THE LIFE, LOS ANGELES, 1964 (section cut from TESTAMENTS)

You came out strong tonight. Jumped right into it. Set their asses and ears on fire. Clapping goes on and on as you walk off the stage after the encore.

It’s one o’clock but you’re not going home. You’re still pumped. Won’t slow down anytime soon. Blood’s jumping every which way. Vibe’s still playing out in you. It don’t stop automatic once you pack up your horn.

Backstage, the stuff you did earlier starts to withdraw the same speed it took you up. Fast. Landing’s gonna be hard unless you do some more. You got a bit left so before leaving the club you go back up, get out of there. Get yourself a bourbon at one of the after hours spots further down Central Ave, one of the ones that stay open all night even though it’s not legal to. Tonight it’s Dolphin’s. There’s some music’s spinning in there. Always some music turning round and round. Monk. Motown. Miles. The feeling’s pretty good. And you alive so you’re part of it.

The people at the tables and sitting on barstools been doing the same, drinking, some snorting. You’re understanding each other in that way folks uniting against one thing come together and put all their energy into it. You’re there with the guys in the group, standing at the bar. But it’s time to acquaint yourself with some new company. This is why you’re all there to start with. You’re all on the same page as far as extra curricular activities are concerned.

A while later a lady needs a drink, steps past, pushes herself next to you. Bright-white eyes. Shining teeth. Likes to laugh even at things that aren’t funny. You know this already about her.

She orders a gin-and-tonic, a stiff one, and you start talking while it’s being made. It’s a natural thing. Expected. Nothing to hide. No tricks. Renee’s her name, she passes this your way before you have to ask for it. She recognizes you from one of the clubs, she says. Though she can’t identify which one she saw you at. Maybe several? Knows you play a damn good horn. You got some likewise comment about seeing her around even though you’re not sure. You offer Renee a cigarette. Keep the talk alive. Lots of eye contact. You got a woman waiting at home. Or that used to wait for you. By now she’s tired of the way you’re living life. The only way you want to and nothing she says or does changes it. It ain’t interesting no more. It’s become a burden. You don’t see each other much. And she has her own hours to keep. She’s been talking a lot about other men. Friends, she calls them. Her good friends from work or wherever. So you’re going on with Renee, smiling, laughing. That’s when you notice her skirt’s so tight and short you can almost see her neck.

You keep drinking and talking past six a.m. Last call’s yelled out for those still needing something. You and Renee decide to leave together. Go somewhere. You ask it and she answers. Yes. Why not? Everything’s been flowing into that. The looks you exchanged. Give and take of words. You can’t go back to your place unless you’re eager for a taste of your lady’s knuckles. Wild overhand right coming at you from the blind side. Her apartment’s okay, she says. Safe. She winks. Got a roommate, but who doesn’t?

You’re on the sidewalk in no time. The sun’s a pain on your eyes even through the shades. Those who work regular are going off to their jobs. You wave down a cab to go to Renee’s place. That’s when you find out it’s damn all the way out of L.A. To some town you haven’t ever been to before. Where everything looks like it’s made out of one kind of material. You know you’re not coming back here. No chance of that happening. It’s a one-time thing. And maybe she knows this too? Cost you five times what you planned on spending to get there. But right now that’s not important. She’s looking sexy, and you’re not thinking right.

It’s one of those three-story buildings with a lot of small apartments. Looks like it was put together in a week. You go up the stairs, down the walk to the door. Renee’s roommate’s up and about in a white bathrobe, at the kitchen table eating her bowl of fresh fruits and plate of buttered toast. Drinking milky coffee. She has a smile for Renee, and one for you too. You want to be discreet, but it’s obvious what’s going on. If she doesn’t care, why should you? You want what you came for and Renee wants to give you some. It’s an understanding. Otherwise you’re not here.

Pretty soon it’s the afternoon. You find this out on your way to the bathroom. Think you better get a couple hours sleep so you can play decent that night. You did the same the night before. One before that too. You’re amazed a body can be so tired and still continue on as a human being. You know there’s only one way to get back up… But that’s not for a few hours. First set starts at nine. The cab ride back from Renee’s place cleans your wallet to the last dollar. You got to get some sleep. That’s all you can think about going in the door.