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The Fruit-Cake (Act VI: The Jam Bar, Part One of Two)
The Jam Bar
[Inside/at the Jam Bar]
As Rosario and Lee walk inside of the Jam Bar, the coolness of the cross ventilation of the bar is quickly calming for Lee [along with some air-conditioning coming from somewhere, Lee is kind of looking in the air for it, up towards the ceiling]. He is catching his breath and it seems for the most part his body is cooling down. He wipes his brow, and looks about the bar to find a few chairs or stools available. There is an opening at the front of the bar, at the counter, several stools open. The bar is lightly lit, and dampness fills the air (like most dingy bars). The bar smells a bit muggy–that is to say, not refreshing at all, but nonetheless it is cool. A few people are playing pool to the left side at the end of the bar, away from Lee and Rosario. And the bar is long, made of mahogany wood, about twenty feet long. Tables to the left of them are filled, and so are the few that are at the end of the bar. They grab the first of the seven seats they see. There are about five people at the bar; –two at the end of the bar, and three by Rosario and Lee, but sitting about three seats over on the opposite side are two unusual looking people at the end of the bar (unusual to Lee and his wife that is).
They both order cokes…look about as they get situated in their bar seats; — Lee notices two men at the end of the bar to his left (these are the same two unusual looking people), one looks similar to a boxer, and the other sitting a few seats from him, looks simply plain, that is, plain as in, –he has no sense of him at all for some reason. But the one who looks similar to a boxer looks a bit hungry for something [possibly trouble, so Lee tells himself]. He is a well built Blackman with broad shoulders akin to a cement layer might have; broad and thick neck. His arms rested on the bar. His face is huge, although he I doubt he is over six-foot tall. Big fists attached to an ugly smile: is Lee’s thoughts, more in the vein of a smirk; he looks over towards Lee, as if he is interested in him, or in his wife, or maybe the guys behind Lee, but it looks more as if it was his wife he is and was looking at. Most of the bar is filled with black men of a little different character of what he is used to. Jazz is playing. The whole place is filled with smoke. Some deals were being made, dope Lee told himself. Lee started to drink his coke down quicker, inferring to Rosario, they should leave, but Rosario seemed to be fascinated with the bar, the jazz playing [not interested in the player particular, but the music, the merriment, the different culture and style of life going on in the bar].
Then a young man appeared and started talking to the boxer. As the young man looked at the Blackman, he then looked at Rosario, then both of them [spartanly].
He is about twenty-two year old, a slender tall white man of about six foot, if he had been a male-model before going to prison [and Lee is guessing at that], it would suite him well, he had that confinement look; –marble-smooth skin, –a model type, that might have been the boxer’s lover at one time, if this was fiction, Lee told himself, this is how he’d write it.
He had a thin waist, extraordinary effeminate features for a male–
Surely had he put make up on, and a dress, combed out his hair, he could have been mistaken for a girl. He had mannerisms, composure of a feministic quality, and his looks and gestures were powerful in that area, for they provoked the boxer to not look towards the direction of Lee and his wife for the moment, a long moment [almost as if he was jealous]. His dreamy milky white eyes were cool and sexy, calm and seducing. He smoked his cigarettes with two fingers, at the end of the cigarette. He had a thin, smooth face. He was fascinating to watch, if not foolish: so thought Lee. And at times one could see he had too much makeup on.
Then the young man walked out the backdoor of the bar, and the boxer started to look at Rosario again. It was but a few minutes, and he was three seats closer, yet four seats away from Rosario and Lee. Lee whispered to Rosario, ‘I’ve seen this before, it’s trouble, let’s go.’ But Rosario insisted she finish her coke. And now the man stood up and sat right next to Rosario. His hands were moving here and there, as if they were going to start going up her legs, yet Rosario didn’t notice them, only Lee, and if trouble started [thought Lee] no one in this bar would help. And so he quickly stood up, took his coke bottle, stepped in-between the two, and told the man to move on, that Rosario was his wife. At this point, Rosario was stunned, almost frozen in fear, if not disbelief.
The boxer [arrogantly, and assuredly]. I don’t hear the woman complaining. [Lee holding solidly onto the bottle and with his left shoulder blocking the right hand of the boxer so it would not exceed his waist.
Lee [becoming more aggressive with his tone]. I said she’s with me, and doesn’t want you Mister, so move on!
The boxer [more harshly]. I don’t move for you, if the lady wants, I’ll go.
[Rosario still in some kind of shock, or misunderstanding, that is, not knowing quite what was going on, and how she got involved with him in the first place, said nothing at first, then became awaken from her frozen state.]
Rosario. I’m with my husband, please don’t start any trouble and leave. [To Lee’s surprise, the man did step-down from the potential fight, more on a hero-kick than anything].
Rosario [to Lee]. What in the world just took place? I mean, I was just enjoying myself and…
Lee. And this dear is what happens when you don’t listen; I asked you to leave, I have been in many bars in my life, and I’ve seen it coming. You were looking at these men, and they took it that you were interested in them, or in particular, the one man. Men don’t need much to carry that feeling or perception. Men and women do not think the same. Women can be friends with men, and women to women can be friends, but very seldom can a man be a friend with a woman, and only a friend; that is to say, if he is attracted to her; matter-of-fact, it is hard for him to be a friend without sex–and that is really what we are talking about–even to a plain looking woman, and in your case, being as pretty as you are, they would go an extra mile at your smile. And black men often times pick up white women because they are easier, or so a black friend of mine once told me, and so he thought you might be on the menu. Men think because you smile at them, you want to go to bed with them, that is, the majority of men.
Rosario. I don’t believe this; you’re making this all up. You’re jealous.
Lee. No, it’s true, just start looking around again like you was doing, and we’ll end up in round two. Listen, the only difference between a male friend and a husband is usually sex, usually I say, but not always. A husband is a friend; a male friend is simply not a husband. There is one big difference though, we are sidekicks, and that makes the big difference.
Rosario [trying to smile]. Yaw sidekick, let’s get the heck out of here, and I mean NNNNNNNOww.
[An attack – Outside the bar]
It is over 100 F this day; Lee and Rosario have just stepped out of the bar onto the sidewalk. The sun is bright, and they both are squinting their eyes, adjusting, getting acclimated from the dark-dingy bar to the outside sunlight world.
A black gap-of time–
A sense of doom, as if he is swallowing, dryness in his mouth appears; he is trying to wet his lips with his tongue.
He braces himself–
He moves his feet apart as if to start wobbling, –thus, holding himself in a stance for a better balance, yet he tries walking farther, about thirty feet from the bar, slowly; –Rosario is looking at Lee, not quite sure what to do, but is about to grab him, the sidewalk is hot, the sun is sitting on top of their heads, although they both have hats on for protection: it is absorbing.
Lee’s heart is starting to twist, contract, squeeze [he is taking little breaths]: approximating to a snake, a python coiled around his heart; it squeezes the life out of it. A sickness is seeping into his veins, his head, his stomach, his bowels, and his ears his nose; —-wooziness is overcoming him, as if he needs to go to the bathroom, but can’t go. As if he wants to eat but can’t digest the food. The round-shaped heart, Gods-life-organ, human pump, on the surface side of his chest seems not to be able to stop the grip of the snake, it just will not let go…[small breaths are being taken by Lee, you can see his chest going up and down, up and down, up and down]; the snake is squeezing a little tighter, and tighter, taking his breath away for a second, then a puff of relief, then it starts robbing his air again… no full breaths now, just slow seeping air, slowly, slowly, as his chest goes up and down, up and down, as if his lungs are being filled with water, and it is almost to the top, –the top of the shell, casing, skin. His head is looking, searching for a full breath, but it can’t find it, but he is adjusting to the little puffs of air (if he could cut his throat open and get some he would, but it is not in his throat, it is in his heart). He knows his wife cannot help, unless he takes her air, but that won’t even help, not with the snake coiled around his heart squeezing.
The last sounds of civilization within Lee’s brain are sounds of car wheels on the payment, the wind carrying the voices of people, a few radios from the cars can be heard as they pass by, clusters of mixed voices, yet they all seem to be going away from him with each little breath of air, half breath of air, and even less than that; –actually his focus is becoming much clearer as he penetrates Rosario’s eyes, and starts to block most everything else out.
Lee can now taste the sweat dripping on his forehead as it rolls over skin and protruding bone on his face to reach his lips, and melt into his mouth onto his tongue. It is salty at best, and it has a life to itself, as the sounds go away, the taste now has taken over and that also is evaporating into oblivion.
With all of this, his level-headedness is fading, his sense of feel is leaving him, although Rosario is holding his hand, it is as if he is numb. He has to move his fingers to sense her touch.
He is thinking now, now that all the sensory things are duller, thinking of what he left behind, if anything for Rosario, he concludes he did leave her a few songs [he is feeling as if he’s being put into a box, and everything is in a far off distance now]. He knows he got to do something before the box is closed up on all six sides. He hasn’t got a list of things he wishes he would have done, had he more time, because he done everything he ever wanted to; if there was a list, it would simply be a new one made up of things he’s added to an already fulfilled one. The movements of life are almost non-existence, and the snake is squeezing his heart harder, without mercy now. ‘I am just a name now…’ he tells himself, his character will leave in whatever essence departs a body at death in a moment now, he know this. To the world around him, like when he was born, he is just another name–his time is now; he knows somewhere in the world some on is being born at this very moment, thus he must make room for that one person. Now, now he will be impressions left behind for Rosario.
Rosario starts to steady him she knows something is happening and it is progressively resembling a heart attack: number three. Lee tries to smile at Rosario, catches his breath, and falls to one knee, a simple fall, his blood is still pumping. His eyebrows jump a quarter of an inch; he all of a sudden turned pale, white hair appearing: waxy face. His thoughts are no longer on tomorrow, the taxes, the bar scene, the bills, they will get paid or not, it doesn’t really matter anymore. His mind is not on much, other than this very moment in time–and what is beyond this time; he knew it would come, this day, he just never choreographed it, it is as if it was birth–it is just taking place, yet he can’t remember that either, birth, why does he have to go through this he tells himself, and Rosario. He tells himself the snake took a good squeeze that time, this last time, but not enough to keep his eyes closed forever, no not yet, he has a will, and catches a half decent breath. He will fight the snake, at least for another round: to smile at his wife once more, let her know she was a good wife, and he love her; he’s made peace with God, but perhaps it will not hurt to let him know, he’s on his way and he is now in his hands, for better or worse.
A tear is coming from Rosario’s eye, her strength is melting like his, but she got to be strong, as she lays his head softly on the ground, putting her purse behind his head as a pillow, loosening up his belt so he can breath better, putting the hat in the proper position so the sun doesn’t hit his face directly. She’s a nurse she tell herself, ‘Then why am I panicking?’ but she doesn’t wait for the answer. She feels the sidewalk, a murmur, ‘…god, it’s so hot…’ she says, then–looks at Lee, the cars–
[Outside of the Bar on the side walk]
As Lee lays there, the heart attack is under way getting stronger by the minute, and minutes are like hours, they are if anything, the last minutes that he will have to tell her whatever he needs to, they are important minutes, ones that will stay with her for endless days, hours, seconds, he knows he’s got to say, if anything, the right things; –there on the hot cemented sidewalk; Rosario is looking for help now, seemingly, helplessly [she is almost in a horror state, she is wailing and starting to pull her hair out of her head out of frustration, ‘…where is the ambulance she is mumbling…’], a stranger nearby is writing something down [–across the street by another bar is a stranger yelling something.
Lee is looking up at the sun–Rosario close to him, he tells her he feels ‘in safe hands,’ when she is by him; the sun looks similar to a big orange ball to him. He tells her, “I have no more dreams, I have fulfilled them all”–now everything is fading, he is thinking: ‘everything was–was–was,’ as if he had never been. At this point, he is not remembering clearly, nothing clearly–but he feels secure with Rosario, comforted, clearly as the minutes go by this is all he can remember…the safe feeling, and even that is becoming a sensitivity in the distance, an notion being left behind.
Stranger [yelling at Rosario by another bar from across the street]. An ambulance is come– it’s coming, –hold on!!
Rosario [Eyes wide open, tears rolling down her cheeks, like a storm from out of a tornado. He is gasping for air, his heart is liken to someone is squeezing, twisting out the remaining liquid in a rag; –Rosario knows it hurts, but doesn’t know how much, and what to do at the moment, she’s terrified]. Oh Lee, what can I do for you, if only I knew? If you looked at Lee’s eyes, looked, deep into them, you’d know, he knew, there is nothing at this moment anyone can do. But he can’t tell her that, it would only panic her more…he knows that–
Rosario is looking at him, she can scarcely recognize the natural color of his face, the redness to his cheeks, his lips; –everything is turning pale–ever so pale, a dreadful paleness: waxy white. Her mouth opens now, as if to say ‘My god…!” has murmured in a quite way, ‘…death has its colors…’– her eyes red and wet from weeping, she is becoming exhausted from the ordeal. A person can only take so much, and this is becoming too much, and Lee see this.
Lee [whispers]. Calm down Rosario, please…you’ve been a very good wife. You’re doing it, just hold my hand, if this is it, let it be a lasting magical moment, and let’s grab the moment, as we have always done. [Lee looks around him, there are three other people in back of Rosario know, he knows he is dying, he raises his head to say something]. He says, each person is born differently, each will pass on differently [Lee adds to his dialogue, the face of him, is like, –life is moving away] Rosario [he says], death is coming near, I’m a little scared, but it is revealing more to me, stay close to me please, heck, people die everyday, don’t they [he adds this into to his talk as a rhetorical question with jest].
Silence prevails, [He rests now, lowering his head.]. In life [he adds] sometimes it’s the journey that counts, not the duration that counts, little wife, I got half and half. And we were just getting to know one another. I cannot remember how it was without you, funny, this curious topic — death.
How fresh, how calm he looks all of a sudden to Rosario, a new day would never come [she knew] for them two, but he was calm. “What bad luck,” she said they had today, and he said, “What good luck we’ve had all those previous days.” What was his calmness? what was his joy? She thought to herself, –and what is it that fills him with harmless anticipation?
[Lee doesn’t speak anymore] Rosario is screaming over his face now [changing from calm to calamity within her neurological system], telling him not to die [but he is now dead]; he is not answering her questions, she’s panicking, someone–an onlooker, says: ‘…he’s dead miss, he can’t hear you’. People are looking at her, as her body and head is going up and down, looking–looking for the ambulance.
One of the strangers standing by is a poet of sorts, one might say like Lee, and he is writing down notes, it will be a poem. On the radio tomorrow morning many will hear the evening news of the following day, the man called Lee Walters, will have died 12-minutes before he was put into the ambulance. And the poem he will write will be published in a local newspaper.
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