People say they miss me, the old me. And hey, who wouldn't? Back in the day, I was King of the Pubs, Ruler of the West End, swaggering up Piccadilly in tight leather pants and Zengara boots, chum to every newspaper agent and panhandler on the street. Fashionable Sage. Highbrowing around the square, my disciples trailing me, asking the big questions.
Imported. Styling up the city. Raven hair and cavernous cheekbones, cutting the lads and ladies with blunt blue eyes and jagged, black lashes. Enthusiast. Lover of pianos and ditties, cocaine, birds in short skirts, and blokes in tight jeans. Seducer. Sprawled in cheap motel rooms, pondering water-stained ceilings while teeming ashtrays, knickers, and belt buckles hit the floor.
Slave to vanity. Peacocking in mirrors, finding cracks in the glass and in the pallor of my splendid face as time marched on. Haunted by imperfection and every disagreeable detail in the other faces I'd meet. Every bird’s and chap’s defects garish in those cheap nightstand lamps while I savored them, waiting for their final dollar, pinching their cigarettes while they turned to dress.
Tireless. Weaving through parks and pathways, shortcutting to the pubs. Showman. Tinkling the keys for change and a smoke. Building castles in the air out of nothing but bluster and sheer nerve. Charmer. Smiling and tilting from the piano bench to wink at the most eager front row lass. Pal to every pint on the table and every bloke in the place. Big talker. White-lying that I was white-hot in Japan. Pretender. Quick to say the record man wanted to sign me again when really he was only interested that one time.
There I am at the bar, pouring drinks after hours for friends and strangers. Choking the jukebox with fistfuls of coins, charming the lassies with the quick curl of my lip. Winking at the lads who’d steal a glance. Privately sipping the dregs of half-empty glasses, dancing a slow dance with the bar maid after closing. Then the mop after she'd leave.
Nocturnal man. Swiper of signposts and newspapers, strutter of moonlit streets, sucking the last bit of smoke from my Lambert and Butlers. Slanting home, losing my way and my keys in the bushes. Waking in someone's yard the next morning, pockets stuffed with phone numbers, my throat still filled with smoke and brilliant banter.
Time Traveller. Present tense man. Three divorces in the rearview and four children moved on. Maritime playboy. Deckhand. Caster of nets into the sea and into the past. Studding around on a pair of sea legs—the pants a bit more snug, but still able to charm with the best of them. Hot and unfettered on the foredeck as I flash a smile to the captain who squints, unfocused, as I wave. Look here, honey. Life is short and your time as a siren is nigh. In a few years we’ll both be belly up on the docks, asking the big questions with no one to give us an answer.
About the Author: Jennifer received her MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in The Portland Review, Gargoyle, 2 Bridges Review, Pamplemousse, The Heavy Feather Review, and others. She lives in Tucson, Arizona where she teaches English to adults in Pima Community College's Refugee Education Program.