James LePore: Sax Player

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Sax player

Sax Player, © James LePore 1997

I was in a bar in Amsterdam. It was really hip to go to Amsterdam in those days. All the great American jazz artists shot heroin there. Well, Chet Baker anyway. I was watching a beautiful woman drink—slowly, languidly. The smoke from her cigarette drifted and swirled around her classically Nordic face, rising halo-like above her short, impish, blonde hair. She was the perfect combination of innocence and—I won’t say sluttiness—let’s say deep, cynical experience. Of men, naturally. What other experience is there except experience of the opposite sex? The amber liquid in her rocks glass looked like scotch to me. She nursed two of these in the time I was watching her, about an hour. Which is about how long it took me to fall in love in those days. Of course everyone knows what I mean by love. We all do it.

At the end of the set I went to the men’s room, which reeked of weed and piss. I was feeling no pain. I had had four scotches to her two. I went into a stall to snort the last of my allotment of coke for the night. I played this game then: only four scotches tonight, only four lines of blow. I always cheated. I was about to step out when I heard a woman’s voice. And then a man’s. I cracked open the door in time to see my lady friend lock the entrance door and then turn to the sax player and smile. She said something in Dutch, or possibly German—who could tell the difference?—then slipped a kit out of her bag, a black velvet thing that she unrolled to reveal her works: a silver spoon, a gold Zippo lighter, a vial of water,  a cotton ball, two syringes, a rubber strap, a vial of white powder. My eyes bugged out of my head.

They cooked the dope, then shot up. Then, a big smile on her face, she went down on him. I couldn’t see the guy well on the stage, but now I could. He was nerdy looking, with wire-rimmed glasses, greasy blond hair and a lot of leftover acne marks on his face. I watched for longer than I should have. Then I shut the door and sat on the toilet. I stayed there for a while—I was high, I don’t know how long exactly—thinking all kinds of things, the usual stupid things I thought in those days. Before I went back into the bar, I thought: fuck this, what am I doing here? You can stop, you can get a life. But that was just another game I played at the time, and I always cheated.


James LePore is the author of several nationally bestselling books. You can stay up-to-date with his blog posts at his website.

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On January 15, 2015
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