We all need an island where we can rest our soul from everyday troubles, where we can get away from the trifling hassles of life. We all need a place to hang out and lick our wounds.
There was a lounge I used to go to that catered to a disparate clientele: young and old, wealthy and poor, people from the oldest Canadian Scottish ancestry to newly arrived South American immigrants.
Past the high stools by the bar, there was a couch and a couple of armchairs in a corner. The walls were decked with paintings from local artists who usually favoured earth tones.
Hanging from the high ceilings, old banged up musical instruments – a tuba, a trumpet, a French horn, even a sousaphone – were vigilantly keeping an eye on patrons. Over on one side, a smashed-up double-bass kept guard beside a piano.
The sousaphone owes its name to American bandmaster John Philip Sousa who was looking for an alternative to the hélicon for his marching band. The sousaphone is from the tuba family and is usually in the key of lower B flat. It is used mostly in marching bands but also in concert orchestras and jazz bands.
All these instruments were nothing but decorative elements. In reality, a couple of nights a week the lounge hosted live jazz bands whose members be-bopped on well-maintained instruments into the wee hours of the night.
But Friday night was DJ night, and from 8:00 PM to midnight a young Brazilian DJ would play house music. After midnight, he was replaced by guest DJs who would move the crowd into more hardcore spheres.
I liked Friday nights. I would arrive early, find a place at the end of the bar, order an anisette for starters, take out a book and read until things got too loud or too hectic.
That particular night I think I was reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Around 10 P.M. – I was now drinking scotch and soda – three ladies in their early 30s wearing peasant blouses, flared skirts and flat shoes made a noticeable and lively entrance.
Looking around, they spotted the three empty stools to my right and aimed for them.
I kept reading, vaguely aware of their chatter, when the closest lady, a blonde with long braided hair and dreamy brown eyes asked me what I was drinking.
— I’m drinking whisky and soda, may I offer you one? I replied, ever the gentleman.
— I hate whisky, she giggled. Jack Daniel is a bad, bad man! He makes me do things against my will! I’d rather have Captain Morgan: he may be a pirate but at least he’s a gentleman.
So I asked the barmaid to bring my new friend a rum and cola (what they call a Cuba libre in the Caribbean), and we started to get acquainted.
Her name was Parsley and she and her two friends (Sage and Rosemary) worked at The Castle, a restaurant with a medieval theme where clients dressed in period costumes would gorge themselves with fat, salty and sweet food to forget about the dullness of life while yearning about times gone by.
I could relate to them somewhat as I could relate to the bubbly maidservant who was gracing me with her company, occasionally brushing her bosom against me.
She was funny and I enjoyed her high spirits. Sage and Rosemary however were looking at us with concern.
After Parsley downed her third Cuba libre, Rosemary scolded her, urging her to watch herself. Parsley just shrugged and turned towards me, taking my arm and telling her friends that I was the most well-behaved gentleman she could meet tonight.
Her friends rolled their eyes and suggested going to another bar.
— You go, she told them, I’m staying.
I knew better than to get involved in an argument that wasn’t mine so I returned temporarily to my drink and book, keeping distractedly aware of the disagreement unfolding beside me.
When Parsley’s friends left, she turned and looked at me saying: “I need my captain.”
“It’s all right, I’m here,” I replied and as I ordered another rum and cola for her, the barmaid looked at me and winked.
We kept drinking, talking, laughing and cuddling until closing time. The DJ put on one last song, Parsley and I got up only to realize we were so drunk we would be a road hazard if we drove. By George! We would have been a threat walking on the sidewalk!
So we just stood by the entrance of the bar holding each other.
Soon a taxicab drove by and I flagged it down. We decided to go to Parsley’s place. She lived in a high-rise downtown. When we got there, I looked up at the tower then down at Parsley’s long golden braid and I felt like I was in a brother Grimm’s tale. Still very tipsy, we took the elevator to the 20th floor and entered Parsley’s apartment.
In the subdued light I could make out velvet burgundy drapes hanging over the balcony doors and a lace-covered coffee table in front of a satin couch. One wall was covered with an impressive collection of medieval weapons: a crossbow, daggers, swords, rapiers, arrows.
Parsley certainly takes the dark ages seriously I thought.
— “I need to freshen up,” she said as she left for the washroom. “There’s beer in the fridge!”
I was drawn to the armory wall. I walked unsteadily towards it. I felt like I travelled through time and the liquor I drank all evening was not helping me staying grounded. Everything started to waver and I was afraid I was going to fall.
There was a sword leaning against the wall. I used it as a cane to support myself, resting one foot on a small wooden keg beside it.
That’s when I felt Parsley’s hands reaching from behind to hug me as she whispered: “My captain... Oooh, my captain...”
Everybody loves the Captain!.