Mingus and the Poor Chef’s Dream

There is a long hallway in an apartment building. The carpet is gray and the walls are an ugly yellow color, like from the 50’s. There is no trash or any sort of mess on the floor, but everything is dusty from so little use. You cannot stay there anymore, out in the open. Something is following you. You have not seen it yet but you can feel it getting closer. A door to your right opens. You think that on this side of the building must be the fire escape. That will let you get down to the street.

            From the entrance of the apartment you can see that everything is clean, white, modern. You keep moving forward into the room without stopping for anything. Your watch says that it is almost four, but with daylight saving’s time you really have no way of knowing. The inside almost looks like a hotel room, like when you were in Myrtle Beach on vacation. You start to fixate on the soft colored furniture and then the tall glass doors which open up to a sort of balcony and a blue sky. You take off your glasses and clean them so you can see everything better. They are in your hand when you realize a strong smell of spices and vegetables has steadily been filling the room. You imagine every corner of the apartment almost bursting from the delicious odors of some unknown chef. In fact, now you see a tall black man standing in front of a stove behind you. You take a few steps towards him. He is a real giant.

            The man stirs the pot of soup as it simmers at a low heat. He scoops out some of the broth and tries it. He puts his spoon aside and starts to cut up a carrot. You touch him on the shoulder. He turns towards you. It is Charles Mingus, mustached and everything. He seems relaxed, young, in good shape. He tosses the carrots into his stew. He has an enormous grin on his face and his eyes are almost shut as his great cheeks climb up his face.

            “Try it, son” Mingus says as he offers you a spoonful of the broth. Nervous, you take the spoon making sure not to touch his hand. You start to shake; your hands are not steady enough to hold the spoon. Some drops of the soup fall to the floor. All of the delicious smells and ambiance from before slip out of the apartment. You gulp down the rest of broth. It burns your throat. He added too much pepper. The moment with the soup passes by like a song with no drums, or worse, with no bassist.

            You cannot bring yourself to say anything to him. His gaze lowers to the floor. He can no longer look you in the eyes. He leaves the stew to simmer and walks, dejected, away from the stove. The tall glass doors open and he passes through them onto the balcony where there is a fire escape. You stop. Once again you feel lost in the building but you can see that through those doors, where Mingus just left, is the exit. But you cannot bear confronting him. You have to wait an eternity before walking out of the apartment.

            Outside the sky is not shiny and blue like a beach vacation, but is now heavy, gray, and industrial as if there were some factory nearby. You can see him going down the fire escape. You take a cigarette from the pack in your shirt pocket and start to smoke. Mingus is now on the street. You wait a bit longer for him to go out of sight. You squint your eyes to catch the last glimpse of the man. Only when his shape is totally lost in the darkness do you put out your cigarette, look at your watch, and make your way full speed towards the street.