There was a man across the street, too old for college, too young to be old, playing hymns on a trumpet. One foot was up on his trumpet case, which was emblazoned (branded?) with a white cross. He faced the road, playing for the cars rather than people on foot. No virtuoso, he let the spirit move him, playing loud and proud.
“Why would someone do that,” JJ asked.
“He believes what he believes,” Lila said.
“But what does he believe?”
“That college is sin? That sinning is part of college?”
“I feel like sinning right now.”
She looked at him looking at her and smiled. “Later. We’ll sin together.”
“Then we’ll hear an orchestra.”
They sat on a bench, drinking hot chocolate from the dairy bar. A fickle day in early Spring, clouds and sun, cool and warm, snow finally melted, no leaves, no flowers yet, sand and mud everywhere. A time of year with possibilities and promise, yet stained with the gritty sediment of the barren winter just passed, a winter that would come again. JJ’s time to shine.
“Do you ever think about us?”
“JJ, why do you want to go there?”
He looked at the grass, knowing she didn’t care to delve into the meanings and the worry. And she definitely didn’t want to hear about his jealousy.
“What’s that guy’s name? The one you’re writing the play with?”
An exaggerated sigh. “His name’s Evan. And we don’t ever work on the play. We just fuck and talk about you.”
“I knew it,” JJ said and smiled a smile that didn’t reach his eyes or heart. He knew she was joking. He wanted to believe she was teasing him. But, the fact that she would tease him at all…
“Can I be in the play?”
Lila sighed. She thought she loved this guy. They’d been together four months and it was real and deep, not like with other guys, who were just surface bullshit and image and posturing and watching sports. JJ didn’t even have a TV. “I get all my entertainment right up here,” he liked to say with a crooked smile, pointing at his head. That was the problem, though. He spent too much time up in that head, weaving problems and seeing patterns that didn’t exist. She knew she brought some light, some lightness of being, to him. But it was a struggle sometimes.
“You can’t be in the play, JJ. And I don’t want to be with anyone but you. Don’t ask again or you’ll get nothing tonight. No orchestra, no banjo, no nothing.”
JJ smiled. “I like it when you’re bossy.” Then he frowned. “What does that say about me?”
“JJ, I mean it…”
“Kidding!” He laughed and got up, pulling her up with him. They walked down the hill, away from the road, away from the trumpeter. The sound followed them down the hill. Onward Christian Soldiers was replaced by Ode to Joy and, on cue, a warm sun came out from behind the clouds. All seasons in a day here in New England. JJ took Lila’s hand and they walked into what comes next.
3 thoughts on “JJ in the 21st Century: (1989) JJ and Lila and the Shaky Promise of Spring”
No red flags here.
Really great writing Dave. I’m left feeling like I want more.
Thanks, Anthony. More to come!