Saturday, April 24, 2010


She bent down the way a dancer would to pick up her small rumpled paper bag. She bent from the knees, her left leg going straight out and the right one doing the bending. Her right foot arched on its ball. I had just walked into the Starbucks on Park Avenue at Twenty-ninth Street. Most of the tables were full with people hanging over their computers, young twenty-something students and self-employed day dreamers. A few tables had businessmen in dark suits heads resting on poised hands engrossed in conversations you know revolved around money. I had my eye on the lady with the bag hoping she was on her way out so I could grab her table. She scooped up her bag and surveyed the room. Her body looked a little thicker than it did when she was bending over to retrieve her bag, that and the little grey ponytail peeking out from under her red velvet pillbox hat hinted that age had been creeping up on her. I had only seen her from the back but as soon as she straightened up I could see that youth was her history. There was a dichotomy between her self-perception and the reality of her true age. Looking at her was like looking at the image I used to see in magazines of a drawing of a beautiful Gibson girl sitting at her dressing table when looked at from one perspective but if looked at from a different angle the drawing turned into the face of a witch with a crooked warty nose. That was the lady at Starbucks. At first glance an agile member of the twenty-somethings gathered at Starbucks, but seen from the front she had that unfortunate other look, a withered face with a large protruding lower lip painted a faint shade of red. As she moved through the tables she held herself erect and with a regal flair took oversized steps, stopping every few feet to push a chair back under a table so she could continue her grand exit through the dining area. Just as soon as I saw her disappear behind a column she reappeared standing against a wall of windows her silhouette outlined by the light pouring in from Park Avenue. She stood there surrounded by other coffee sippers valiantly trying to ignore her presence. In addition to her red hat she wore a leather jacket with a huge flirty ruffled bottom that accentuated the width of her hips. A pair of tight fitting black leggings supported her short height and her exceptionally tall self-image. She stood there as if contemplating her exit making little starts but then retreating to her post against the window. As she stood she kept lifting her left hand in front of her mouth the way one does when your trying to check for halitosis. She was too far away for her scent to have made an impact on my olfactory sense. If her breath was coated with garlic, or if she carried the smell of urine so many homeless people possess, it wasn’t detectable by my nostrils. The people seated next to her didn’t seem to mind. Maybe she smelled of gardenias. I couldn’t tell. After her fourth attempt at making a complete exit she finally spun through the exit as if it were a revolving door when in fact it wasn’t. She quickly disappeared amongst the crowds of people beginning their lunch breaks. One regal figure navigating her royal walk through her subjects who all gave her a wide berth the way one would when royalty approached.

It doesn't matter who you are. It only matters who you think you are. That's what pulls you from today into tomorrow.

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