Thursday, May 03, 2007

that business about the unwanted moustache

i once asked a famous playwright, did he have a pen?
there was a cigar hung casually between his thumb and index finger. he tapped it then, with a deliberate tautness, and ash hissed to the pavement, as my place on the sidewalk, and that of the girl, this girl who i was walking with, also impeded his march. she was drunk, and so was i.
we stalked NoLIta for a felt-tipped pen, that we might draw moustaches on every poster of that girl who was supposed to be some multi-lingual musical prodigy, incorporated, and we just wanted to draw some twirly squiggles there, above her smug pixie lips. maybe even a unibrow or two.
the posters lined the protective plywood that kept the passersbys safe from falling hammers, nails, frogs, migrant workers, and sheetrock, on that southeast corner of the streets of prince and lafayette in the lower east side of the city of new york and also the state of new york, 10012.
so we rushed to the bodega before, in our stupor, our artistic possession could subside.
and it was there, on the sidewalk, below the green plastic awning of the bodega, those languid carnations to our right, how they flopped lazily in their buckets, that we came upon the playwright.
that writer of gritty western tragedies, star of stage and screen, who was by any means a handsome man; cautious eyes, cropped but sensitive grey hair, and a fine-lined jaw spritzed with ranch-hand stubble.
but a severity came over him as we blocked his path. he balked at our attention; we stood our ground, and swayed, grinning.
and when he drew that cigar away from his body, and tapped the ash like a bow strung tightly, said, impatiently annunciating each syllable, "no, i do not have a pen," there was no mistake about the weight in his words. a gold mine, there, and something fell between us. we were still, and forgot the posters. just the pungent, horny smell of the carnations and his cigar and the clarity of that november air, after the first freeze.
and past us he walked; the smoke lingered on my tongue, bitterly, and punched at my eyes like an onion cut.
the bodega had pens, a variety of colors. we chose black; we drew moustaches that night. and sometimes, devil horns.