The words over at Three Word Wednesday are drink, feeble and predict. This is the 200th 3WW prompt; I checked and my first was Jan. 10, 2008 – the 69th prompt. That’s 131 3WW contributions to date, if you’re counting at home.
The house is dark, save for twin flames kicked up from slender Mexican religious votives. There’s a chill in the air; as with nearly everything else, the furnace slumbers through the nexus of night.
Ahmad Jamal pours out into the night, low on the stereo; it’s his 1958 live recording at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel and the drum and piano – slinking and sexy – of “Poinciana” has become the original soundtrack of this particular darkness.
There’s an antiseptic smokiness to his teeth and gums from the bourbon he’s poured; the drink is never far from his grip, the glass, the liquid, another soothing tonic for his troubled soul.
Restless under quilts and comforters, he has since swung his legs from the bed and ambled feeble and naked across wood floors, the chill like spikes on his calloused soles. While his eyes wake and adjust to the darkness, fingertips brush the plastered hallway walls like whiskers, which keeps him on-course.
His pupils’ constrict as the lighter explodes into an orange flame as he lights the votives. He sets the lighter down and scoops up the handful of rocks – beach agates mostly, smoothed by surf and sand – and rolls a particularly milky one between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. He shuts his eyes and tries to hear the echoes this particular talisman has to offer.
He breathes deep and the rocks are deposited back into the dusty martini glass. He runs his hands across the vertical stacks of plastic, the multitudes of CDs that he reinvested in when the age of the phonograph came and went; the very collection that was slowly becoming obsolete in the new age of iTunes, downloads, digital music.
Without looking, his fingers find the jewel cases he seeks at times like this: Jamal, Diana Krall, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck.
He slots the music into the player by candlelight, like he’s done thousands of times before, hits shuffle, takes a mouthful of bourbon and closes his eyes as if to will the first random selection. He smiles as the first strains of “Poinciana” begin and he shutters – the muscles in his back ripple – as the déjà vu moment flashes and subsides.
He runs a hand across his face and fingertips reading the Braille that is the stubble of his beard. His fingers trace his nose down across his lips, across his chin and down to where the thick chest hair begins. His hand rests on his heart – the pads detect the two-step, tuh-tump of his beating heart and he sighs, slight. He raises his head to the ceiling and breathes deep once again.
He crosses the living room to the sofa, lands quietly and brings his knees to his chest. He massages the knuckles of scar tissue that run like a zipper across the outer edge of the ruined joint. He smiles again, and takes in the memory of long runs alone - where his mind sometimes found calm.
But not tonight – and for past many nights, for that matter – as his brain has drawn him, once again restless, from flannel sheets to meander through his house in the dark. As if by mission to recall and remember the aura of memories that filled each object – all the treasured knick-knacks - that radiated half-life into the night.
Where the darkness might take him, it’s too muddled to predict.
At times like this, he’s happy to be surrounded by these bits of congealed time – a just-in-case scenario, a gathering of markers - debris, really - of a life lived thus far.
There's comfort, for these are the very things that kept him grounded, secure, here.