His flight touched down at O’Hare. He grabbed his bag, guitars, and grabbed a cab.
“The least Helen could’ve done was me at the airport.”
The driver said, “Hunh?”
“Nothing. Do me a favor? Break a few speed laws, there’s an extra 20 in it for y’.”
“Done.” Keith caught a nap. When they got there, he paid and tipped the guy, checked in at reception. Laura was back on. Swedish, brick-thick from head to toe, pretty as a sunrise. She handed him his messages.
He went upstairs, found his suite and, taking the phone off the hook, kicked his shoes off, went into the bedroom and laid down. Tried to get some sack but was overtired. Lesli, never far from his mind since the night he met her, kept taking over his thoughts.
He was glad — downright grateful — that she was getting past her jealousy. He’d figured out, by now, it really wasn’t the green eye. She simply felt threatened by Helen and Sam. To tell the truth, he couldn’t blame her. Imagine your man palling around with women who weren’t only gorgeous but phenomenally talented.
He let a smirk pinch the sides of lips, thinking back to L.A. and an afternoon that saw an amusing, altogether human side to her. He’d flown in to do something or another — back somebody up on the West Coast leg of their tour, lay down tracks, he couldn’t quite recall.
They’d torn themselves out of bed and gone for breakfast. Eating full meals and thinking about scraping the plate. Topping it off with coffee, passing idle words back and forth. “So what,” she asked, “ever got you into music, playing guitar for a living? Was it some secret muse who called you to your destiny?”
“Nope. Was my dad.” James “Jimmy Jack” Jackson, a career session pianist, had been no slouch in his day. Keith regaled her with how he’d learned his craft literally at his daddy’s knee. She was fascinated.
When Lesli quit asking questions long enough, he’d asked her, “So how’d you get into librarying?”
She’d chuckled. “Librarying? What can I say, I come from a family of eggheads. It’s hard to recall a time I didn’t read. Voraciously.”
“Vor who? Now there’s a White folk’s word for y’.”
Lesli had kicked him under the table. Not hard. Just playfully.
They’d sipped and chatted and chatted and sipped. Eyes never leaving each other’s.
Then she had to go get her hair done. VIP Hair & Nails II was about a block over, across the street. He thought he’d accompany Lesli, sit and read one of countless books she’d told him about, and wait while she got herself cute.
Didn’t turn out that way. They got to the door, proprietor Tiffany warmly greeting Lesli as Keith soaked up the VIP II ambiance. There can’t possibly be on the face of the earth anything comparable to a Black women’s beauty parlor. It was like sitting in someone’s kitchen. Despite that everyone in here clearly had bank, you felt a down-to-earth rhythm making you feel right at home. Easy conversation flowed, generally rich with light laughter. And there was so much busting at the seams of jeans by pretty ladies that he had trouble figuring where to look when.
“Hi,” Tiffany had said. “Running a little behind. Sorry, hope it doesn’t hold you up.”
“No”, Lesli replied. “No problem.”
“Good.” Tiffany had discreetly checked him out. The other ladies were fairly obvious about it. Never one not to bask in the glow of women’s attentions, Keith, by pure habit, looked right back at each and every one, smiling. “So,” Tiffany had continued, “this is Mr. Keith I take it?”
Keith reached out and shook her hand. “How y’ doin’?”
Lesli had helped herself to complimentary coffee, then gently took him by an elbow. “You know what? I got this. Come back in a couple hours.” And all but shoved him back onto the sidewalk.
A chorus of laughter rose behind him. He turned around and saw one profoundly embarrassed Lesli tryin’ to play it off. Then, soon as Tiffany said, “Girl, don’t nobody have trouble lookin’ at that man,” he got ghost. Girl talk was not something on which he wanted to eavesdrop. Listen too long, liable to get your feelings hurt.
Next week: Keith, Luis and Sam get up on the get down.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.