release

I talked to M today. I don't think I realized how much I missed her until I heard her voice. She sounded great and said she was having fun. I am glad. She's going to Table Mountain soon. I am relieved she's doing some tourist things; I was afraid she'd be stuck inside a library all day.

I am more lonely than I realized I'd be. I've called Oren and bugged him a lot. I talked to my parents and my brother. It's been nice to take a break but I've been working on my narrative and it has exhausted me. I need something that forces me out of my head.

In a recent conversation with Breu, he said that jazz saved his life. I understand that sentiment so I've included part of my narrative for your reading pleasure.

When summer came my entire family including both sides of grandparents traveled to St. George Island, Florida. The change in scenery inspired Mother to paint again. Matt and I used to sit for her. We’d bring shells from the beach as offerings. At night, I looked out the glassed-in porch waiting for alligators.

“I touched an alligator’s back once,� Mother told me.

“You did?�

“ We were visiting Uncle Eddie in the swamps. I sat in the back of this swamp boat and let my hands glide over the water. I loved feeling like I could hold the water, if just for a second, in my hands. As we neared the dock I felt something rough against my hand and pulled it back quickly. Then an alligator popped his head up and I screamed and jumped almost turning the boat over.� She laughed at the memory.

“Wow.� I said, looking back to the darkness waiting for alligator eyes to shine.

“Momma dance,� Matt interrupted us and Mother took off holding his hand. They danced in the living room to Frank Sinatra. My father sang along. I watched from the porch, observing from the outside.

There was a piano at the summer house. To spend time with her, I told Mother I wanted to learn to play. She lay her hands over mine, and pushed my fingers down on the cold, hard keys. I repeated the notes as we hit each key, C, A, B. My mother doesn’t love music in its raw form; it has to be classical, smooth, perfectly played for her to enjoy it. Mother likes classical violins and piano. Bach, Enescu, Debussy. I remember her playing the radio or tapes while she painted. I used to think she found it inspirational but there is melancholy in the arrangements she loved. Sometimes in the dark, I sit still; I listen for the clues to her in the music. Waiting for her stories to reveal themselves I spend hours listening to piano solos, Debussy’s Jardin sous la pluis makes me cry. Mother doesn’t value the dissonance, the harder edge of the music my father taught me to love. For me, there’s something in even the ugliness, the grittiness of sound that attracts me. The music I tried to play was never pretty. I took up the clarinet, which for weeks only came out as a squeaking noise. But it was a noise I created. I was never good at music. My fingers moved too slowly for the loveliness expected of me. My mother wanted elegance. I wanted noise.

I loved jazz from the moment I heard John Coltrane’s saxophone on a record my father played. I watched my father’s hands drum against his desk. There was something indescribable about the music he played in his study, at the other end of the house. It made me feel alive with possibilities. I imagined Coltrane in that study, playing just for me. His fingers moving quickly as notes changed off beat. For me, jazz was a kind of magic, a language without words, something that didn’t need explanation. Jazz offered no answers. It was unapologetic about its form and I was enthralled.

I have since cultivated a taste for jazz. I listened to every kind of jazz to find what I truly loved, what moved me. I enjoy surprising people with my knowledge of music, especially jazz and blues. A friend once confided, “White girls aren’t supposed to know about jazz, you know?� He was teasing me but I rolled his words over in my mind for weeks, pleased that I somehow defied his expectations of me. I first loved jazz because my father did, and then I loved it because I wasn’t supposed to and now I love it because it just makes more sense to me than any other music. And a little bit because my mother doesn’t get it.