Joe trudged slowly down the sidewalk towards the boarding house where he was staying. The wind was cold; he pulled his coat closer around his neck and shoved his hands in his pockets. He wanted a cigarette. Badly.
The strains of a piano drifted out from the club in the middle of the block. Jazz. The music pulled him in.
Inside, the air was blue from smoke. He breathed deeply, taking in that cigarette flavor. God, he missed smoking. He took another deep breath, filling his lungs with second-hand nicotine.
It was warm in the club. It smelled of alcohol, tobacco, and old perfume. The flor was scratched, the tables slightly sticky. A quartet was warming up their instruments at the back of the room. Stand up microphones gleamed in reflected light.
Joe found an empty table and sat. He hung his coat over the back of the chair and put his hat – his favorite felt fedora – on the table. Sandy brought him his regular drink – whisky, neat – without asking.
Joe signed. This felt more like home than the cold, dark boarding house with its hard mattress and thin blankets. There was no welcoming comfort that. Only cold charity.
He leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs. He watched the band start to play. As the song built, he closed his eyes and smiled.
Drifting, Joe dreamed of dancing, lighter than air, his wife in his arms. As long as there was music, he could dream. He could remember when life was good. Before the explosion that took his wife, his home, and left him with pins and shrapnel in his back. Before he lost his job as a mechanic because he couldn’t bend. Before his hands shook when he tried to use a wrench. Before. As long as there was music, he could dream. He was home.