Offramp – New York/NY
(Inspired by the painting “Professional Losers”, by Agata Kus)
It was a time of late nights, underground jazz clubs, Pat Metheny music and a certain drummer who played in a cover band.
James, the drummer, was not super handsome, but he had a mix of shy and mischievous charm, framed by wild curly brown hair. The more he tried to tame the hair, the more attractive it was. Of course Clara fell for him. She loved jazz too.
She started following the band, that carried the lousy name of The best of the best. Clara became an indie and lonely groupie. Every weeknight, when true bohemians go out and the crowd in bars is vibrant and smart, she ended up in Downtown unknown jazz clubs, where the four musicians lead by James’s drums played Pat Metheny covers. Her favorite album was Offramp. Her favorite song, James.
Clara always ordered red wine, but soon she will discover that James drank beer. After a couple of weeks admiring the band – well, the drummer – standing at numerous bars, holding a glass of wine, he finally started to notice her. She waited until the day he came to say hi, a bottle of Heineken in his left hand. She noticed his long pale fingers while he extended his right hand to greet her for the first time.
“Hi, I’m James.”
Their first conversation was long, but Clara couldn’t stop looking at his fingers, electric and magical on stage, the beat of the song James in her ears. She could close her eyes and follow the way his drums talked to guitar and keyboard playing that music. Now his fingers were nothing but ordinary at the bar.
They started to talk at the clubs, after his shows, every week. The dark bars in the city always smelled of humidity, dust and beer.
One night, he invited her to go home with him in his car. After the end of the show and a few drinks, after all the customers left, he took a long time disassembling the drums, part by part, carefully putting them back in cases and loading the trunk.
“You see…this is the musician’s life. We gather instruments. Assemble them on stage. Sound check. Showtime. Encore. Pick up. Load the car. Hope to get paid. Go home.”
Clara was standing in the cold, asking herself if she should go with him or not. Curiosity and his curly hair won the battle. His apartment was small and surprisingly romantic. He was kind and wrapped her in blankets afterwards. At five in the morning she had an urge to get up and leave. Her head was silent, no music. She ran home and never went back to the clubs, or to James. He instead, started a recording studio, but never quit his bar band.
(PS: Thank you, Agata Kus, for letting me use your beautiful painting.)