Sonja, the soul flower

30Sep08

Back in Vancouver, I was running a jazz club called The Purple Bruise. Classy place. Small, smoky, with a decaying art deco interior. The music catered to aficionados, but wasn’t going to turn off the tourists either—forgotten standards and bluesy contemporary jams. I had the place just the way I wanted it.

Sonja was an aspiring soul singer from Winnipeg. She waited tables at the club, but on slow nights she’d get up with the house band and run through a couple of numbers. She was still green, sure, but you could tell there was something there. Her voice broadcast a scarred vulnerability well beyond her years. She used to do a version of “I fall in love too easily” that would melt the ice in my MacCallan.

Now, I’m not the type of man to pursue romance with a subordinate, but I was smitten from the first time she stepped on the stage. As a result, I avoided her. I found reason to stay in the office when she worked, only coming out to watch her sing. However, the more I tried to put Sonja out of my mind, the more it felt like she was singing directly to me when she performed.

And it turns out, she was. She admitted this to me, the first night we made love. I was working late, doing the books by the bar, while she was doing the close. I looked up from my calculator to see her standing above me, with a sexy half-smirk wrapped around a cigarette.

“You know, Knox,” she said, “you don’t have to act so mysterious all the time. I want you, too.” I almost fell off my bar stool I was so shocked. We wound up back at my condo and she told me about her background, how her father forbid her to become, in his words, “a starving artist,” so she ran away from home and was now saving money to cut her first album.

She didn’t even have to convince me to put up the money for her to record a demo. She just played me a couple of her originals on the piano, then told me how much it would cost. I spent twenty thousand dollars, setting her up with a professional producer, a high-art photographer, a complete wardrobe overhaul. Everything she thought she’d need to get the attention of the big Canadian labels in Toronto.

And it worked. She got signed by a major label, then shipped off on tour, which was about the point when she stopped returning my calls. I guess you could say I’m proud of her, but I don’t really take any credit. If she hadn’t hustled me, she would have hustled somebody else.



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