Authors: Adriana Devoy
BLUE ROSE IN CHELSEA
BLUE ROSE IN CHELSEA
Copyright © 2004 by Adriana Devoy
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
For my mother,
who taught me to love books, by reading to me;
to find beauty, by seeing it everywhere;
and to be happy, by being happy herself.
Table of Contents
1 Pennies From Hewlett (New York City, 1988)
2 Byron & A Blue Bandanna
3 Solidarity & A Salted Pretzel
4 The Blue Drink & The Great Thing
5 Mr. Palmer Is Very Droll
6 Bunny In The Big Leagues
7 A Loo With A View
8 Romeo In Black Jeans
9 Sinclair's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
10 Wings & Rings
12 The Devil Made Me Do It
13 The Joseph, The Bear & The Woody
14 Bergdorf & Geldof
15 She Is Not Thinking Of Me
16 A Wanda Scorned
17 Bright Lights, Big Scallops
18 The Countess Wellington
19 Blue Moon
20 Aubergine Castle, Scotland, 1995
21 New York, Christmas, 2000
22 The Night They Invented Champagne
~ 1 ~
Pennies From Hewlett (New York City, 1988)
It seems wasteful to argue with my brother beneath a pastel sky as chalky blue as Wedgwood China. Dylan has just come from a recording session at Unique Studios, and at fifty dollars an hour he’s fit to be tied that his drummer showed up fifteen minutes late.
“Instead of applying for some lowly intern job at some cheesy magazine, you could be back at school being mentored by famous writers,” he scolds.
Even I am not entirely sure why I quit Princeton. “It’s something I felt I had to do. I can’t explain it, so can we just drop it?”
Chelsea in September is like some high-twist pinstripe suit. The worsted black lines of wrought iron railings are stitched across the gray gabardine of pavement, topped by peaked lapels of gateways and tailored cuffs of gardens.
“We come from working class parents, Haley. People like us don’t get Ivy League scholarships dropped in our laps every day.”
“It wasn’t dropped in my lap. I earned it. And I’ve got news for you. People at Ivy League schools look down on
people like us
. They can’t for the life of them figure out why anyone would actually be happy being a lowly cop like Dad, or a waitress like Mom was, or—God forbid—why anyone would actually go out and defend the country. If you don’t have a PhD their attitude is basically,
what have you
been doing with your life
As we pass the cornices and ornaments of buildings warming under the noonday sun, the stoops the color of toffee, I’m reminded of our Brooklyn childhood. I can almost see Dylan and I crouched on the curb in our goofy green culottes bought at Germaine’s department store--enduring both the heat of Park Slope and the hokey pixie haircuts that Mom inflicted upon us each summer--relishing Mister Softee cones while we cooled our toes in water streaming from the open yellow “Johnny pump” at the corner.
“Fine, they’re idiots. Couldn’t you just have ignored them for another year and gotten your degree? Then you could have graduated, written your novel, and maybe spoofed them in it. Or you could have found another group of friends there.”
I struggle to keep up with Dylan. He lifts my ruffled duffle bag from my arms, relieving me of the burden, and slings it over his broad shoulder. I’m itching to change out of the blue shapeless dress and cheap pumps that I’ve worn for my interview with Nightlife Magazine at the Penta Hotel.
“I’m talking about the professors. How can I ignore the very people who are trying to shape my world view?”
“That’s just an excuse. You always have an excuse for not finishing things. What is this anyway, the new trend; 1988-- a great year to throw your life away! First Brandon, now you?”
Brandon is Dylan’s boyhood best friend, bass player, and former college roommate, hence the name of their band The Roomies. Brandon recently quit his job as a trader at Drexel-Burnham to pursue a bohemian existence in theatre and music. While my industrious brother is employed full-time for an accounting firm as he works toward his CPA certification, Brandon has sublet his apartment uptown and now kicks about below Fourteenth Street, crashing on friends’ couches and scanning Backstage for bit parts in the works of penurious playwrights. Brandon’s funds have run low, and he asked Dylan to bring him his jar of pennies from his old bedroom in his parent’s house on Hewlett Street out in the suburbs.
I sigh, struggling to keep up with Dylan who tends to walk faster when he’s frustrated. He wears a black
Rattle and Hum
T-shirt, black jeans, and a violet velvet jacket. With his aura of being Someone, and the wind streaming his silky black hair behind him like an urban Cherokee warrior, people naturally step out of his way. I chug behind him like a tugboat finding refuge in his wake.
“Mom and Dad don’t have a problem with me leaving school.”
“They’re too easy on you, Haley, which is why you need me to look out for you.”
“There’s something I have to find. I can’t explain it. It’s like this inner knowing, this intuition that there’s something out there for me, and if I wait another year, it will be too late.”
“Like the Goya Beans?” Dylan smiles his voluptuously crooked smile. When I was four years old I wandered out of our Brooklyn brownstone and went missing for an hour before a neighbor discovered me down on Third Avenue gazing at the gray factory building of Goya Beans in the distant drizzle. It was Valentine’s Day, and Mom jokes that when the neighbor delivered me into her arms in my flowery dress drenched with rain, it was the best bouquet she’d ever received.
“Just promise me you won’t weird out on me, and go off on some beatnik quest to find yourself. I don’t want to discover you in some airport in an orange robe with a shaved head hawking daisies.” He smirks, clearly amused with himself, and halts at the crosswalk, tugging me back because I’ve crossed against the light. The black pumps I’m wearing are too big for me, and my feet swim in them.
The indefatigable Dylan is beginning to look weary. Perhaps it’s Brandon’s jar of moldy pennies, or perhaps it’s my relentless petitioning to let me live with him temporarily in his Queens apartment.
“I can’t explain it. Just give me a break, Dylan. There is something I must do. I just need some time to myself, just one year. I’m going to write The Great American Novel, you’ll see.” I quote Sylvia Plath, whose journal I bought for a bargain at the landmark Strand bookstore.
“Didn’t she stick her head in an oven?” he asks, checking left, then right, for traffic before guiding me across the avenue.
Dylan has a way of poking holes in my literary pretensions.
“I’ve read almost every classic work of literature, now I need to look around and do some living myself, so that I have something to write about. Where are we going anyway?” I realize we are blocks past Brandon’s last haunt.
I stop to apply red lip-gloss in my reflection in a storefront window. I unclip my hair and shake out the dark ringlets that fall just below my shoulders. There are days when it’s so humid I would kill for Dylan’s silky frizz-free hair, but on clear, dry days like this, I am happy to have my curls.
Dylan tells me about a new friend of Brandon’s.
“You’d like him, another doofus who ditched a great opportunity.” Brandon is rooming with some new friend he met in his acting class, a former corps member for American Ballet Theatre, who quit the prestigious dance company to pursue acting.
“Speaking of rooming,” I venture, as I try once more to cajole Dylan into letting me live with him. I offer to do his laundry, and cook his favorite chicken parmigiana, and to make myself scarce when he brings home groupies from his gigs. Dylan recoils at the idea, but I’m sure I will win him over once I show good faith by getting a job.
In a small square of grass, a rose dangles with a certain derring-do over the chipped cellar board of the adjoining house. It is not the season for roses, and this one looks almost blue.
“Haley, are you coming?” Dylan is impatient. I hesitate in the gateway, hypnotized by the lavender-blue bloom. He moves on ahead of me, vanishing into the vestibule. I debate whether to go view the rose up close, to confirm it is not a mirage. In the second grade, Sister Miriam Lucille taught us that a sudden appearance of roses is believed to be an intercession on the part of St. Theresa, a sign of a miracle to come. I float there, suspended in a silver beam of sunlight that seems to hold within its rays the promise of small, sparkling futures. Something in me resists moving forward into the next moment, as if I know instinctively that soon, within seconds, everything will change. And then it rains upon me like a shower of warm stars—the feeling of having suddenly come home, of gently waking from some long and winsome dream.
Dylan has left the door ajar.
~ 2 ~
Byron & A Blue Bandanna
I hear the familiar banter between my brother and Brandon, and find them sitting on a wide ledge where sunshine floods through the wrought iron bars over the windows, making a lattice pattern of lemonade light on the pale floor. They are poring over lyrics for their latest song, and Brandon looks up just long enough to give me a nod, before returning to argue a point on paper with Dylan.
I settle onto the daybed in the small studio, impatient to free myself from the conservative dress and cheap vinyl pumps, but too lazy to interrupt them to ask where the bathroom is, so instead I pull one of my quick-changes. Without lifting the dress, I slide the thigh-high stockings down my legs, roll them into a ball, stuff them into my pockets, wiggle into a pair of jeans while still sitting, wriggle my arms from the dress sleeves, slip a blue silk blouse underneath—the baggy dress all the while hung like a blanket about me—button the blouse, pull the dress over my head, unhook my bra, slide it out through one sleeve, and land it with perfect aim, like an opening pitch, into my pink bag. I slip on a pair of funky black shoes with four pale pink straps that cross over my arch; they have a heel just high enough to be stylish but not counterproductive to scaling numerous city blocks. In sixty seconds flat I’ve changed my entire outfit without so much as baring more than an ankle or elbow, and the oblivious Roomies have not so much as batted an eyelash in my direction.
That’s when I become aware that someone is watching me. It’s as if I can feel his gaze, like a palpable weight, pressing upon me.
He is seated just behind the door-which is why I didn’t see him when I came in—where a waist-high partition forms a sort of corner with the opposite wall. He leans back in a swivel office chair—there is no desk—his legs sprawled crab-like before him in stonewash jeans frayed at the knees, his shirt carelessly tucked out. Though the chair has wheels it does not budge; his powerful legs keep it rooted. A blue bandanna seems to swallow up his forehead; a fringe of brown hair is tucked behind his ears.
If Dylan had better manners I would have been made aware sooner of this stranger with the intense green eyes.
“Superman needed a phone booth,” he says, visibly impressed. He’s not tall but his presence is so towering that when he leans out of his chair to shake my hand, I have the sensation his head may unhinge the roof.
I have trouble letting go of his hand. He glances at it with a lopsided smile, as if wondering whether I will return it to him at some point. His face is beautiful and vivid, but not delicate, his complexion flawless, his features seemingly carved by craftsman.