Karl and Jasmine

They don’t care about me, Karl shouted to Jasmine, and they would rather see me drown than make another song, they would rather see anyone like me not singing on the corners, but put away–silenced! He hugged the edge of the concrete block over the churning black waters of the ocean. Jasmine had tried to dissuade him, but had become exhausted. She turned to watching her husband from a sizable distance, watching him rave in complaint. He went on: you understand, don’t you, Jas? You know how they are always keeping us down, how there is not a goddamn chance of making anything out here…. I’m not gonna tell you to jump with me, baby, no, I would never do that. But please. Please. Please, Jas, you tell everyone that it was tragic. That at the top of his game Karl was taken away by the ocean. Don’t let them–don’t let them think of me like this. Jasmine’s pink-dyed hair was getting tossed by the winds at the pier, streaked in stripes by the light coming down through the wood of a deck attached to a neighboring condominium. She put her hands in her pockets, in part because the wind was cutting, in part because that is what she tended to do when she was at a loss as to how to move on or engage with what life presented her. Her husband didn’t look desperate to Jasmine, no; he looked angry, he seemed to be filled with some volatile substance that was finally able to escape through his mouth and gestures.

    Come on, hon, Jasmine called out to Karl but not with much conviction or passion. Come on, baby, let’s get back into town. You know they wanna hear you play, you know it. That new song–Key West Town, a sunset celebration–that they wanna hear. And you know it, Karl. Come on down, she finished, and throughout displayed the sentiment of a voyeur, or of a jaded counselor. Karl was gripping onto the cement with tenacity, listening to Jasmine, but also to the waters against the pier. They seemed to make a laughing sound in their lapping. The last of the gulls were dancing in the air, searching for edibles before the night grew. In the distance, near the whole of the pier, a security guard was fanning his flashlight, leaving a light alive on the pavement, darting left, then right. The sky was approaching its deep purple, the first stars were turning on through the dense dome.

    No, no, it’s true, baby, Karl continued. It’s true. They don’t want to see me anywhere near that strip again, entertaining and jamming. I’ve been tossed out, tossed away, you know what I mean? This town’s had enough of us–I mean, of me. They can stand to see your pretty face again, I bet, but they’ve had enough of me. I want to show them–he removed a hand from the cement block and swayed with one over the waters–just what they are missing. I’m gonna miss you, baby, yeah. I’m gonna be thinking–no, I’m not gonna be thinking. Well hell–he took hold of the cement again with both hands–I can’t very well miss you either. I’m sorry, Jas, I’m sorry. I guess I don’t know what to tell you. But you know I love you.

    Uh-huh, Jasmine replied, but her eyes were caught by the light of a fishing boat off in the distance. It seemed so lonely out there, against the black of the waters, the deepening purples and blues of nightfall, like a dangling, wayward star. I know, hon, I know.

    You know I don’t want to hurt you. That’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because sometimes there’s nothing else to do. Especially when the songs are taken away. You know how I love my songs.

    I know, I know, Jasmine said, raising her voice over the wind, which blew as if to counter her sayings. She raised her voice, but it was still as if rehearsed, as if she had practiced the line before. She thought that her husband was a strong man. She brought her eyes to her husband and thought of how strong he had been with her, for her for twenty years.

    But when a man doesn’t have his songs, Karl spurted, he has to take action. Again, he released a hand from the cement and swayed over the sea. A laugh erupted from him, a laugh not obviously joyous, not sinister, but a laugh at the moment of conquering something, the moment of finding something. He has to find some way to express himself, to put his life on the line. I guess that’s what you can tell them, Jas. You can tell them everything. I suppose I didn’t recognize that even my whining here to you, under these stars, see these stars? I didn’t think it meant anything, but it does, it does even if I don’t go on with this, if I step back down and live with you again, whether it’s hard or easy.

    Yeah, Jasmine said, mustering a confident note. Her gaze continued to be fought for by the dangling light on the sea, the fishing boat. The winds picked up to rushing and roaring, she thought how lonely the star must be rocking out there.

    Just then Karl’s hands slipped from the cement face. He slapped the wall in an attempt to grip but to no avail. Jasmine! He shouted as the waters took him into their black. Jasmine looked casually to the blank area where her husband had swayed above the churning sea. Again, she knew what to expect. She knew, too, what to say when others asked her why he did it.

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