Whatever happened with Angie would take a while. She and Shawn both seemed more comfortable quartetting it with Wendy and Pancho. When they were alone, they both seemed distracted and inert. Occasionally, their eyes would flash in conversation, or he would make her laugh. He loved her sharp wit, her jaded outlook, but for whatever reason the loop refused to close.
They began to fall into the habits of friendship: going Dutch, the goodnight hug. It might have been simple chemistry. After Tacoma, Shawn knew the color of those sparks, and he wasn’t getting any from Angie.
When they ran out of art films at the Grand, they gave into mass marketing and saw a Jackie Chan movie. Shawn hated to admit it, but the guy had turned martial arts into something new, half Baryshnikov, half Buster Keaton.
They pulled up to the Cambridge to find lawn furniture: a mattress, bookcase, kitchen table and three chairs. A flyer from the police department declared that these were the results of an eviction, and were not to be disturbed.
Shawn left Angie with their customary embrace and nearly skipped the two flights to his apartment. Fourth-floor Shawn was history! He was still winded when he hit the answering machine and heard an unexpected voice.
“Hi Shawn. I hate to call just to take advantage of your muscle, but... I’m moving, and I really need some help. Could you rescue a lady in distress? Give me a call. Please.”
Suzanne had been transferred out-of-state, leaving Tacoma with the choice of finding another roommate or another situation. She opted for a one-bedroom in a nice complex near Point Defiance. Its only drawback was a narrow staircase with a sharp right turn, making furniture navigation a particular pain. It didn’t help that Tacoma kept cracking jokes at critical lifting moments, leaving Shawn somewhere between dying laughing or just plain dying.
The work was good, though, because it gave them a focus. They managed to avoid any awkwardness till later, consuming the requisite pizza as they scraped for things to say.
“How’s the band?”
“Great! We’re playing Cole’s tomorrow night.”
“Cole’s! Isn’t that the one you’ve been shooting for?”
“Yeah. The real blues joint. They don’t let you play there unless you’ve been in jail at least once.”
Oh, that did it. She smiled. He could fend off anything but that.
“Would you mind if I... showed up?” she asked.
Shawn smiled back. “I’d be honored.”
The next day, Shawn’s mind was a hundred miles away. He should have been relaxing, perhaps running some songs through his head. Instead, he was running Tacoma through his head, trying to figure if this reunion really meant something.
His answer came in a common term of male appraisal, uttered by Pancho as Shawn knelt on the stage, tuning his bass drum.
She walked through the door in black leather go-go boots, chocolate suede miniskirt, black-and-gold sleeveless sequin top, and a jacket of black see-through lace extending to her wrists.
Artemis, thought Shawn. The Huntress. It was time to make some quick decisions.
Ivy had just told them about a festival in Twin Falls, Idaho. She wanted to line up clubs on the way there and back, and make a tour of it. For Shawn, it was a life’s dream, and he wanted it all for himself. There were lots of tales about drummers and groupies, and he wanted to skim those shallow waters just once. So he coached himself: Make no promises.
He tightened the last head-nut and went to the bar, where Tacoma was sipping from a Roy Rogers. He ran a finger down the back of her neck and watched her apple-cider eyes as she turned.
“Hi. You look incredible.”
“Y’look pretty good yourself.”
“Nonsense. I look like a drummer. YOu look like a czarina.”
After such pleasant beginnings, it was easy to fall into old habits. At the first break, he held her hand under the table. At the second, he opened her fingers and kissed her palm. She responded by kissing his jawline just under the earlobe.
Matters weren’t helped by the band, which was operating like a beautiful machine. They knew the music well enough that they could swim around in it. Halfway through “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” Shawn extended the drum break into a hip-hop beat, smacking those interior James Brown snare shots and refusing to cue the guitarists back in. Ivy jumped to the mic, taking an old sexuo-political poem (“Mister/Misses”) and laying it out over the drum track.
Drinking a post-gig martini, unable to keep his facial features from rising, the loveliest girl on God’s green planet on his arm, Shawn was an easy target. Tacoma whispered an invitation, and Shawn responded with a breath-stealing kiss, raising a round of hoots and hollers from the twelve people left in the bar.
Photo by MJV