This haibun was first published in Life In 10 Minutes . Photo: Linda Laino
He often frequented the bar where I worked. It was of the hotel variety, and yet in the small town in Florida where I was living, it operated more as a local favorite. I was 20, and at the height of my young loveliness without realizing it, as we don’t when we are young. It also happened to be a time in my life when I didn’t own a bra. This of course, added considerably to my tip jar, and in hindsight the leering looks I often received from my boss. Against this backdrop, I plied the barmaid trade. On the weekends, there was great music lined up and so consistently the place attracted musicians. Is it a natural law that young women must lay with guitar players? What is it about performing with an instrument that is such an aphrodisiac?
James resembled an adult cherub with his fine, long blonde curls bleached by the sun. When I finally got a closer look, I had never in my life seen eyes so large and blue. When I was working, he never seemed to notice me, even as much as I tried to give him special attention. I had a very hard time “reading” men at that time. Subtle clues of attraction seemed to escape me, never realizing that young men were just as insecure as young women and often hid those clues.
One night at the bar as a patron and not a server, my friend and I ended up at a table with him and his band. While his friend was strutting like an overbearing peacock, trying to shock us with talk of his testicle piercing, and no doubt hoping to get laid, James won me over with his quiet presence and shy smile. At some point, he asked me my name. Before I could answer, my friend playfully said “Consuela”. She always was a better flirt than me. He seemed to enjoy this unexpectedly “exotic” name, and went along with the ruse. As much as I willed him to ask, though, there was no telephone number exchanged or ask for a date.
Weeks later, he happened to be at the bar one night as it was closing. There was talk of a party somewhere. One of those open invitations that you decide includes you even though you have no idea who the host is. He casually asked me if I would be there and in my head I thought, I will go anywhere you are going.
The party night turned to dawn as we found ourselves alone in a room. He gently kicked my foot with his cowboy boot and said “Do you want to get out of here?” He took me to watch the sunrise in a beautiful spot, and ended up at his house by morning where we sat on the couch getting stoned. When he finally leaned over and kissed me, he whispered, “I’ve been dying to do that all night."
We later moved to another city where we lived together for a short time, but I eventually left him to return to my former boyfriend in a different state. This seemed to begin a pattern of leaving good men for bad. James cried when I left as we hugged goodbye in a nameless Florida parking lot. He never stopped calling me Consuela.
"Seeds and Stems” his song
Gentle cherub boy on bass
Her two names long gone
Down To Seeds and Stems Again Blues/Commander Cody