THIS STORY IS A BINNSWORD PERSPECTIVE AFTER SAVORING BIKOZULU’S MASTERPIECE TITLED ‘THIS MAN AND HIS SAXOPHONE’ PUBLISHED IN 2014.
As a waiter at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Balcony Bar, I have witnessed men of means sway in with an air of power. Men whose hand stitched leather shoes equals my entire year’s salary plus all the tips put together. Corporate women whose suits have a better reputation than I do. And their entire existence seems to be riddled in silence or little whisper-like talks. But they laugh so loudly their quiet music fades into oblivion. This is on any ordinary day when I smile professionally. But then there’s Tuesdays. The sweet Jazz night. When patrons troop in to get hypnotised along with the celebrated jazz aces.
On this blessed evening Hellon and his band drive the troubles of our hearts away. Under the misty blue and green and red lights, he exudes a kind of confidence that further enhances his passion for good old jazz. Tonight he is bold in a pink shirt and tie. His Italian suit matches the rich dark tone of his skin. In the consortium of the lazy lights, his hair gleam along the curls making his head look like a pine cone.
The golden watch dangles restlessly on his wrist as if trying to outshine the glinting sax clasped solemnly in his arms. Deep in a hubbub of a conversation, the patrons sink into the lounge chairs. Lonely souls who have come for the weekly revival service swirl their drinks while listening to the throb of the fountain underneath the lush balcony.
I wade around, taking orders dutifully. Listening to complaints and apologizing as if heavenly doors will draw shut upon me if I don’t. Cleaning tables with a dump white cloth I am supposed to carry around as if it contains the waiters’ creed that I am struggling to memorize. In this endeavor, the corner of my eye is ever fixed on my GM who is busy interacting with guests more to spot my flaws than to encourage them to keep coming back again and again until the day either one of this two happens; he loses his job or gets promoted to glory.
As I stand next to a pillar dearly holding on to my silver tray, I defy the rules and take a peek at this man and his saxophone. His eyes are clung shut and I can see his neck muscles bulge. His hands fondle with the breast of the instrument and out of it oozes music for the soul. It buoys through the room like a lazy wave. Its blunt edges tickle my ears and I wish I had a glass of whiskey; just to go with it. Damn the rules.
I drown in the moment and consequently lose track of the GM. The next I know is him standing next to me. He shoots at me with an eye that says “you better focus on clients” and sends me over to a table with a man with a prodigious forehead. Having borne that burden on his head all his life, the GM offers to buy him a drink. Maybe.
Without staring directly at his forehead, I tell him that Mr. Manish has bought him a drink and ask him what he will have.
“I have a very early morning tomorrow. What do you recommend that is light?” he can’t keep his eyes off the platform.
“I have had the VS before…. But wasn’t exactly tickled.”
“Perhaps you can try the XO?”
“Is it any good?”
“It’s premium, sir.”
I’m not going to brag but I will have to describe to you how Courvoisier XO is served. The brandy glass is placed on a glass of steaming hot water. The steam warms the brandy releasing its rich bouquet, which is then trapped in the mouth of the glass. Mr. Forehead seems intrigued as I make my way across the balcony bar with a white towel draped over my arm.
I walk back to my spot and watch him take a sip and feel the cognac in his mouth as if unsure of its taste. He then sways his forehead across the room, perhaps barring some patrons from having a view of the bearers of the instruments that soften up their evening, and raises his glass to Mr. Manish. The GM, as he always does, nods in acquiesce.
The evening slowly wears away and with it the thrill of the lulling music. Patrons get drunk and get louder. They begin ordering more and more and tipping more as well. Hellon plays on, undeterred by their drunk shouts. One after the other, they wave at him and totter away.