Flushing, New York — Winter 1997

Lying on your back, staring up at the ceiling, you realize how hard your bed can feel sometimes, especially when there’s no one in it with you. There have been many nights like this, where you lie alone, lonely, the rain pouring outside the window. It’s somewhat soothing. You love the rain sometimes, makes you as if all the shit in your life is in the process of being washed away — only to make room for the next pile of shit to deal with, again and again.

There’s no food in the fridge, no money in the bank, no woman in the bed, no published work, no car in the garage no soft hand caressing your scalp, yet there’s plenty of wine and plenty of tobacco to keep you company on nights when insomnia is your only companion.

You figure there’s always the cat but he can’t explain to you how he can live such a good life, why he is allowed to sleep while you’re sucking on a cigarette and the lip of a wine bottle at two o’clock in the morning trying to bide your time before you’re forced to enter the meat grinder for yet another week.

Can’t fucking sleep but you smoke, waiting for daylight. It’s hot and you sweat, the room thick with damp, your mind is racing with thoughts, your lungs are filled with smoke. In another three hours or so you’ll be ready for the subway, ready for the pleasantries New York City has to offer a man who hasn’t slept a wink all night; another day, another dollar, another day of putting thoughts down on paper, desperately trying to find a way out of the fucking rat race. Your hair is greasy, your body sweats, your feet are clammy and dirty and you need a shave.

Coltrane’s ‘After The Rain’ seems appropriate right now; a sad, contemplative tune, relaxing and uplifting in a way, making you think that things are only going to get better somehow. Coltrane, Garrison, Jones, Dolphy, Workman and Haines make good company on nights like this as the rain comes down harder — literally, figuratively.

When you finally get to sleep you have a crazy dream. You awaken from what you thought would be a peaceful slumber. The night is still there. Coltrane is still there. He stands there at the other end of the room. You can see him moving ever so slightly in the dark. The streetlamp outside your window illuminates his sax and he’s trying to say something to you. His mouth doesn’t move but he’s speaking to you, trying to communicate, his voice soft, relaxed.

You can’t understand a word he says but his sax sounds like an angel.