On January 15, look for the publication of “The Bluest Eye,” the second of three short stories by Arya Jenkins commissioned exclusively for Jerry Jazz Musician. Ms. Jenkins was introduced to our readers on September 12 as a “gifted writer who utilizes jazz in her stories with an aesthetic sense worthy of the music and culture we respect, admire and cherish.” “The Bluest Eye” is a soulful story of a budding and enduring friendship between two entirely different personalities who share the need of overcoming addiction and trauma. Their love of jazz music is central to the story…
Here is the beginning of “The Bluest Eye”…
My friend Carl lived in a house full of ghosts with an evil sonofabitch brother who stole his shit, I mean all of it. But Carl himself, man, Carl was good as gold. He would give you the shirt off his back–everything, and did.
I moved in with my ex-old lady across the street from him in the late 80s when I was drying out and desperate for change. Marcy took me in, even after I had been such a dick. She knew it was the booze made me sleep around, and even though she kicked my drunken ass out on the curb, she took me in once she saw I was sober and clean. By then, she was already shacked up with a polite, fat, slob who was everything I wasn’t or would ever be.
Homestead Avenue, where we lived, was a pleasant street in a nice section of Fairfield called Black Rock, near the water. At the time, people were starting to navigate to the hood, although since then real estate prices have dropped due to the many storms–there have been too many storms in the area, man. But because of Black Rock’s proximity to the sound, which is like the sea, artists and strange people gravitate there.
I noticed Carl right off the bat. You couldn’t help but see him sitting on his porch with his supersized feet, head and limbs, a Franken monster. So I crossed the street one day to meet my neighbor, who looked a sorry sight–blackish long hair like somebody’d stuck his big muthafuckin’ pointer in a socket. You smelled the brother, even before you finished crossing the street. I swear he wore the same red, plaid flannel shirt and grimy jeans night and day. I’m not a style maven, you know, but I bathe, man. I like to look neat for the ladies. My dark hair is receding but I comb it and, personally, a clean tee says it all for me. I am tan due to my Mediterranean heritage, but other than that man, I have often been compared to Chet Baker. I look like the man, although my teeth are still good. Once, a chick thought I was Black, and that was cool with me too. I like the fact that due to the way I look, I could belong anywhere.
So I say, “Hey dude, how you doin’. I’m your neighbor, Vance. Just thought I’d introduce myself.” I stretch out my hand, and all I hear is, huh? Huh?
I realize the man is half blind behind those wire rim shades. He has one of those faces that hasn’t seen a straight shave in ages. It’s like a rat gnawed his chin and cheeks in places. Some scary shit. Still, I climb the steps of his porch and shake his hand, “Vance, man. I’m your neighbor. How you doin’? Anything I can do for you?”
“No,” he says, his voice like music. It’s low and so sweet. I’ve never heard a voice like that, that even in a word, no, can tell a whole story. I hear in that no: No, you can’t do anything for me. No, I’m not doing so well. No, I haven’t seen a stranger, much less a friend in ages. No, I’m not available for kicking, if that’s what’s on your mind. That kind of voice, man. Magical.