Wednesday, February 27, 2013
From Out In The 1960s Night- The Lady With The Botticelli Smile
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
She had been behind him and had asked him for some spare change, nothing more. Normally requests for spare change, in Harvard Square where he was just then, Park Street, Kenmore Square or wherever he happened to be where pan-handlers grew like trees went through him like water since the beggar usually was some surly life-time drunk looking for the next bottle and the scab-filled, ragged, and smelly figure that confronted him could be dismissed out of hand. But this was 1967, the fall of 1967, after the summer of love and so, as likely as not, young hipsters, young men and women who were dropping out of the nine to five society, for a while anyway, but who either from circumstances or studied will decided to evade that bourgeois society could be found pan-handling for their daily needs in a sea of other young people who too were questioning a world that they had not created, and had not been asked about by their elders. So when he heard that sweet gentle good night voice in back of him he stopped out of curiosity since he had never been asked by a woman for spare change before, not at least out in the streets.When he did turn around he saw nothing but a vision of some ancient Botticelli portrait, although with her silky brown hair she was just a tad too dark-haired for a Botticelli model for that artist, if he remembered correctly, ran to blondes, or brownish blondes. That brown hair all braided at the ends, a face filled to the brim with dangling brown eyes, ruby red lips (natural, no lipstick as was becoming the fashion among women then), slender, an indeterminate figure since she was full-blown garmented in some shapeless thing (also becoming the fashion, earth mother fashion) covered with shawls and a ton of beads to ward off, well, ward off evil probably. And then that smile, that wordless smile, that spoke of adventures and nighttime pillows, that not quite Mona Lisa smile, a smile that would leave you guessing but a smile that held promise to both cause great joy, and great madness sorrow before she was through with you. A smile like that smile that Vivian Leigh, the actress, smiled just before she gave that wilting “I’ve always depended on the kindnesses of strangers” look in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire. Yes, just that look that would take a man down every known path, for good or evil, but take him down nevertheless.
She softly repeated that request and as he fished his pockets for some change, for some dollars if he had them, he was in a minor turmoil about whether to hit on her or to just let it pass. After handing her a couple of dollars and some change, and she just as softly as her request said thank you she made his decision for him as she walked away to ply her trade at her next target. For the rest of the day he kept thinking about that encounter, and that night, a little restless, he had a dream about her.In the dream he dreamed that he had given her the money, and had been quick enough to engage her in a conversation. He had dream given her a name, some ancient name, Rowena, a name to spark ancient thoughts of fair maidens in distress. And of gallants to ease that situation. She laughed, called him silly, a romantic, but did take up his offer to have a cup of coffee with him at the Hayes-Bickford. He bought her lunch and they talked for hours there and later down by the Charles River although she, as was also becoming a fashion, did not want to talk about her past, about any previous sorrows or previous madnesses. She, they, he, were to be of the moment. He, as it turned out, was okay with that, and she went home with him after she picked up her rucksack and bedroll that a friend in Allston was holding for her. Thus their short sweet affair started.
Short and sweet since his fair Rowena made it clear to him that not only was she not going to dwelt on her, his, their pasts but that she was going to be a rolling stone-meaning 1967 meaning- that she had no strings attached to her and that she would see, and sleep with, whomever struck her fancy. And that was fine by him, he being very dream liberal and very a child of his age. Fine with him until she did not come home one night and he was distraught beyond compare. He confronted her, she got ready to pack her things, but he waved that off. That happened a couple more times and then one night he got very angry, an anger he couldn’t explain, and an anger that left her off the hook when she walked out the door and he didn’t wave her off. Then he awoke from his dream, awoke in a sweat.The next afternoon he purposefully went over to Harvard Square to see if his Rowena was there. As he was looking a soft voice came from behind him asking if he had any spare change. He turned around and there she was with her Botticelli looks and that smile, that same “depend on the kindnesses of strangers” smile she gave him the previous day. He nervously fished in his pockets for some money, passed it over to her, and as he moved on then she again wandered to her next target. He never saw her again…