I’m around 21 at the time this story happened, though it took me about 2 years to figure out how I wanted to structure it. Anyway, I had just moved to LA from a small town, fleeing the life of a corporate drone that seemed to be inevitable for people where I was from. I was going to be different–I was going to be a musician!
At that point, I hadn’t really grasped why they called it a “starving artist.” Still, I was determined not to sell out just to make a quick buck. One night, I went to a little dive that was down an alley. My friend Jenna had moved here from New Jersey not long before I did, and being the only person I knew in the area, was constantly dragging me places against my will.
This place was different though;very much an artist’s hangout. It was called the Black Dog Pub And Bar, and entering felt like I was being transported through time. The soft sound of a Billie Holiday recording drifted into my ears almost immediately, and I could see smoke from the back of the bar making its way up to me.
“Jenna? Where the heck did you bring me?”
Jenna just laughed. She was the strong-but-silent type for the most part, a young girl who came to LA with no idea she would become a woman in the process. I felt bad that things back home hadn’t worked out for her, not that my life was going much better at the moment.
She’d been seeing the Senior Valedictorian, Sam, but they ended their relationship just before Jenna moved out here. I’ve never known exactly why, though Jenna claims both their families’ were putting adult pressures on them that forced their relationship to take a backseat.
Whatever the case, Jenna seems happier now, anyway. I sit down next to her at the bar, and she orders an Amaretto Sour. I go to get my wallet.
“At least let me buy you a drink,” I say.
Jenna smiles, and I can see that she’s got a deep shade of crimson lipstick on. Wearing makeup isn’t like her, but I decide to let it go.
“Sounds good. Just promise me you won’t fall in love with me,” she cracked.
I tried not to laugh at the irony. There was no doubt Jenna was attractive both in terms of physique and personality, but she was also my best friend and recently, more like a sister. The funny part was I was both in love with her and felt she was unattainable all at once, for reasons I never really understood. The sound of the Billie Holiday recording ending brought me back to reality.
“Right on time,” Jenna said, nodding at the front door.
The door squeaked open with a sound that would make the Tin Man jealous. Two buff-looking guys entered, followed by a tall, thin girl wearing a long black dress. I became suddenly paranoid that Jenna was seeing some guy and wanted me to meet him.
“So, which one’s your boyfriend?” I said, trying to make it sound like a joke.
The bartender came over and handed Jenna her drink.
I slipped the woman a $10 bill, and she went to the register to make change. Jenna took a sip of her Sour, eyeing me over her glass the whole time.
“Both of them, of course.”
She sipped her drink loudly, raising her eyebrows. I tried to decipher whether she was serious or not as the guys made their way over to the bar. Jenna’s enigmatic look suddenly broke into a smile.
“Relax, I’m joking. These are my friends, Ben and Andrew. And Andrew’s girlfriend, Maria.”
I tried not to let Jenna hear me breath a sigh of relief. I decided I could use a drink, and ordered a Grey Goose. The bartender set me up with a tab, and then went to work pouring it.
“Nice to meet you guys.”
Andrew smiled. I could tell it was Andrew because he had a small gash on his right cheek. Something was telling me not to ask where it came from.
“And you too. Jenna here said that we might all get along. You have a thing for jazz, too?”
I smiled widely. I knew Jenna had an ulterior motive. I nodded.
“Yes, yes I do.”
“There’s a great show tonight,” Maria said, “Jimi Hendrix cover band.”
“You’re into Hendrix? No way! He was, like, my idol during high school. As Jenna knows.”
The music began to play in the distance, but I was having too much fun to notice it for the most part. I smiled and glanced over at Jenna several times during the night. Everything suddenly felt like it was going to be okay.