I remember the first time Keith Jarrett came into my life.
I was living in London, in the early 2000’s completing my degree in Arts management, and although immersed in some tantalizing, but otherwise vapid artistic circles, I had no clue where to go next with my life. I had all the dreams and none of the direction. Art, music, dance, travel were my goals and anything else really paled in comparison. Relationships were futile, boyfriends were infantile flings, and the party scene in London was losing its late 90’s luster. I first heard of the brilliant improvisational pianist and his 1975 Köln Concert, on a beat up record player at a house in west London. Some acquaintances had a party; I was a little too drunk, too tired, and sleepy after what seemed to be a wild night of dancing, flirting, and copious amounts of drinking. These strange, cute twin boys who I barely knew, and hardly remember now; sat me down, gave me some coffee and put on Jarrett’s record. The first light of dawn was breaking on Oxford Street, just off Marble Arch station. I felt like I was in a dream state. Half awake and half asleep in these strange and unforeseen circumstances.
I put my head on the boy’s shoulder, as the crackling sound of the needle touching the grooves began its beautiful melodic journey. “this guy will change your life, sit down, and feel the music” he said as he grabbed his hookah and thick white puffs of smoke filled his nostrils. I closed my eyes, felt each note permeate the early morning air. The melody filled the room with sorrow, eroticism and possibility. All these years later, having heard his concert hundreds of times; I realized how right they were. After that night I fell hard for Keith Jarrett; I got all his music; studied his life and career and tried to be in the moment every time I heard one of his concerts. This man was a legend; a phenomenal pianist, and he spoke to my soul. I could not imagine my life before hearing his trance like concerts. Many years later he would change my life again.
It was a cold snowy January night… I had just finished making Vincent’s favorite vegetable dumplings. He had never heard of Keith Jarrett before and this was a really special night for us… it was January 24th, our six month anniversary and the 40th anniversary since the Koln Concert album release. I spent most of the night cooking my favorite sweet and sour red cabbage coleslaw, and he was watching a football game on TV. I looked over at him, thinking about our ups and downs. He had an erratic side, many insecurities, and his impatience at times, frightened me. He would lose his cool over simple things and blame me for overreacting, but we almost always managed to work things out. Vincent sat down next to me and gave me a hot steaming mug of green tea… the aroma entered my nostrils and I sank into the couch.
Those first few notes of the live 1975 recorded concert, reminded me of so much; so many dreams deferred, so many adventures forgotten, so many lives lived. I missed London, I missed Europe and the feeling of being young, carefree and in love with life. I wanted to share all those feelings with Vincent. That newness, the passion for life and my passion for music. I wanted to feel that energy again, with him, even though he wasn’t very open to new experiences. I hoped he would get me, understand me better and dig me more for it. Vincent let me snuggle on his chest, and leaned over to kiss me. We sat naked on the couch covered with blankets and listened to the entire album in silence, and then I started crying tears flowing uncontrollably down my cheeks.
All the memories flooded in; all the aromas and feelings of that first time I heard Jarrett play. I drew closer to Vincent and gave in to his embrace. I didn’t know if he could grasp the enormity of this moment. I suddenly felt worried he would pull away from me as he always did at very deep moments. I got up to clear my head. It will be fine… I said to myself, and that night, we both cried together, made passionate love, shared our deepest secrets, and slept in each others arms till the early hours.
The next morning as dawn broke, I woke up, at 5am; stared at Vincent, who was fast asleep next to me, his face calm and quiet. He was almost angelic when he slept, all that anger and fire in him disappearing in his dreams. I took a long hot shower, got quickly dressed and walked out into the cold morning air. The cool breeze brushed against my face as I pulled my purple wool hat over my ears and damp hair. The train was mostly empty, everyone in my car was fast asleep trying to get a few more minutes of rest before they arrived at the main station. The office was empty when I arrived; so I put on some Charlie Parker to ease into my day. I hated my office job but knew that this was just another means to an end. This is just another stepping stone... my mother would say to me when I got frustrated with office politics.
On my break I felt the urge to call Vincent, last night’s love making was so vivid in my mind, and I wanted to hear his voice. “Babe, I am so glad you loved Keith… He’s my savior”,” yeah babe me too. Hey Marie are you comin over to cuddle later?” he was almost distracted when he answered. I nodded in agreement “yeah of course I will”. That night was the last night we spent together. Two days later he picked a fight, caused a scene, made up some outlandish excuses and disappeared; without warning. No explanation, no note, or phone call. Nothing. Just silence. I tried to reach him, called his friends, his family no one knew where he was… Vincent resurfaced two months later, engaged to another woman, seemingly happy, with a new house, car, a new life. A facade of happiness and contentment. Everything I had given him, everything we had shared, he negated and credited to this new “perfect” unspoiled younger version of me. He had reinvented himself, and erased my existence completely.
I lost it…. any drive for life, I became numb…. I lost my appetite, I lost my sleep and would sit for hours in my dark living room staring at the wall, in silence…. replaying everything in my head over and over again, wondering what could possibly have gone wrong. After a few more weeks, and one last effort to find him, I gave up. I was done. Weeks turned to months, I started getting back to my life, but I couldn’t even stand listening to Jarrett; his sound used to soothe me, but now he was too connected to Vincent and my past with him. It was almost painful now to hear his music; it meant something else, and it wasn’t a good feeling any more. I took some weeks off work and focused on my writing.. seeing friends, and finding my footing in these jagged edges of my new found life.
The following spring after a long hiatus and for what seemed like life times later, Vincent’s harassment began… just as suddenly as his disappearance. A blog published a story about my life, and shortly after its publication, I started getting phone calls, emails, texts, posts and pictures. It went on and on for months and Ι thought Ι was going to end up dead or in a madhouse. I went to the police, countless times, pleaded for their help, filed reports, made statements, shut my life down and made every effort to disappear. But it was no use. There was no reasonable answer to his actions, and no matter what I did, he kept on attacking, harassing and invading my life. He had taken every word I said in my stories and made a mockery of my life. He wanted to make sure I was utterly destroyed. And no one could stop him.
After what seemed like an eternity, it all stopped as suddenly as it began. Like his first disappearance, he vanished into thin air once again. Vincent always over reacted, vanished and then came back for more attention, and it felt like a pattern he could never break. I felt like I was in the epicenter of his hurricane, my life blown to pieces by his force and anger. I could not take it anymore. I packed my bags and left so I could get as far away from anything that bound us together. I had to be safe.
And then I met Pedro.
We sat on the floor of our living room, in front of the fireplace while listening to one of our favorite Keith Jarrett albums. I first met Pedro at my first ever live Jarrett concert the summer before. I could only afford the nosebleed seats, and was so far away from the stage I brought binoculars just to get a glimpse of Jarrett as he played with that beautiful concentration of his. His concerts were like going to a sacred ritual, no one spoke, coughed, or even breathed during his sets. He never allowed pictures or recordings. Each concert was expertly recorded for album material so the sound was impeccable.
During intermission I went straight for the bar for a cool glass of wine, when this beautiful, tall man with short curly salt and pepper hair and light brown eyes walked towards me. He looked visibly frustrated and bumped into to me by mistake, spilling some of my wine on my hand. He calmly apologized and offered to get me a new glass. He explained he was really upset that his girlfriend hadn’t shown up to the concert, and he was stuck sitting alone in the fourth row. I laughed at his predicament and joked, “well you poor thing that must be horrible for you!“. We started chatting about our love of Jarrett’s music; the best recording of his career; what a genius he was and about his form, when he interrupted our conversation at the last bell for intermission. “Marie…. would you like to take my empty seat? I just can’t stand sitting in concerts like this alone.” he stared directly into my eyes and I just couldn’t resist.
–“a cute Cuban guy asks you to sit next to him at a Keith Jarrett concert? And in the fourth row no less?” ummm claro que si!
Pedro laughed out loud, showing his charming crooked smile, which seemed to wash away any trace of his previous frustration. He took me to my seat, just breaths away from the jazz legend, I tried my best to hide my oh my god, oh my god, oh my godddddd I’m like right in front of Keith Jarrett, WITH a cute guy look, and sat quietly next to him clenching my hands so they wouldn’t fly off my body. At some point I looked over to see Pedro’s profile; he was watching with an intense passionate gaze. Damn… this guy is gorgeous… I turned back to the stage, taking a big breath to ease my excitement allowing the music to embrace me, like only Keith could.
Months passed and we kept seeing each other as friends; I didn’t want to get involved just yet, let alone with someone who might have another attachment. We went to museums together on Sundays, and would sit for hours over coffee and Cuban street food analyzing the trends of contemporary art. We laughed, we shared stories, exchanged ideas about my business and his design firm. He got me, he made me feel safe and didn’t ask for anything in return. A gorgeous, sweet, and good friend….
A week before his birthday, Pedro met me for dinner after work just to catch up since we hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks. He made a reservation at my favorite restaurant in the city Le Lapin et l’ours. We sat down and ordered my favorite dishes, and a beautiful bottle of Pouilly Fuisse, when out of the blue, Pedro leaned in and kissed me. I tasted his sweet and sour reduction sauce on my lips and stood there stunned… a couple of seconds passed before I could catch my breath and speak…
–” Pedro…, what the hell? I’m flattered but don’t you have a fucking girlfriend??” He closed his eyes and lingered for a little before he answered. I hated how he did that… he would leave me hanging, it messed up with my head. He would always do it when wanting to reveal something exceptionally funny or important, and I couldn’t tell the difference. He took a deep breath and smiled that soft sexy crooked smile I loved so much. “Mi corazón… there is no girlfriend… You charmed the pants off me that day at the Jarrett concert; your culture, your look, your language your presence, your intense eyes; all of it.” I started sobbing, mixing tears with tahini sauce and kissed him furiously until I had to gasp for air. I pulled away from him suddenly, to catch my breath.
“You little shit! I was pining over a single dude this whole time?? I didn’t want to say anything, you… you didn’t say anything! Puta Madre…. Pedro, you had my heart pumping like a jackhammer“, I blew my nose and took a big gulp of wine. We both laughed, got some more wine and smiled like two teenagers out on their first date. He pulled my face towards his and caressed my lips with his tongue. “Let’s get desert“, he said. I let out a soft moan of agreement and we both laughed so loudly all the patrons turned to see what the commotion was about.
The taxi ride home was nothing short of an exploration of curves, flavors and skin. Pedro wanted to taste every part of me and I felt giddy and embarrassed at the same time. I didn’t know how to be the center of his affection yet, although at the same time I trusted him completely. We had barely uttered a word to each other, when he caressed my face and whispered, “I don’t want to miss a single morsel of your body.” I ran my fingers through his curly hair and drew closer to his neck. He smelled of cinnamon, lemon, and a slight hint of smokiness from his cigar. Traces of the evening’s dinner on his lips filled my tongue. I bit his lower lip just slightly to show him I was strong and delicate at the same time, he smiled and pulled me closer. The taxi driver would peak at us with a mixture of curiosity and apology as we shared in our private erotic play. Pedro placed his hand on the small of my back just enough to draw me closer to his embrace. We were in a trance and nothing could distract us from each other.
We walked into my dark apartment leaving all the lights off except for the reflection of the street light into my living room. He walked behind me always with his hand on the small of my back, leading me into a sacred dance. “stop right there” he said. “Close your eyes”. He took off my coat; freed my hands from my bags, and I felt his warm breath as he kissed my neck slowly breathing me in. He took my hands and placed them on his face guiding me to touch him, undress him, kiss him caress him and feel every part of our body exploration without being distracted by anything and consumed by our senses. We kissed for hours, him exploring my curves, my beauty marks my scars with the diligence of a marble sculptor. His touch was delicate and commanding at the same time, He allowed me to touch him, and guide him towards my pleasure. I tasted his sweat, which felt like home. He entered me repeating my name again and again like a song, until we both climaxed leaving only our breath as a sound. He looked at me and said… Hi… as I gave in to his embrace till the early dawn hours.
A few months later, we moved to his new apartment. We shared the same taste in Scandinavian inspired furniture and art deco lighting and a collection of vibrant local painters and sculptors. He had an incredible vinyl collection of Jazz, 80’s punk bands, Blues, Gospel, Prince, Queen, Amy Winehouse, every single album that George Michael ever put out and of course all of Keith Jarrett’s recordings. I would whisper to myself every morning in the mirror… “thank god, Marie… after all this, thank you universe“. I was never religious, but this felt like a gift that I could not possibly waste.
Pedro and I were a team, he was my wing man, and no matter what he was there by my side. We planned a week in Paris and London for my birthday and one week before our departure, Pedro prepared a beautiful Cuban dinner, just like his mother used to make. Aromas wafted through the apartment melting with Jarrett’s syncopated rhythms. After a long tiring day, I closed my eyes and felt the notes soothe my tired body after dinner. Pedro had made traditional Cuban Flan for dessert and I was still tasting the fresh vanilla bean and caramel on my tongue. I was lost in my half dream state with Pedro massaging my feet after a long day when my phone broke my concentration. I grabbed my phone, fully intending to turn it off for the night, while Pedro was fixing us a night cap. A name I never thought would ever see again flashed across my screen, Vincent Cavelle. I froze… I felt my throat close so I couldn’t swallow my drink and spit it right back in the glass.
–“What’s wrong you didn’t like your old fashioned?” he chuckled.
–“No honey its perfect… I just took a huge gulp and the alcohol hit me”
–“I’ll make you a lighter one cariña“
–“Ok mi amor, let me run quickly to the bathroom. ”
I gave Pedro a quick kiss and ran to the bathroom. I locked the door behind me, closed my eyes and felt my teeth so hard my jaw started to hurt. What does he want from me? After all this time what the hell could he possibly want? I was sure I had blocked him from all forms of communication. Fucking bastard has so many fake accounts I stopped keeping score, I thought to myself. I sat down on the cold tiled floor focusing on the sound of Jarrett’s 1992 Vienna Concert playing on the turntable, I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. My heart was pumping so loudly I thought I was having another panic attack.
“Calm the fuck down sister, this is not an issue.” I repeated to myself over and over again.
I grabbed my phone determined to face a long winded tirade or apology.
“Hey, I have a coupon for a massage, anytime?” he wrote.
I put down my phone… suddenly winded, as if someone punched me in the gut. What the…? you fat fuck, after all this time?. What the hell is this cryptic crap? I opened my phone, marked his email and put it in a folder for safe keeping. “Hell no…. I don’t want to have to start this insanity again.” I got up from the floor, leaned in towards the mirror and glanced at my reflection for what felt like a long time. I closed my eyes and took another breath. A sour taste formed in my mouth all of a sudden that masked the vanilla sweetness of the flan. I leaned over the sink; splashed some cold water on my face, and brushed my teeth to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. I opened the door, left my phone in the bathroom and went out to meet Pedro’s embrace.
I melted each time I was in his arms. He smelled of lemon and ginger and cinnamon, some of the days sweat just lingering on his neck, his light brown chest was peppered with small curly hair. I squeezed him close to me, gave him a sultry kiss. “So my little rabbit, where were we??” he said as he ran his fingers through my long curly hair. He wrapped his hand around my waist and lifted me up to his hips. I wrapped my legs around him while he kissed my neck softly caressing my back. Oh god this man, mi vida, he is golden. I gave in to Pedro’s deep kiss… and held him even closer. This I wasn’t going to let go of.
A couple of days before Pedro’s surprise trip to Paris for my birthday, I went for some last minute shopping in my favorite old neighborhood in the city. Boutique stores, lovely antiques, and small galleries lined Brookfield place. I walked to my favorite bakery to pick up a sweet for Pedro. The streets slowly coming to life after a mild spring season. Blossoms from cherry trees and the hint of orange blossom in the air reminded me of my grandmother’s garden. The smell of Turkish and Lebanese sweets wafted through the air. I picked up some fresh Awamat for me, and Pedro’s favorite – Nummoora. I decided to sit down and have a Lebanese coffee with cardamom when I noticed a familiar car parking outside the store. You can’t miss an american muscle car even if you tried and especially in jet black. I felt a wave of heat enter my chest, as I dotted the room for a quick way to leave without being noticed, but there was no way out.
The door opened and in came a towering figure. I quickly looked down and braced myself for what I knew was about to happen. He came up to me, with a plastic smile on his face. God… He looks like shit. Vincent had gained at least 80 pounds since I last saw him. He was never slim but clearly this time he had gone off the deep end and looked like a swollen blow fish. I looked up, kept my cool and left 3 dollars on the table. I closed my eyes and turned around.
“Hey Marie, how you doin?” he asked “I wrote you an email and you never replied. You still mad at me?”
I cleared my throat and got up from my chair, as quickly as I could and walked passed him. I felt a wave of panic overcome me and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I went straight to the cashier; that familiar putrid taste filled up my mouth again.
“What? You’re not even going to talk to me? Typical child always shutting down. You always used to do that sh….”
I quickly brushed passed him and as he followed me outside the bakery.
“That’s the way you’re playing this after all this time?” he went on the attack.
I had walked about 3 meters away from him and stopped. I turned around, and quickly walked back in his direction and stood within a few paces of him with my hands by my side. Everything seemed to go in slow motion at that point. I just let my body do the talking. I closed my eyes, and took a big breath.
“Who gave you the right to come up to me and demand communication? You dare approach me after the ridicule and humiliation and harassment you put me through? I am stronger than anyone here. I took the shit you threw in my face and I rose up so high above you, I’m in a different stratosphere, you, minuscule, man. You can never reach me again or hurt me again, or defile me EVER again. You’re a bad line in a bad joke. You threw up all over me, and I went right back around and tuned it into gold. You know why? Because I can, and you will never be able to do that EVER. There is nothing left here, you are a dead man walking.
You don’t exist… anymore.
He stood there. Silent. Red faced with embarrassment as most of the passersby stopped to see what the commotion was about.
“Don’t even think about it!” I let out a short laugh, and he kept staring at me with a blank look.
I turned around and walked with wide strides to my car. My ears ringing with adrenaline, my muscles pulsating with heat. I was wearing my favorite high heel boots; at this point I could barely feel my legs from the rush. I unlocked my car, sat in the driver’s seat and waited there for a moment to let the dust settle around me.
Damn… I’m hungry.
I put the car in gear and stepped on the gas, never once looking at Vincent as I drove away. I tuned the dial to my local public radio station and after a brief news update; there it was. I heard those amazing first four notes just in time. I let my face relax as the sweet smell of fresh butter and syrup wafted in through the windows.
Yeah Keith, you got me, every time.
One thought on “Keith Jarrett and Flan – a short story”
Dear Eleana! Your story was breathtaking! I was enjoying every part. The universe works for us only with the best intentions, always.
Thank you for sharing this story.