

"Oh, you want the truth? The truth is you're too damn used to getting your own way."

We sit there glaring at each other. Somebody should throw a fiver on the table and dramatically storm out, but neither one of us wants to yield the field. Eventually the ridiculousness of situation strikes us both at the same time, and we start to smile...and then we start to laugh.

"O.k. perhaps I did get ahead of myself there."

I quietly and childishly thank the Gods he apologized first. He started it. "And perhaps I should have been clearer about my intentions rather than leading you on...Tho' it was really...wonderful."

"Yeah." He takes my hand in his. "It was that. I shouldn't have gotten angry with you just now."

"No. You shouldn't have..but.."

"But?"

"You didn't say anything that wasn't true. But that's my business."

He says nothing for a moment, looking down at his thumb stroking the back of my hand before nodding sagely. "Right."

Holy Hannah, the man can kiss. This one long and deep, deliberately trying to sear himself into my memory with pure physical passion.

It works.

But it's the kiss he leaves me with outside as we say our good-byes, the strains of Charlie Parker's, "All the Things You Are" coming from the jukebox within as he fires a parting shot of a long, sweet touch of his lips to mine. A gentle taste of breath and warmth. A sensual benediction...

…that was just plain dirty pool.

He releases me but he doesn't move, daring me to walk away. As I move back from him, my skin practically screaming for the loss of his warmth, a slight wrenching sensation my chest, he catches my hand and presses a chaste kiss into its back.

I think I manage to keep my knees steady as I mount and kick start my bike, though the fishtail as I bring it around probably kills any appearance of "cool". At the edge of the road I look back over my shoulder. He's sitting there on his bike. Watching me.

The damn man is waiting for me to turn around. For a one night stand!

Well, *that* level of ego is enough to send me cheerfully on my way. As I ride north looking for a hotel to crash for the night, I run down the litany of his perceived faults, our incompatible traits, and the probable ugly end of any relationship where he got sick of my intellectualizing and I got sick of his constant anger and ego. *If* there was a relationship on the table. *Which* there was not.

"No." I say to myself after a long hot shower in the first motel I come across, pulling the sheets up to my nose and curling up to sleep. "Much better this way. A lovely romantic memory. Done and over with."

Of course, I don't actually get to sleep until sometime after 3:00. In fact, I am dead asleep when the pounding on my door starts at 8:12.

Well, he certainly knows how to fill a doorway.

"So.." says he with deliberate casualness, rocking slightly forward as he half-hangs from the lintel, "...I was thinking it might not be so bad if you stuck around for a bit. I've only showed you a couple stretches along the coast. You probably haven't seen the Pennies or the Dales yet. Now those are real moors. One crap gothic novel and Yorkshire thinks they know...moors." His eyes have traveled down my t-shirt to my bare legs and when he reaches my ankle he cocks his head quizzically to the side, his smirk curling slowly into a smile full of lasciviously amused delight. "And you have a tattoo."

~Fin~