A Song of the Past: Twenty-eight

Table of Contents

Friday, 10:30 PM
The Cape Codder was crowded and smoky when Deirdre arrived. Justin’s band was apparently on break, as the jukebox was on, playing Dire Straights. She spotted several of the band members at a table in the corner.
As she walked over, the lead guitarist, whom she knew as “Legburt Struck,” glanced up and saw her first. “Deirdre, m’sistren, what happenin’?”
“Yes, Legburt you ragamuffin. Not too much.”
He chuckled at her response. She shook his hand, and said hello to everyone else at the table. Legburt Struck, One Drop, the Archbishop, Culture—she was sure these weren’t the names their mother had given them, but these were the ones she knew them by.
“Give Deirdre a Guinness,” the Archbishop instructed. Culture handed her one from an ice-filled bucket sitting on the table.
“Where’s Justin?”
“M’think him up at the bar, chattin’ up some woman.”
“Let me go warn the poor woman what she’s getting into.”
“Yes, you must do that, Deirdre,” Culture said. Guinness bottles were tipped toward her, then conversation resumed in deep Jamaican, which she had trouble following. She moved toward the bar. She spotted Justin at its end, talking with a dark-haired woman. As she came closer she realized it was Juanita, the very same woman she had met a few nights before, at the New West Cafe.
It was Justin who spotted Deirdre first. “Deirdre! Let me introduce you to my new friend.”
Juanita raised her eyebrows. “Oh, we’ve met. But I didn’t know you two knew each other.”
Justin grinned. “Yes, this is my favorite cousin.”
“Cousins! I don’t believe it! Well, it is a small world.”
“Deirdre, let me talk to you for a minute.” Justin took hold of Deirdre’s arm. “Excuse us,” he said to Juanita as he led Deirdre away, “it’s just a little family matter.”
“She’s a very interesting lady. What do you think of her?”
Deirdre understood the language of Justin enough to know that this meant he wanted to sleep with Juanita. “She’s cute, but I’m not sure she isn’t on the other team.”
Justin looked at her blankly for a second, then shook his head and started laughing. “Her? No, no, it can’t be.” He paused to absorb the idea. “True?”
“Just an opinion. Try your luck.”
“No, I don’t deal with no foolishness like that.”
“Hey, I’m not sure. It couldn’t hurt to try.”
“Well, we have to go back on and play real soon now. Maybe you could find out for me. Keep an eye on things and see what she shows you.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Oh, by the way, I looked into Alvin Blaine for you. It’s some sad story.”
“Why is that?”
“Him a star at Wilbur Cross, a good student and a great actor. His family was real decent people. He could have gotten a full scholarship to some good college.”
“What happened?”
“His brother was killed by the police, in a drug raid that got the apartment number wrong. Alvin, him never get over it. He started using, crack and smack, and then dealing… he went totally street. He never even finished high school. People in the neighborhood was shocked. If anyone was going to make the big time, they thought it would be Alvin.”
“Thanks, Justin. I appreciate your help.” Deirdre puzzled over this new information. It nagged at her, taunting her to find its relevance.
She and Justin wound their way through the crowd, back to the bar.
“I’ll have to leave you with my cousin. It’s well time for us to roll. The crowd is getting restless.”
“All right. I’ll take good care of her for you.”
“Not too good, though.” Justin walked away.
“What did that mean, ‘Not too good’?” Juanita asked as soon as Justin was out of earshot.
Deirdre had to suppress a smile. “My cousin is odd. You never know what he’s on about. Do you want another sea breeze?”
Juanita said yes, and they ordered another round. As they waited, Juanita said, “Hey, you never called me.”
“Ah, it’s only been a week you know. I’m a busy girl.”
“Well, I found you tonight, anyway. You can run, but you can’t hide.” She shot Deirdre a coquettish smile.
The band members, as usual, were some minutes getting to the stage after Justin summoned them, busy either getting women’s phone numbers, finishing drinks, or killing off a spliff in the parking lot. By the time they were playing again, Deirdre had finished her stout and ordered another. The music started up, the Archbishop’s voice booming across the room:
Check out the real situation
Nation fight against nation
Where did it all begin?
When will it end?
Well it seems like total destruction’s
The only solution

Juanita grabbed Deirdre’s hand. “Let’s dance.” She pulled her out onto the small dance floor.
Juanita’s movements were smooth and sinuous. She had a good sense for reggae, and Deirdre was having fun dancing with her. Deirdre began to feel fey, and she threw a bit of double-time into her steps. Juanita laughed as she watched her. After a couple of songs, Juanita, slipping her arm around Deirdre’s waist, pulled her close and, in her ear, said, “Thanks. I need a break.”
“Do you want to step outside while I smoke?”
“Sure. I’ll have one, too.”
Juanita followed Deirdre out the back door. When they stepped into the parking lot they were met with the sound of a blaring car alarm.
“Jesus, I hate those things!” Deirdre said.
“Cars?” Juanita asked.
Deirdre looked at her. Juanita kept a straight face for a moment and then smiled.
Deirdre continued to study the car as she lit their cigarettes. There were four people in it, and one man just outside of it, apparently experimenting with the remote, trying to shut off the alarm. “I think they triggered their own alarm and can’t turn it off.”
“They’re probably all doped up in the car, and forgot how the alarm works.”
As they spoke, a woman got up out of the car. She shook her head back and forth, expressing her disgust with the situation. She looked to Deirdre and Juanita for sympathy.
Deirdre spoke to the woman, her voice altered to one of stoner bewilderment: “You’d better, like, get your friends out of the car. Somebody’s trying to steal it.”
The look on the woman’s face instantly changed, and she dismissed the two of them with another nod of her head and continued on inside.
“You’re bad.” Juanita chuckled and gave Deirdre a playful shove.
“It’s me Beavis and Butthead mode. Check this out.” She nodded her head toward a sports car that had just pulled in. The occupants personified bad, looking like they’d just love someone to challenge them about something. A young black man getting out of the passenger seat was wearing sunglasses on the back of his head. As he walked past them, Deirdre leaned over and whispered, “Hey, you’d better watch yourself.”
The man looked at her with a mask of aggression. “Why that?”
“You’ve got some fellow with, like, sunglasses, following you,” Deirdre said, pointing to the back of his head.
He shot her a sullen look and went inside.
“You, know,” Juanita said, “you’re really likely to get yourself in trouble.”
As they came in through the back door, after finishing their cigarettes, Deirdre ran into a big fellow, a dreadlock, whom she knew only as “Mystic Sensation.”
“Hello, Mystic.”
“Greetings, Sister Deirdre, in the name of his most imperial majesty, Selassie the First.”
He held out his hand in a fist, and Deirdre pressed the knuckles of her fist up against his. He reeked of reefer, and Deirdre was, for the hundredth time, thankful that she didn’t work in vice.
“How do you like the music tonight?”
“R.C. B.C., pardon my language, sistren. Legburt, him na get the words right tonight. M’tink him head not in it.”
“But are the words that important? The music sounds great.”
“No, sistren, in the words are the message, and one must deliver the message as it comes to you, not twist it to one’s own ends.”
“To me, the message is in the music. I don’t really listen to the words.”
“Then you must leave the darkness and come out into the light, sistren. Words are the outer garb our thoughts wear to express their inner being. Every word was made by the Almighty to carry a specific image to the mind of man. Jah him say, ‘I am that I am,’ not any other words.”
“I don’t know. I think it could as easily have been anything else at all. And I don’t see why these stories of what happened 3000 years ago concern me, even if they are true.”
“But dem same tings dem happen right now in this day. These are the days of prophecy and revelation, Sister Deirdre. It is today that Jonah rides in the belly of the whale, that Moses wanders in the desert, and that the heathens’ revelry is nigh unto destruction in Sodom and Gomorra. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Sistren, although your eyes are open, you do not see.”
“I don’t doubt but you’re right. You just have to have some mercy on us blind folk.”
Mystic laughed. He again reached out to her with a closed fist, which she again met with the same. “Yes, sistren, it’s always a pleasure reasoning with you.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
Deirdre drifted back to where Juanita awaited her at the bar. The band was playing “Buffalo Soldier,” a crowd favorite, and the dance floor was filled with people hopping about. They each fetched another drink, and then leaned back against the bar so that they faced the band and dance floor. Juanita stood so close to Deirdre that their arms often touched. When Juanita pressed up against her, Deirdre felt herself go as pale as dry grass. They got up to dance again when the Archbishop indicated that the night was ending, and the show would be over soon.
When the band finished, Deirdre ordered another Guinness. She was sliding once again to that reckless place, where, dead already, there were no consequences, only the present rush of a dry, cold wind. She had been wound up over the case, wound up over Chuck, and slammed to the ground by Ariel’s death. She didn’t think she had the strength to rise again. She simply wanted to let go, to lose control, to swim through a turbulent sea of sensation. From the stage she heard the Archbishop’s voice:
No chains around my feet
But I’m not free
I know I am bound here
In captivity

Under their stools, Juanita’s foot moved so that the front of it was pressing against her calf. Juanita leaned close and whispered in her ear, “I think that you’re a very beautiful woman.”
“And so are you.” Deirdre smiled at her. Juanita’s hand moved softly across her thigh. Scent of sweet perfume, moonflowers glowing in the dark, whispers of mingled musk, milk and honey.
“It’s almost closing time, but there’s more wine at my place.”
Deirdre stared at Juanita for a moment before replying. She needed someone, anyone, she needed to be held, to melt away in pure sensation. “Sure, I’ll come over.”
Juanita took her by the hand and led her to the parking lot. As soon as they stepped into the darkness she pulled Deirdre toward her and kissed her. Soft, like a moth landing on her lips. Juanita’s breasts touched hers. Juanita’s thigh moved up and forward, and rubbed against her zipper. Suddenly, Juanita released her. Deirdre felt like she had been dropped out of a window. She looked around nervously, to make sure no one from the band was in the parking lot. But their truck was in the front, and most likely they were all busy loading their equipment into it. Juanita took her hand again, saying, “My car is the Honda.”
Juanita played with Deirdre’s hair during the ride. They drove to a side street near the Southern Connecticut State University campus. Juanita led her up to her apartment on the second floor. “Have a seat.” She gestured to the couch in the room they had entered.
Deirdre sat, and watched Juanita go to the kitchen and reach up into a cabinet for a bottle of wine. She poured two glasses and returned to the living room with them. She handed one to Deirdre, then moved to the stereo. A romantic song began playing.
Deirdre drank a large swallow of wine. Juanita sat next to her, stroking her hair as she did so. Juanita took a sip of her wine, then moved Deirdre’s head to hers and kissed her again, the wine mingling in their mouths. Juanita drew back and stared into Deirdre’s eyes. She drank from her cup. Deirdre tilted her glass to her lips and finished her own wine in a great gulp. She put the glass down, and with both hands she held Juanita’s face and kissed her again. Juanita’s hand came up under her sweater and tee shirt and found her right breast. Deirdre moaned, her head fell back on the couch, and she sank into that sought-for sea of sensation.

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