tales of a girl in the city

janvier 04, 2005


Normally, she's just an old biddy. She comes to class every Monday night with her white hair piled on top of her head, and while she acts, I contemplate how many dimes I could hide in the folds of her neck. The fact that she tries so hard has always bothered me. She delivers lines like she's talking to cats.

Last night, though, she was telling a true story about her friend Marcus who'd been a hooker on 42nd street. She stood on stage and talked about the grass they grew, and the loaves of bread she made him whenever she'd worry that he'd been forgetting to eat.

And suddenly her hip is cocked and there's dirt under her nails from futzing with the marijuana plants stashed in her bathtub. The shadow beside her on stage is all at once Marcus, coaxing her--yet again--to float him twenty bucks.

Marcus, I got it! He's the first person she called when she found out she'd been cast in a real Broadway show. Her face alone tells us they kissed once on her sofa. Afterwards they probably smoked up and giggled about it. They'd eaten mint ice cream.

When it's over, it's over, and there she is again, an old lady in gardening shoes. But I don't care, now, that she tries so hard. I want to ask her about Marcus. I wonder if he still calls way too late at night.

I was thinking about her at my refrigerator this morning, when the radio switched to news.

The announcer read "One hundred fifty-thousand." At first the number is an abstraction; I register it from a distance. It is circles and lines--a person I see often, but don't know very well.

But then I think about mint ice cream and the friends people call when they want to celebrate. One hundred fifty-thousand. How their faces would've changed as they told their best story.

For a long time I stand there and think about them.