This was cute and tickled at something I used to think about a lot when I was younger, working and hanging out on South Street (Philadelphia, PA). I haven’t been there in years, so I’m not sure how much it has changed, but my time on South Street was filled with people and lifestyles. I hung out with everyone. Skaters, Rockabilly, Rastas, Warhammer geeks, body modders, comic book geeks, goths, ravers, rappers, dancers, artists, body builders, as well as people who didn’t ascribe to much of anything. If their ilk were on South Street, I was fairly acquainted with at least one.
The thing that stayed in the back of my mind during that time was what life was like for the people who upheld a particular creed or maintained a specific lifestyle, like Rockabilly, away from the shelter of the South Street area and the generally accepting and inclusive nature of its ecosystem. What happens when their life changes or changes affect their life?
Theo’s life choices led him to Florida where he bartended as his full-time job and tutored in English and study techniques on the side. His new gig slinging drinks at the Night Library seemed like a good start to his life post everything.
Friday nights were for live music and that was provided by the Jeff Tones, an oldies cover band. On his first Friday, three of the band members came in to set up, two of which Theo met while the other busied himself on stage. Shortly before the set was to begin, Jeff, the vocalist for which the band was named, cozied up to the bar and caught Theo off guard with his shtick-appropriate lingo and costume–leather jacket included, even in the suffocating heat of Florida. The other members were in black suits, white shirts, and skinny ties, so it wasn’t necessarily a give-away, but Jeff’s greaser appearance sealed the deal.
With the exception of the flirting he was the recipient of right off the bat, Theo thought Jeff’s whole thing was interesting. But when he realized that it wasn’t just a persona for the stage, he wasn’t really sure what to make of it. As Theo settled into his job and got comfortable with the people he worked with, he found himself getting to know the band a little as well. Jeff was still flirting and Theo was still rebuffing his efforts, though his heart was less and less into his refusals as time passed.
Theo finally gave in and agreed to hang out with Jeff and they began to get closer. And then my favorite subplot started! I think the story is worth the read, so I’m not going to give details, but I’m going share something:
Theo and Jeff were supposed to go on their first date and Jeff called to cancel because he had important, potentially life-altering stuff to take care. Theo was upset, maybe more shocked considering Jeff’s persistence, but he heard Jeff out. Theo told Jeff that he could actually help him, so they got together to work on this thing. They were going along and Theo noticed things weren’t going so well for Jeff, so he tried to approach it from a different angle and he became fairly certain his assumption was right. He called Jeff on it, not negatively or in an accusatory manner, but more matter of fact with a twist of compassion. So Theo laid it all out for Jeff and Jeff asked how he knew and the thing stories usually go for is “my so-and-so had the same issue.” And that’s nice and everything, but Simone does precisely what she does best and that’s even out the playing field. She’s so good at striking a fair balance between her characters who, if only compared in outline, seem disproportionately equipped. One Giant Leap and The Aftermath are excellent examples of that. So, instead, Theo told Jeff that he, himself, has the same problem!
I think I cheered. Honestly, that was the best I could hope for. Especially because he was speaking in present progressive terms, meaning he was still living with it. It’s one thing to see yourself and see someone else who has been where you are and has overcome it–it’s encouraging–but it’s something else entirely to see that person functioning with it. Whatever that thing is, existing in the now, in a person, who, by most accounts, appears to be doing well.
Sadly, though, the important, potentially life-altering stuff that Jeff had to tend to, didn’t go so well and because of that, he decided it was time for a change. Which brings me back to my earlier thought. What happens when the lifestyle you maintain can no longer be maintained and you have to give up your identity in order to survive? The remainder of the story explored that a bit and satisfied my curiosity to some extent.
I enjoyed this story; it’s not my favorite of Kay Simone’s work, but it was good enough to keep me a fan.
Also, the cover changed some time between the time I finished the book (maybe a month ago?) and today, so I figured I’d include both. Not sure which one I prefer more.