Friday, September 19, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 44 – DANCING GIRL

In that time after Africa, after San Francisco, during and after the Kennedy assassination while I was still with Kim but sometimes with Lottie who danced under the name Princess Aisha at the Egyptian gardens – with Lottie in the Madison Square Hotel where the lobby TV played and replayed assassination details, and deep in the night my sheets were clammy and bright red with her monthly blood – and we made so much noise that the elderly permanent residents left notes under my door about what a nice place this had been until I came to live here – and then Kim was pregnant and I called in sick to Time-Life two days after I’d started there, and we went to Puerto Rico for the abortion but had to stay out of the sun, fearing tans, because she still saw her husband and if he knew about this he would have the upper hand – and at Time-Life I should be pale after telling them my absence was due to flu.

And sometimes ultra-cute Sue, who had been in Athens just after me and dealt with the same expats, so it felt like we had crossed paths already.

In this time after Kim and I got back and everything was going wrong we still met in trysting style. I found a small but pleasing ground-floor apartment on Waverly Place. Lottie danced and disrobed there while I was on the phone to my parents, who were such a threat and an embarrassment to me. As Princess Aisha’s panties landed on the coffee table while my father was telling me that Sandra Donaldson, whom I had known in childhood as a cruel little black-freckled girl on the school bus, had become, in adulthood, a sought-after fashion model.

One morning Kim climbed through my ground-floor window when she suspected, correctly, that I was in bed with Sue.

I would go to the cavernous, Egyptian Gardens, which had a touch of evil, its darkness and its underworld patrons. I would walk in near midnight thinking I could be Humphrey Bogart. From the bar I sent a note up to the stage where when not dancing Lottie sat, almost demure, spangled and as smooth as if her skin were oiled, sitting, when not dancing, in a row of musicians and dancers much older than she was. I had met her when I was doing a try-out for the then liberal New York Post and had been assigned a common tabloid feature – nice Jewish grad student works at night as a belly dancer. In this time when the sixties were about to crest but belly dancing was for tabloid readers akin to stripping. Very late, after her last erotic dance of the night, we would go to an upstairs Greek after-hours place where they looked you over through an opening in the door and you drank ouzo from coffee cups.

But many nights I roamed the Village by myself – Chumley's, the no-name bar, and Julius’s which was still straight, this was so long ago – and the Duplex and the Ninth Circle and some I would not remember the next day, looking for women, sometimes finding one – in this time in which there was still Kim and Sue and Lottie, and the occasional no-name woman from an adjoining bar stool, and those researchers at Time-Life – after the Post fired me, at the instigation of Lottie’s agent, because I’d gotten her name wrong in print. And there was also the girl I had thought I would be with forever, our being together that crucial to my identity, but whom I’d left in Greece, and now she was back – and I was moving around, including to Broadway tryouts in Wilmington and in the Wilton – always in motion but feeling stagnant as if with a hangover that would last forever, exciting as my life was supposed to be.

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