Thursday, November 18, 2021

“How High the Moon”

 “That poor pathetic ass,” said Araminta.

“Yes,” said Gerry, “I know. But perhaps he’s happy.”

“Who’s happy?”

“That’s a good question. I think people are intermittently happy, when they’re doing things they enjoy.”

“Or sleeping,” said Araminta.

“Yes, unless of course they have horrible nightmares.”

“There’s that,” she said.

“Or unless they have insomnia.”

“That too,” said Araminta.

“Or unless they’re suffering from some sort of chronic painful ailment,” said Gerry.

Mon dieu, Gerry!”

“But it’s true,” he said. ”Just wait until you get older and your lumbago starts acting up. It’s all you’ll be able to think about.”

“Do you have lumbago, Gerry?”

“No, but I only used that as an example. You see I find it very tiresome when people bring every subject back to themselves, as they nearly always do, and so I attempt not to do so myself.”

“Don’t want to bore yourself?”

“Try not to,” said Gerry.

A new song had come onto the jukebox, “How High the Moon”, Gerry recognized the song but not the singer, a girl singer –

Somewhere there's heaven
It’s where you are
Somewhere there’s music
How near, how far

The darkest night would shine
If you would come to me soon
Until you will, how still my heart
How high the moon…

“I’ve realized,” said Araminta, “that perhaps these are the best days of my life.”

“Well, you’re young,” said Gerry, “so I should suggest you enjoy your youth while you have it.”

“And did you enjoy your youth, Gerry? That man Dickie Throckmorton certainly seems to think you fellows had fun.”

“I think we had fun in our youthful and asinine way.”

“You must have had loads of fun in your time in Paris.”

How high the moon
Does it touch the stars
How high the moon
Does it reach out to Mars...

“Araminta,” said Gerry, “I feel I must disabuse you of any romantic notions of my two post-graduate years in Paris.”

“Do go on, mon cher Gérard.”
“I spent most of that time alone, sitting in cafés, drinking beer, reading, staring off into space, taking walks, going to movies, talking to no one. Occasionally I would jot down a line of juvenilia in a notebook. I had no affairs, because I was very bashful. If I were approached by prostitutes I would pretend I couldn’t understand what they wanted. In short, I shouldn’t say I had a bad time, but let’s just say it was not all that, what’s the word, novelistic.”

“Not a single affair?”

“Not one.”

“I don’t mean to pry.”

“Oh, pry away.”

“Surely you must have had some affairs, Gerry? If not in your Paris years, then later.”

Gerry sighed. Should he be honest? Why not?

“No,” he said.

“Not one.”

“No, not even one,” he said.

“Wait, not even a, you should pardon the expression, a one-nighter, with some drunken floozy at Bob’s Bowery Bar?”

“Araminta, you’ve seen the drunken floozies at Bob’s. I’ll admit that possibly, on a very few rare occasions, I might have been able to, uh, attempt an act of concupiscence with a very softhearted and magnanimous drunken floozy, but, as drunk as I was, as drunk as I ever was, I was never quite that drunk.”

“I take your point, Gerry. You had what we call standards.”

“I suppose so.”

“And do you miss it, not having had affairs, or, dare I say, marriage, children?”

“I know this may sound odd, but I don’t think about those things too often.”

“You are like a zen monk,” said Araminta.

“I’m so glad you noticed that.”

“Ha ha.”

“The thing is, in my small way I do think of myself as a philosopher, and so even though I know I’ve missed out on much of what life offers, I suspect that there are chaps who’ve had lots of affairs, as well as marriages and children, who might envy the simple life that I lead.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it.”

The song on the jukebox had ended, and the only sounds were people’s voices, laughing and chattering.

“And anyway,” said Gerry, “in a very strange way, I feel that this right here right now is the best of life.”

“Sitting here in the San Remo?”

“Yes, it’s all been building up to this.”

“How thrilling, and I speak with a complete lack of irony. I’ve been having a pretty damn good time myself. Why couldn’t you be twenty years younger, Gerry? Or fifteen.”

“The universe did not ordain it thus.”

“Ha ha. My wine glass is empty.”

“So’s my beer.”

“Should we have another round?”

“Sure, why not?”

Gerry caught the bartender’s attention, and gave him the two-fingered “two more, please” gesture. He looked at Araminta, who was gazing in the direction of the colorful rows of liquor bottles on the shelves, and then he looked past her, out at the open doorway of the café. The streetlights had come on while they were sitting here, and the rain was still falling down sparkling on Bleecker Street as cars whooshed by and people walked or stumbled along under their umbrellas.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, brilliantly illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

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