Lounge music may be the best music. Bongos set a beat to sin to while trombones leer, and cheeky singers make references to sex when they could be describing their vinyl furniture or that nameless island where all of this is supposed to unfold. I love tiki culture.
Has anyone ever told you that they had a magical evening? Maybe you read it in a book once, and you thought to yourself – I’ll have one of those someday. I have news, neither good nor bad: magical evenings are attainable. The type of evening where your foot pops when the boy kisses you, or your heart literally skips a beat, the sort of night where you get to make an entrance to staccato snare and crashing cymbals – all you have to do is have a drink.
I think I might have been about seven deep when I met Ellie and the whole world went sideways. I was having one of those evenings where my tie matched the dress of every girl in the joint. That was my line, anyway. The vibraphone matched my fingers as I drummed them on the bar, waiting for my next salubrious concoction – this one was called the Zombie, and I planned to stumble-step my way over to the pretty blonde bombshell that had set herself down near the authentic, genuine, 1/8th scale replica of a Hawaiian waterfall. But Ellie sat next to me just as the keyboardist launched into a squelchy electric solo and I couldn’t tell which had sent my spine tingling.
My drink arrived, complete with two cocktail umbrellas, and I stuck one in her hair before I offered her my hand and introduced myself.
“The name’s Fast Eddie,” I said. I gestured lazily towards the fake granite rocks and the plastic blowfish lights, the bamboo covered walls and the palm fronds on the bar. “I help run this joint.” I get delusions of grandeur after drink four.
Her response was lost in the crack of thunder and the beginning of a fake rainstorm, but then she smiled, and I was temporarily deaf. I could only hear the pumping of my own blood through my own veins. She finally whispered her name in my ear while four beautiful woman harmonized and crooned their way through “oohs” and “ahhs” that sent everybody swooning. I brought her onto the dance floor and we samba’ed and rumba’ed and pressed our foreheads together just like the kids in the movies.
When we ordered another round, she requested Sex on the Beach, and each of the little umbrellas ended up stuck in my the swell of my black pomade hairdo. She made like she was about to touch it, but I knocked her fingers down to my sides. “You’re dangerous,” I told her.
“You have no idea, Ed.” She kissed my neck. I had some idea.
We sipped our way down into the depths, two deep sea divers trying to get away from all that business on the surface. We had Mai Tais like Trader Vic used to make, a couple Fantasy Islands, a Mango Tango, and a pair of pink-tinted Tropical Storms that almost brough us to our knees. That’s the one thing about going about a magical evening, of drinking with a black-haired vixen who can dance her way through string swells and rumbling timpani and pizzicato piano – you never know just when the magic will end.
Our voodoo spell snapped when the band took their well-earned break and a particular seven foot tall saxophonist lumbered toward us. We had ourselves well entangled in a dark corner of the room where our rum-soaked lips could find each other for company, so I didn’t even see the creature coming. He had lips the size of German sausages and hands that could crush golf balls. He picked Ellie up and put her beside him like she was his porcelain plaything.
“You kissing my girl?”
I wasn’t aware the evening’s magic had run out, so I took the trouble to undo his tie before I answered.
“No sir, I was just trying to prove a point about how long my tongue is. Want me to experiment on you first?”
He was less than amused. My Mom has a saying about saxophonists: She says never trust a man who can play sex through an over-glorified golden tube (did I mention Dad played too?). And I never did trust this overgrown tree of a man, except to trust he would cause me grievous bodily harm.
When he grabbed my arm I screamed bloody murder and my night lost its smoky coolness and traded it for cloak and dagger mustiness. He pulled me close and I could smell the brass on his breath. “Stay away from her, you hear?” The implied violence only gained momentum when that fake rain started again, announced by the rumble of fake thunder.
The saxophonist was called back on stage, and he shoved me to the floor. Ellie helped me up and I was lost in her eyes again, while the drummer brushed his cymbals like an old widower polishing her wedding silverware. A saxophone solo ripped through me before I could get lost in Ellie’s eyes, and I was called to attention. I ditched her and went back to the bar, where I stopped with the froo froo fruit cocktails and ended up shooting single rounds of rum that tore my stomach apart to match my broken heart.
I mean, it doesn’t matter how much you love a girl if you know you’ll be destroyed for a little cha-cha.
The bartender felt my pain and stopped charging me once I promised a three-digit tip. I watched Ellie shrink away the same way a drink eventually disappears, and only the ice remains. When I finally fell to the floor (my favorite signal for I’ve had enough) I watched my cocktail umbrellas fall after me, and I wondered when it would rain again.