30 June 2009

One more $5 Silk Pashmina and then we’ll go. One more snapshot of me in front of the giant Bowling Green bull and then back to the hotel. One more $12 framed black and white photo of the unendingly ironic “Gay St.” sign and then we’ll catch a cab to JFK. One more cup of coffee for the road - so long as it’s complimentary and instant - and then 6,000 miles home and maybe a blanket. I was waiting for the rain. Not like some cliché song but literally. Sitting and waiting for the sky to open up like missing pages in a large print biblical coloring book. A few miles from the giant shirt button. The wind was weaving so loudly through the branches it was neck and neck with the old copper Westinghouse fan in the kitchen sputtering; oscillating reluctantly, “I think I can.” The air was thick on the porch. We were all waiting for it to fall in one big bucket. Mouths open. Hands open. Hearts open. Crying out to the heavens, “Save us! Save our city!” Sacred cows sort of shuffled along. They knew when it was coming; they just didn’t really know how to warn us. They were all huddled by an old buttonwood tree. Imagine a bunch of corporate clock-watchers all huddled around the water cooler except instead of people sacred cows. She was a painter by heart. Artist by trade. Worked with kids. Real little. They loved her. Came up from D.C. with paint all over her hands, in her hair, in her smile. Eyes were not hers. She must have stolen them from the Park Avenue jewelry drawer of some Rockefeller-era Vanderbilt socialite; those all-knowing been-around-the-world-and-haven’t-even-left-my-mind eyes. Nurse’s voice. Warm hands. Sweet words. Red licorice for lips. Ballerina’s feet. Cardboard cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She had a big tote bag from the museum but all she carried inside was an apple. Checked her beauty at the door and sat on the floor. Rubbed her palms together to shake off the dirt like a true tomboy flirt. Came up from D.C. with nothing but a complimentary tote bag and an apple. She wanted “Hunan”. That’s what she called Chinese take-out. She loved those fried noodles they give you to snack on before the waiter takes your order. Duck sauce and hot mustard. Read that menu over and over even though you always order the same thing; that’s just what you do. I killed a mosquito feasting on my forearm. I know you aren’t supposed to kill the messenger but I wasn’t interested in the message he was trying to deliver. Return to sender. Back to the great unknown. Sweet mosquito heaven in the sky. I was outside the Yale Club when he walked up. I knew it was him immediately because of those Tiffany turquoise loafers. Only he could get away with those. He had just left Benchmark and Victor (and by left I mean stormed out in the middle of a board meeting - an incident they’d write two books about years later) and was dreaming of opening a coffee shop called Leaf and Bean. He wanted to talk to me about where I stood. Basically he wanted to know if I’d lend him an exorbitant amount of money. And I would but I still wanted him to go through the ritual of having to ask. Just because years ago he made me do the same. At the Harvard Club in front of an S.R.O. full of tufted leather cigars and navy blazers he made me defend my life. And now here he was with hat in hand in need of my help. It was hard for me to make the most of these moments. My conscience betrayed me. I was just too fucking nice. I couldn’t stand watching someone squirm. Even if they had no problem doing it to me. Must have been one too many Sunday mornings at Saint Patrick’s. “Turn the other cheek” and all that. I sat quietly in the backseat reveling in the silence only the sounds of the leather creaking and groaning as I adjusted myself and nervously played with the armrest ashtray. “Where are we headed?”, I asked without looking forward. I was being cinematic. I’d seen actors do this before where they sort of address their driver but keep their eyes trained out the window. Just then I realized there was no one in the drivers seat so I hopped up front. “Don’t mind if I do.” Put the car in drive and rubber to gravel and tried to the find the main road. I figured I must have been blindfolded for days. I turned on the radio and they were speaking Spanish and playing Edith Piaf.

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