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  • Where Now Is
  • Kathleen Blackburn (bio)

Tonight, I found myself longing for the company of a great storyteller and I came to the Crestview Tavern because it's a good place to miss something you never had and not feel too sad about it. Nobody ever bothers me here. Twinkle lights hang above the glass shelves of whiskeys, liqueurs, gins. A glowing blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire. A jazz quartet is in the room behind the wall of glass shelves, blowing on the old standard "Moonglow," a slow foxtrot from the thirties. The melody starts like whistling, whimsical, following one idea to another, meandering in the spaces between the beats, and travels from the trumpet to piano to bass. It's the second-to-last day of January, 2012. That sounds better than January thirtieth, like it counts more. I'm only two blocks from my house in Columbus, Ohio, and I like to walk to the tavern on mild nights like this one, nights that feel rusty, as though the week is swinging forward on an old hinge.

My dad would've turned fifty-three on Friday, three days ago. He was a good storyteller. A pilot for American Airlines, he'd be gone three days, home for four. We'd wait past our bedtime for him to come home as the dogs paced by the front door. They'd stand back and howl when he pulled up. My dad had a particular smell when he got back from [End Page 129] trips, faded cloves and leather, and a hint of jet fuel like flat soda. He'd tell me and my mom and my younger sisters and brother stories of the cities that he'd flown to and his crew. He'd do his best Boston accent. At Christmas, New York was his favorite because of the lights. He liked to walk down the gray sidewalks in the evening, his shoes brushed and polished. There was this one captain who called the flight attendants babe and kissed his biceps. Dad told us things like that. I've spent a lot of time the last thirteen years thinking about the cancer, his early death at thirty-nine, making sense of the grief. But this feeling tonight is different. Tonight, I'm longing for the stories of a fifty-three-year-old coarse-haired man who might have been.

A blue vinyl booth runs along the wall across from the wooden bar where the bartender, a man with thick arms and a pair of glasses that he pushes up his nose after he slides over your order, slaps a white towel onto his shoulder and stacks shot glasses. There's no one sitting at the booth except for me and I sink in deep, like I might never leave, swing one leg over the other and wish the bartender would stack the glasses in time with the jazz tune's swing. Just one or two. But he's a no-nonsense Midwesterner, a mind-your-own-business kind of guy. The trumpeter crouching with his horn there in the doorway is a different story, though. You'd have to walk right in front of him to get into the back room. He's in his midfifties or early sixties, I'd say. His dark eyebrows rise with the notes that bubble up from the trumpet like a fountain. I get the feeling that "Moonglow" makes him feel young, as if he leaves the bar every time he closes his eyes. The pianist and bass player follow the trumpet's trail of notes like they're disappearing down the end of a street, right past the point where the streetlights fade.

Above each table hangs a yellow light and right below each light sit bowls of bright candy—peppermints and red and yellow candies wrapped in glossy paper like it's a holiday. Likely been sitting here for months. I'm in a gray hoodie and baseball cap that says "Blackburn." I found it online three months ago, after a guy working at the grocery store told me about the British football team the Blackburn Rovers. It's striped white and...