Nothing To Carry
Several years ago, the Atlanta Jazz Festival had a “Salute to New Orleans Music” as a part of their Fall Concert Series at Piedmont Park. I’ve always loved the whole New Orleans scene and most of what came out of it, whether it was their version of R&B, jazz, rock and roll, or whatever. Only Memphis could come close to the raw down-and-dirtiness of New Orleans music.
I got to the festival early — maybe even a little too early, but I wanted to be right up front. I spread out my sleeping bag about twelve feet from center stage. I settled in, popped the top on a beer, leaned back on an elbow, and was just soaking in the beautiful fall weather of Atlanta. I always enjoyed checking out the mix of people that show up for these things. Along with the park regulars on their rollerblades or walking their dogs, there’s always an odd character or two.
Not long after settling in, I found that I had a new “best friend.” Out of nowhere wandered this sort of a Rastafarian-looking guy with dreadlocks and the whole real-funk smell going on. For a while, I wanted to believe that he was a true Rastafarian. I guess I also wanted to believe that he thought me cool. It turned out he was just plain Nappy, and he really didn’t think of me as cool.
“Who’s playing?” he asked.
“Zachary Richard, Dr. John, and the Neville Brothers… ought to be really good,” I replied.
“Cool. Man, that beer looks good,” he said.
I’d handed him a beer before I’d realized that I was being suckered by one of a dozen or so urban-outdoorsmen who routinely show up at these events. Hell, maybe I was invading his space, I don’t know. In any case, he probably had very little real interest in the show. He was into his game. He kept looking around, bobbing his head and checking out the women. The poor guy was dreaming. He probably hadn’t been with a decent woman in his entire life. He said very little until his beer was empty, and then he asked for another.
I turned down his request for a beer, he then pulled out the nastiest looking dollar bill that I’d ever seen and tried to buy one from me. I turned him down. My new “friend” muttered something, backed off a bit, and settled about twenty feet behind me.
Zachary Richard soon took the stage. The prime spots were full by the end of his set, and by then, I was well into my fourth beer. “Maybe it doesn’t take seven or eight?” I thought. Nah, it’s just the music.
Dr. John was next. He was in prime form, strutting his way out to his piano with his top hat and his jeweled cane. Within minutes, the crowd was on their feet. The Doctor had the whole park rocking. The lawn was totally filling up by then, and it was just getting dark. I found myself slowly being pushed forward another five feet. I went along with it in order to keep my view. My sleeping bag remained. For a while I was pushing my cooler forward with my feet as I went. I finally gave that up and stepped over the cooler. That was when I first noticed her.
She was directly in front of me. I couldn’t see her face, but what I did see looked mighty tempting. She was about 5 feet tall, with long, dark hair spilling down her back all the way past a tiny little waist that I could see whenever her hair waved to one side or the other as she rocked back and forth. Her hair was loosely curled, and I recall imagining that if it were wet, it would likely extend to her knees. Her ankle-length cotton skirt clung to a bell-shaped posterior that was just a tiny bit larger than some might say it’d take to make a perfect figure, but I’ll take a bit of roundness in that region over a flat butt — or no butt — any old day. Plus, she was putting it to good use. She really had rhythm for a white girl. Her derriere could’ve served as a damn metronome. It never missed a beat. She seemed oblivious to everything except the action on the stage. Oddly, she was alone.
I couldn’t decide which was the better show. Things were really starting to boil. The Neville Brothers took the stage, and the crowd was pushing its way forward, and I suddenly found myself feeling as if I was charged with protecting her tiny body from being pushed into the stage. I anchored myself in the elbows-out stance that I always use to reserve a little space, and I fired up one of the joints that I had brought. I took a long draw and passed it over her shoulder. She took it, gave me a brief glance with a slight grin, took a quick puff, and passed it back. I took another drag and passed it to my right. I never saw it again, but that was enough. I was feeling just right.
I initially tried to maintain a respectable amount of space between her and myself, but despite the fact that her feet barely moved, her gyrations were increasingly cutting into my space, and soon, the frequency with which her butt was brushing my pelvis went from accidentally to what I saw as purposeful.
I was really getting tired of holding back. I slowly let myself be pushed toward her until we were basically joined at the hip in a spoon-like position. I kept thinking, she’s going to move to the side, turn around, and ask me to back off, push me away, or do something to end this, but she never missed a beat. Her gyrating changed slightly from a side-to-side, adding a small bit of an up and down motion. Although I was pretty sure that this constituted her outright approval, I still carried a little doubt that we were on the same page. What the hell? I have to know. I gently rested a hand on her shoulder. She gave me just a real quick glance, and with a slight smile, she turned back around to focus on Brother Aaron. Seconds later, she slipped her hand around behind her and gave me a gentle squeeze in exactly the right place. She returned her hand to her side and continued her dance. That was it.
I had been afraid of taking it any further for fear of being caught, but by then, we were so tightly packed that no one could see anything anyway. I ever so slyly freed myself from the confines that were becoming more and more uncomfortable at this went on. She immediately realized where this was going, and without drawing the attention of those around us, she raised herself up on her tiptoes, deftly hiked up the back of her skirt, and added a slight arch to her back. I found a totally comfortable position. The sides and front of her skirt were draped in a way that made everything look pretty normal, at least if we viewed by no more than a casual glance. My hands slipped down to her waist, and I anchored the material in my best attempt to keep it looking that way. We swayed together the next four or five songs. I felt a small shiver course through her at the end of “Tell It Like It Is.” Suddenly, my knees were weak, and it was all over.
I was under no illusion. It wasn’t me that made her shiver. I had no doubt that in her mind, she had just been with Aaron, or somebody else. I was nothing but an extension of her fantasy. That was cool with me. The show was over and the crowd started dispersing. I turned around to get my sleeping bag and cooler, and saw that they were both gone. I looked around a little, but soon realized where they had gone. I guess he needed them worse than I did. I turned back toward the stage, and she was gone as well. It was perfect. I had nothing to carry home.