THE COMPLETELY UNTRUE BALLAD OF THE eLEGANT MOB
Every Tuesday there were readings in the big salon. Elendele started off each affair with a piece of hers and finished with the wineworks of Li Po; sensitive never to dominate the proceedings. Out of it grew a small review in which Cortez assaulted the populace with disgusting collages that everyone made faces at, but studied more closely when left alone.
She would run off more and send Saturn a copy, too. Then Saturnina would distribute them in her neighborhood, a stronghold of the French Radical Party, send back contributions from herself, and also bloody pieces of rage from the members of Direct Action (with whom she was intimately involved).
The transcontinental intellectual grouping had come to be known by critical observers as The elegant Mob after the conflicting and magnetic tendencies it typified in matters of substance and the insubstantial. Their incursion into a history of 20 editions, two short movies, and twenty readings in a bar redecorated to the specifications of our salon, and elsewhere, remain milestones in the lives of those yet untouched by it; those unfettered by the ripple effect of other worlds beyond the consuming public eye.
They were so positively negative. Those mobsters knew they could do it all. And they weren’t even afraid of themselves, not anymore. They consolidated, solidified, and consummated all their loves, and other less positive passions they expressed so well. They started their candle to burning at both ends. They knew they were already part of a little history. They were happy because they knew they were home in that small effort, that making a little difference was better than staying home and watching what Elendele called “writerless television shows.”
The espresso maker may have been broken but the impish band weren’t letting token obstacles like that stand in their way anymore than they did the attacks to the core of their incoherent and dangerous philosophies.
I wondered. Would there be time? Was the world ready for their kindness?
“Sure!” Elendele would answer my unspoken thought. Undisturbed by the brutal reality of the economics of the thing, the elegant ones made the grim something to smile about – twisted it before it twisted them. Pretentious? Indeed. So full of their own self-import. So rose-clasped-in-hand. So off-the-cuff in their drug-addled diatribes.
To suggest that what they thought was worth listening to assumed pretense, which the intra-realist band wore like a tattoo on the inside lining of their collective soul.
Their parents, uncles, and leaders of the community could only wave a white flag and shrug. “Do people really think these things?” they thought amongst themselves, and with a certain sense of relief, gave over what was left of the future and beyond to The elegant Mob, so that it might do with it what it may.
But the invigorating soup of egos ended up when people left like leaves off an artichoke. Pretty soon there was only a core of me, Cortez, and Elendele. Then Cortez ended it all out of spite; out of a cheap and overweening need to exercise some power, the power we’d give him.
Elendele was, as usual, very disappointed in him. “I started out with an aspiring God and ended up with a petty bureaucrat,” she condemned the Cuban, in his presence and absence alike.
All the shining intellectuals began to fall away, unable to dream of an ideal not strictly of their own making and direction. Elendele was strongly downtrodden at the failure of communal art on even so small a scale.
“I was a fool to think anything in this country might be motivated by some notion other than self-gain,” she sighed at a sloe gin fizz affair, one Tuesday at Café L’Orange. Woozy we three, Elendele, Cortez, and me in the tarragon and hard-leather scents of a deep diamond November night.
“That’s why it works so well, Elendele.”
“Ugh. You’re impossible.”
No. She was impossible and her defeat led to new languor spells and layabouts and it was clear just how much glamour Saturnina had packed in her sack upon leaving. So, time was passing and we had gotten the habit of getting money, but something was missing for the menace who shook her leg in frantic frustration for weeks and months.
She had worn the bored face of the beautiful and the gilding hand failed to fill her up. Being the object of so many unfulfilled desires was not turning out to be what she’d expected.
“I don’t think anything ends up being any better than anything else,” she trilled in utter confusion. “And there is no such thing as ‘the best,’ either.”
There were new records and cassettes, and once, we fell under a two lazy week spell cast upon us by Ravel’s Rhapsody Español during which the phone was off-hooked, the clocks unplugged, and the shades drawn in the mourning of death for yet another school-born idea. An endless arctic summer broken up only when Louisa came and took Lydia away for good. With her went Elendele’s grandmother’s aquamarine.
One Tuesday I came down from the roof, where I had been contemplating the true importance of Man Ray in Hollywood, and walked in on Elendele who was pouting and cooing softly into the phone: “....Yes! Yes?...I thought you...but how could? When?...that’s not true...not true...I never...you only had to...Oh, baby...If I could jes...if...okay...maybe it’s not...Oh baby...I just can’t believe it’s you.”
Their bodies coming together in their minds, choking on each other all over again