Mean as You Are

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by Kathleen

Monday and Tuesday nights Rufus and I play two sets at Isabel’s Pub. Days, I work for Spokane’s city council.

It’s not Madison Square Garden where The Opposites performed. And Rufus isn’t Hank, who could wrap his rhythms around my voice. But the beats Rufus puts together add brightness and hold space for my arpeggios.

All my songs revolve around old-fashioned women’s blues. “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” “You Lost the Best Thing.” “Mean as You Are.” But that was always my style. Not necessarily my life. So if anyone asks about The Opposites, I say, “Better this way.” Or: “Do I seem bitter?”

True, the group still wins Grammies but not off Nadia’s whiny voice. She was never a singer. Hank sings now and they sweeten Nadia’s stingy response with William’s mandolin.

It rarely comes up anymore. But The Opposites first hit? I sang upfront. I wore the strapless dress. Nadia played the marimbas in black sackcloth. We were on MTV Unplugged when people tuned in for that. Before the second CD, Hank made a play for me and I said, “Sorry.” Hours later Nadia delivered the news: They didn’t need me. So I moved on.

Tonight I’m singing, “”He Said, She Said” to maybe thirty people. Rufus contributes a new orbit. A man wearing a bandanna claps and hoots, dancing like he wants the stage. Even with the lights blinding me, I know I should know him. Somebody from somewhere.

“Thank you, everyone.” I unplug my guitar and—it’s Hank. I knew that; just hard to accept.

“Summer, what are you doing in this place? God, you sound great. Look great, too. Why are you here?”

Hank’s holding my wrist and I shrug. “What brings you here?”

Sister’s wedding. He’s by himself. But—well—why did I disappear like that? What happened?

“Nadia said you and William voted me out.”

“What the—?” Hank stumbles. The bandanna falls off and he leaves it there. “Let’s sit down. Honest to God, that never happened, Summer.”

Rufus asks if Hank is bothering me. “No, love. An old friend.”

I could use a drink. Hanks says, “Wait there.”

Rufus sits down. “Want me nearby?”

The Opposites mean nothing to him. He isn’t a fan. But if I’m happy, he’ll see me tomorrow. I’m happy.

Hank’s carrying beer bottles in one hand and balancing shots on a tray. “Tequila.” We swallow it. And sip Heineken, still his favorite.

He curses. “Nadia! Piece-o-work! She told us the pace was killing you. And, don’t call you; you’ll call us. She actually said that.”

“Stupid me. Not to check. Just trust Nadia.”

Hank says, “So...Come back. We’re doing the Redwood Fest next month. We’ll take it from there.”

We exchange numbers. He’ll call.

And I wonder. “Nadia stays…”

Hank grimaces. “At this point, she’s our rock star.”

Right. At this point, maybe don’t call.


mingus said...

I knew a chick that had something just like this happen to her. Smiling faces sometimes tell lies.

kathleenmaher said...

Ever hear of the 50s jazz singers, "Hendricks, Lambert, & Ross?"
Decades after their success, Jon Hendricks revealed in CD notes that he had run into the originally included other female singer.
The talented--but real meanie--Annie Ross had told her she was out and the woman didn't check with Hendricks, who considered her her voice exceptional.
By the time he found the second, exceptional women singer, however, it was the 1990s--the well established trio was performing their long-ago hits for a new generation.