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Several Goodbyes at Once

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Still in transit.

It's a Friday night in September at what they call a jazz house in Denmark named after a large hill in Paris.

It's in the low fifties and going down because Jeff can't wrap his head around the metric system. A wind that thinks it speaks of summer but can hardly be anything other than winter is blowing their jackets closed for them. Everyone and everything is nice here, even the wind, all solicitous and downright caring.

Somewhere in the far off distance there is something which looks like a person approaching, but it may just be a shadow-play in the street lights. There's no way to tell, and the streets here are so foreign, maybe because they are in a foreign country, but that's what they feel like anyway. It's not that the strangeness is off-putting, or that this is the first country outside the States that Jeff's been touring in, but it's Mick country, so maybe he feels as if he shouldn't find it weird because it's something close to someone who's close to him, like six degrees of separation in a way. It should feel like six degrees of closeness, and maybe it does.

It's not what he expected, but it sort of is a little like what a big European city should be, only the people are being friendly for no reason. They ask his first name and how long he's been here—here in the city, here in the country, here having this drink—but they never make it to last names and they never ask what he does. (Everyone asks what he does back home, way before asking for his name.)

They ask about his spare time (music), his friends (Mick, of course, and everyone in the band), his hair (dollar-store shampoo), and the interest seems genuine each and every time, but it's unexpected and weird. It's like he's pulling a con and getting away with it without even putting in the effort to con everyone. He's the world's best con artist without even trying!

How do you accidentally con people into liking you? Jeff has no idea, but it seems to be working without neither his knowledge nor any effort.

They're having beers outside the joint under one of the myriad of street lights. Jeff expected more smoking, but maybe it's just not that sort of crowd tonight. Or maybe he expects it because they're all standing outside, having a drink, in the cold, while inside is warm and toasty. They finished their set an hour back, but people keep milling about, talking to each other, approaching him and Mick and Matt for the most part, and generally behaving as if they were jamming in someone's living room next to video game controllers and empty bags of chips, and then decided to pop outside for a smoke without actual smoking, just chilling on a fire escape with expensive beers and no nosy neighbours.

It starts like that sometimes, back at home, where they're all casual for half a minute before they offer him a joint and try to take him to their place. Or they have a copy of their vinyl they all start to sign, but they stop the guys after Jeff's done, and then the silence is deafening underneath everyone talking about how inspiring the music is and all that bullshit, Mick still cradling a cap-less Sharpie, the vinyl long-forgotten.

It's never quite enough to make it feel comfortable and homey, but they're on tour, so maybe it can never be completely that anyway. Jeff doesn't know, and he's barely getting the hang of this as it is, but there you go.

He's not sure, but it seems likely they'll be in another city tomorrow, maybe another country. He can't remember if it's a day off or not, because there's no such things, but it could be they'll be on the road for a bit until they reach the next place they have to set everything up and get underneath the lights once more.

For once, he'd like to stay here for another night, another song, another beer shared with complete strangers that don't seem all that interested in Jeff Buckley but interested in asking Jeff who likes music and has no strong feelings about birds whether he's seen any good TV lately. Jeff hasn't, but that's because he doesn't own a TV.

Sometimes the roads kind of become the same, which is fine because they're roads, after all. But when the places look the same after all the effort everyone's made to make them look all their own and the people start melting into each other, then it's maybe time to stop for a bit and breathe. It's not that he doesn't remember the faces necessarily, but they're shadows glimpsed in the half-light of dusk under the cover of alcohol, and Jeff would rather say he remembers nothing at all than all the bad parts of having the world grab you when all you want to do is run along your own path for as long as possible.

You're not running away. Not really. It's just jogging through your own life until they try to catch you, isn't it?

Is this when he should ask himself, Is it me?

The answer is probably, Yes.

Just his luck.

Mick comes out with a full glass. Jeff had noticed he'd gone inside a couple of minutes back, but it didn't seem like the right thing to do to follow him in for no apparent reason. There's time enough for that later, when the crowds are long gone and the road is not yet the place they have to be on. At least, he hopes they won't be up and gone already so soon, almost as if they are running away.

The more he thinks about it, the more he's certain they're supposed to be in someone's living room in Germany on Sunday. Mick would know for sure. Jeff knows, too, but maybe not right now, and he needs some certainty, but asking seems like he's done postponing the inevitable exit, and he doesn't want that.

A car drives by, music at full blast, something that used to be popular a few decades back, but still melancholy in a way that defies time. Jeff has never gone disco, but, if he were to, it would have to be like this, melancholy and full of memory. It's a strange thought to have, and it's maybe a strange place to have it in, but Jeff has thought worse things is worse places.

Is it me? he might ask himself again, and the answer is, Yes, because it generally is. That hardly seems to bother anyone, though, so Jeff guesses that's all right.

Somewhere far off it might not be, and perhaps it hasn't been at other times either, but in this place and in this time, it's just fine.

Jeff wants a smoke, but he's feeling as if he's not supposed to. Nobody else is. That is, until Mick lights up all on his own. Jeff spies him out of the corner of his eye doing it, his beer glass emptied and out on a ledge, forgotten for someone to clean up later.

Mick inhales and wordlessly passes the cigarette over.

Jess inhales, too.

*

Still in transit.

*

Still in transit.

*

The world is a sweet, bizarre whirlwind of... something or other. Jeff's here for it.