He had always been a tall man. Walked tall, lived tall. People asked him if he played in the NBA, but he hated the sport. Pass the ball, run. Pass the ball, run. On and on. Always predictable. Jazz was never predictable. It was always raw and alive. So he chose jazz.
He played trumpet alongside the best of ‘em, moving from smoke-drenched dives to glitzy ball rooms, always wearing his favorite silver bowtie. A good luck charm of sorts. He was meant for this. It suited him well.
Then, death came, like a dark tide, sweeping away his favorite players. Overdose. Cocaine. Everyone riding A-train into the netherworlds. He got on board too, found himself in the emergency room, two shakes away from death.
But he didn’t die. It was the bow tie, he told himself. Or something.
He left the scene, stepped away. Started working on engines with his brother.
Then, he got the call. An old buddy was getting married, wanted him to play. He said he was out, but his friend was very insistent. He did miss the scene.
So he showed. He played the gig. The kids beside him idolized him. He didn’t care. He’d been here before. The music was all that mattered, and the music felt good.
Across the way was the bar. He wanted a drink. To calm his nerves, he told himself, but he wanted more, much more. He wanted back.
He walked up to the counter. The bartender greeted him.
“Can I get you anything?” she said.
“I’m just taking a break,” he said.
“Water?” she said. “It’s a hot day.”
She kneeled down, grabbed a bottle, and shot up again.
“Oh wow, I stood up too fast,” she said.
“All for nothing,” he said, and took the bottle. “Thanks.”
He drank enough to wet his lips and returned to his horn.
He played and played until everything was gone, until it was just him and the music. No death, no drama, just jazz.