Sax and the city*

A bottle crashes to the ground in an alleyway off the main street. Jewel-green splinters frame the edge of a dark puddle, iridescent with oil in the dull glow of the street light.

Somewhere a tyre squeals, a youth shouts and laughter erupts – then dies.

Night, in the city. This city. Any city.

Buildings rise towards a sky that no-one sees.

The moon’s a crescent – if only you could see her.

Light, ending its journey of millennia as pinpricks, twinkles through to earth whenever a cloud scuds by. Unseen, by the noisy, dirty, vibrant, cruel, lively, charming – and exotic – city.

Busy people hurry and scurry. Returning home, going out. Sobbing, kissing – falling over drunk. Begging – or sinking to the ground, dying.

Rats – and hungry humans – scavenge. Homeless men, foetus-like, while away the hours on damp cardboard in urine-stinking doorways.

Lovelorn girls pick their way on teetering heels to bus, or train or taxi, with mascara streaked cheeks and puckered lips. How could he? Why would he?

The behemoth of a concert hall squats on its corner, bright lights dissecting the night like scalpels piercing its elegant windows. Glass doors stand open to let in the crowds with the last gasping drifts of cigarette smoke and the seeping, damp, chill.

A siren wails by. An anxious man in a smart suit jumps, eager to arrive, from a taxi cab. He looks around, sees no friendly face and wanders off to slump against a wall, waiting. In vain. She won’t be keeping her promise. But he doesn’t know that yet.

Inside a slender woman with thin grey hair, puts her hearing aid back in her bag, before anyone can see. It’s vanity, she knows, and foolish at a concert. But tonight might be the night he sits beside her, after all this time. She grasps the arms of her seat, pushes away thoughts of tomorrow, the next day, the next week. It’s enough, for now, to make it through the night.

A balding man wearing a fringed suede cape hobbles his way up the steps, one at a time, whistling. Stands, swaying slightly, at the end of his row, surveying the waiting crowd. Mind on the prairies, by the camp fire. Or – perhaps – singing with Johnny Cash in Folsom prison.

Young women – one with statement hair piled as high as a coiffure can go – perch on the edges of their seats, staring at the stage with moppet eyes. Fidgeting, standing then sitting, swapping seats – then sitting. No laughter, some chatter – and moppet eyes.

I sit next to them, wondering. Marvelling at the vivacity leaching from them in this mature, warm, doze-inducing concert hall.

The house lights dim.

The saxophone and minor key. It’s not an ode to joy. It’s not uplifting. It’s music to drag a person down – then out.

Out with Philip Marlowe. Hat tilted over watchful eyes. Cigarette dangling from thin lips. A curl of smoke.

A skinny blonde in a grey raincoat – everything’s grey in black and white – leans on a lamp post. Draped to entice.

The PI flicks his cigarette butt away.

It lands in a dark puddle, iridescent with oil in the dull glow of the street light.

Sax – and the city.


*This is mostly fiction. The concert, ‘Sax and the city,’ was real and featured the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Vasily Petrenko, with soloist Timothy McAllister playing the alto Saxophone in a concerto written for him by John Adams in 2013. To be fair – Gershwin’s ‘An American in Paris’ which preceded it was a gorgeous, uplifting, heart-swelling performance and Petrenko – to quote the local paper – was up there ‘shimmying’ it to perfection!

There was also an engaging party of young women, one with amazing hair, all studying saxophone at the Royal College of Music in Manchester – their teachers played superbly in the Gershwin.

This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Fiction, probably and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sax and the city*

  1. EllaDee says:

    You caught the tone and conveyed the atmosphere of PI patois wonderfully. Words entwined with the imagined saxophone in my head a perfect articulation for the senses and visions conjured of an evening of expectations, disenchantment and fulfilment.


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