Sunday, March 11, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment seventeen)


Elendele’d hit me without having had the decency to put on a glove. When my nose was again cleaned, I decided to get away from the whole dishonest, self-absorbed bunch of knights in tarnished armor.

Prince-like, I had banished myself from the world of feelings and sensitivity.
I decided to use my own apartment again once my manager decided he remembered me and let me through the security gate. I needed a trailer to stuff all that was mine, which had found its way over to the salon. There, Cassius moved center stage as I was blinded by his light; confused yet understanding of what he called “his power.”

I’d had keys of course, but had lost them at Elendele’s house after we’d swam ourselves all night in plum wine and a very thick book on state-snuffed American progressives. When I arrived at the portal, light tracked through at the door and I had some fear seconds. But then a robin’s ode in bel canto form slipped out from under the same crack.

I knocked on the door and Gina Night opened it and asked, quite seriously, “What are you doing here?”

After I’d reminded her it was my apartment she let me in. We never got to talking about her presence because she immediately ripped me about my “Medea” recording in which Anna Moffo was soprano. “It’s amazing she got that far,” she decreed, “singing with her head instead of her diaphragm like this…” hitting the keys of her inner trumpet, until a neighbor grabbed his shoe and thumped it, several times on his floor.

At sleeptime Gina refused to take the couch, but kept a separate blanket for herself in our bed. Every evening she would short my simmering circuit with long talks about the end of order and the corresponding disappearance of the gentleman. She was an eighteenth century girl completely out of her time.

“Everything is moving so fast now Eufemia,” she once told an indigo friend-for-lunch, “there no cadence, no artistry to their advances. Everybody’s chasing a jet plane. It’s a world of sprinters with just a few long-distance dancers left. A world without stopping.”

“I love not stopping,” entered Eufemia, who was a friend of a friend of Elendele’s.

Gina’s father was still strong in her thoughts. By having the shrewdness in relenting to her demands for a music school education, he had avoided the battle for her mind with the inevitable, radical college professor. She was less free, but more sure of who she was, because she hadn’t seen fit to alter her ego.

Gina felt she should be able to stay without having to sleep with me, especially since she’d got an architectural magazine to include my place in a photo spread it was doing on urban cave dwellers. I had to agree. Things looked great: plants exploding green ecologies, lace chantilly slightly burned at the point of contact with the lighting fixtures over which she had draped them. The seven speakers spread throughout the place so she could sing along with the rare collections her adoring father had regaled her in.

Gina Night was nice in her prime skin suit, and yet, slowly the thrill to paw passed. I was sick of women, even good ones. I was in a protective stance and dying for a friend to help fill the hole Cassius had just blown through my world of chill sensation.

She glided over the place in a healthy vapor. She was always having fun and didn’t mind if I was there to help her enjoy it. Gina played, for me, records when she really wanted to hear her favorite “Rigoletto,” featuring a young Tito Gobbi. She was teaching me that. Teaching me how to think about the other person.

She – her dad – helped me find a job at a small fashion magazine downtown. I was overqualified, but desperate for work, a rock upon which to cling until the tidal waves of loneliness subsided. She bought me a new wardrobe with his credit card that included pointy Italian shoes. Then she worked out a debt-for-rent reduction arrangement that could not hurt me. She was generous of herself and her things and made little of it publicly or privately.

I worked overtime on a series of freelance articles outlining the pattern of systematic abuse of minorities and actresses in unemployment insurance dispensation.

My new editors lauded the lucid freshness of my work, in particular the high-minded social commentary my pen/sword swung. I railed against the little institutions that are the real enemy of the common people. A crooked realtor fell with a slash from me on their tenements and their noble contribution to rat housing in the city.

I laid bare the fascist leanings of a religious group that had harassed some of the finer porn shops in town. I led a crusade to legally enjoin fundamentalists from blocking the entrances of low-cost abortion clinics, for the young girls who drape veils over identities better left unknown.

But the truth was my writing was drunk and withdrawing on Elendele. She was choking me, even from a distance, bringing the very issue of originality in my own thought into question. Was I merely a megaphone for her ideas? Was that a bad thing when the muse might be right? What could I have to say that was stronger than her ardor for changing this and that?

It didn’t matter. Not as long as she was in the closet of my life, some friend of some other me.

“I love Elendele,” Gina told me one night, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t advise you to stay away from her. Why take such a big gulp of life when it can be so delicious in sips?”

“What is it about Cassius that has her so fired?” I asked her and she said it had nothing to do with me or Cassius; that it was all in Elendele’s head. “Oh, I’d be surprised if she didn’t call again,” said the girl from the school of the crystal ball.

“But I don’t understand it. Cassius is mean to her. At least that’s what you say. You say that he’s mean to every woman he knows.”

“No one loves a woman like a misogynist,” she posited.

Some months after we had our joint system up and running, a colleague invited me down to a party being thrown in celebration of a French design company’s big profit year at some extravagant staying place on hills that stuck themselves out into the ocean. He told me the waitresses there were chosen for their qualities of blondeness and then draped in white chemise. I asked Gina to come along, partly because I wanted to take her there and enjoy it with her, and partly because I knew she’d probably get out her dad’s credit card when it came time to pay for some of the pricey extras available.

Arturo D’Ambrosio was the name on that card so that I knew at least half her name was a fiction. Gina and I shopped outside the city, in little country places, for matching antique clothes the Friday before the Saturday. She found a black skirt that wound round the hips and wrapped the legs like Saran, right down to her knees.

It was black linen and so was the jacket which featured simple black pearl buttons the size of swollen dewdrops. She found a black straw pillbox hat to which she’d sewed silken morning glories dyed white the early next day.

My own ensemble was a ’40s-styled tuxedo with baggy midnight blue pants and white jacket cut short like a waiter’s. Gina sewed on a crest given to her by a member of the Italian Olympic Equestrian Team. I thanked her and she said, “Just don’t ask what I had to do to get it.”

“What did you do to get it?” I rewound her, and she responded, “The same thing I did to get the Jeanne Arp sculpture sitting up there on the third speaker in our room.”

There was no glaring remorse in her made statement, only the rhubarb realities of her precious and chosen profession of lady girl artiste.

We arrived at the Carlton Towers around 11 a.m. The sun was still laying down its first coat of the day and the ocean was yawning over surfers slipping on its tongue.

We were shining and the sea puffed life into our ancient outfits. The valet avoided eye contact out of respect for whomever it was that we were, as did the doorman, and likewise, others.

There was a throaty wind and Gina floated on it. It drowned her voice out so that when she laughed the whole world seemed like a silent movie. I often think it was the finest moment of my life, but she had already taught me not to be so shallow.

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