Author's note: I was inspired by the gritty texture and casual, flowing "conversation" of Harold Selby Jr.'s Last Exit to Brooklyn while writing A Soliloquy for Mimi. Please excuse "her" dubious grammar.
1. Last night was good. I picked up twenty dollars & fifty cents in tips, all thrown onto the stage or slipped into my belt…one man tucked a bill into my shoe. What was he thinking, I don't know! I love dancing, my hips swinging so fluidly, like water sloshing in the ocean and not so much the men who watch unless theyre good-looking or very rich! Its all smoke and soot in there, everyone smokes nonstop. Sometimes cigars. even, for the old men. I met a nice old man with something the matter with his skin, it was all flaky & pink like tuna. But he was kind. He offered to drive me home in his car, which was big and heavy and smelt like steel/chrome/bits of melted plastic. He said did I want to sit in the front seat where you can look out the windows and see the lights and colors, and how they blur like raindrops when you go quickly! Yes, but I dont want want to put you out. Also, I live so close to here. I live on ave. b and 12th, so I really dont need to get a lift. Thank you anyways! well, you have a good night. He was so nice. He brought me my coat, you know.
I felt sorry for him. He said he was a reporter for the ____ Journal (cant remember what the name was!) He hasnt been to NY since the stock market crashed 3 years ago on account of his company lost a lot of money which was invested in stocks. Hes here on business, for a conference. I said, your job sounds so exiting! I wanted to go to school to write mysteries novels and do them very well, like Agatha Christie, who is my favourite writer. But then Xavier died when I was 16 so I couldnt live with him and his brother anymore, so I lost my job near their apartment (which was in the Bronx.) I was selling longeré, like bras, underwear, everything white and cotton and lacy. We had stacks of underwear neatly placed against the walls and I had to fold and refold, but it was fun when the customers came and I had to speak very slowly and clearly and be persuasive. and it smelt like mothballs and Givenchy Delicate which is not delicate at all, its like daisies having sex. My boss, Annabelle, was very nice. But I had to move back in with my mother and Aunty Clara so I couldnt make money for college. But journalism sounds good too and if I ever go to college I might learn about that too.
Well, I might see you around/ you too. Goodbye then. He left in a heavy trench-cut raincoat, even though it wasnt raining. Maybe he left his other coat at home. Usually the old men arent so nice, they like to give you tips but they call you names like "slut" or "whore" (I'm not a whore) and they laugh at you with ashes in their breath. Well theyre going to be dead soon anyways, you can tell their blood pressure is really high and you can get a heart attack or something from that. My grandmother was a nurse before she died so I know these things. I thought, maybe I want to study being a nurse? But in the end, it's too sad! What do you do when your patients die? and they have all their things like flowers in a vase and their suitcase in the room and themselves, lying on their bed and its like theyre there but they aren't? Every day I would be afraid because wouldn't you be sad? and you have to tell the family. and the boyfriend or girlfriend. So I couldnt be a nurse unless it was for broken arms and heatstroke and stuff like that where you know theyll be better and theyll take their suitcase and toothbrush and the foil balloons and leave like it were a hotel stay or a sleepover at your friend's house. My boyfriend, Roger, told me I would be good for cheering them up and making it seem not as bad as it was to be in a hospital. But someone needs to cheer the nurses up. (well that's what Rogers for!)
2. I lit a cigaret and another one and another until my fingers were so hot and glowing pink from the match tips I held and my lungs were sore and I couldnt cough anymore. Thats when I stop. Sometimes when Im upset about the day, like when Roger wants to write his songs and he wont talk to me or when I miss Xavier, even though hes been dead for 3 years, and so I have a few cigarets until I feel better. Mostly in the winter my fire escape is too cold and ice forms around the bars, so I smoke in my apartment and put scarves over the lamps to make the light better. I dont like bright light because it burns like streaks in your eyes. So I wear sunglasses during the day or I wont go out until the evening. Its fine, I like evening because I'm "a night owl." Roger said that. He always thinks of the best thing to say or a way of putting something differentely because he write songs and some times poetry. I love poetry, I wish I could write it. I ask Roger to write a poem about me (...or a song) and he says, not yet! What do you mean, not yet? Weve been dating for four months!!! But he hasnt had the "insperation" yet. So Ill wait because I want a song about me, not in general, but one from Roger.
Two weeks ago I said, I love you (to him.) and he nodded but he didnt say, I love you too, Mimi. I can wait but it would be nice. He doesnt like to talk about how he feels or anything like that, Roger likes to joke. and tell me stories about when his band was still together. I wish Id seen them. Hes a good story-teller. But it would be nice for him to say, I love you too, Mimi, even once.
So when he does that I have a cigaret or a small drink but it usually isnt enough and then I go to my friend, John who works in Thompkins Sq. Pk., and he gives me something to take thatll send me out for a while. I need some time for myself, you know. Thats why I do h. I know I shouldnt, Roger tells me all the time because h used to do h and a lot of other things. He said he did everything but he probably hasnt. So John gives me some h and I do it at home, not at the parties or anything. After its over I dont feel so good and I usually get headaches and stomach-aches and then the next day Im better until I start to feel cold like you cant be warm even with a blanket, even in Mexico or somewhere hot you wouldnt feel warm and you shiver and your teeth click against each other like typewriter keys. Sometimes Roger comes downstairs to see me when Im ill but other times he gets mad and stays upstairs. But its all fine in the end, I have a cigaret and cook some pasta on the stove or buy an ice cream across the street and I have a few aspirins and then it goes away but usually I have to have some more eventually or Ill be ill again.
3. We were all living together in the apt. in the village, my mother and Aunty Clara and her boyfriend J.M. and my little sister Maricela who was 12 when I was 15. It was small (smaller than my apt. now!) and so the bedrooms were like this: Aunty Clara shared with J.M. and I shared with Mama and Maricela. I didnt like sharing because they would put their perfume bottles and magezines and those little sowing kits on my bed or my shelfs and it would all get mixed up. Marcy which is what we called her liked to steal my things and Mama would say, You have to share because she is family. One thing nice was that we were on the second floor so there wasnt a big climb up the stairs. Also, the buzzer so you didnt have to throw down a key. There were only three keys and they went to Mama and Aunty Clara and J.M. so when I wanted to come home they had to be there already. Aunty Clara was angry when I got home late and she would wake from the buzzer and shuffle to the door in her dark blue slip with her make-up scrubbed off, she would glare at me. Her thinning hair was piled on top of her head during the day and at night it hung down like loose black threads from a hem. Oh hello, young lady. I'm sorry you had to wake up. (I was, really, I just wanted my own key.) Well, in you go. Whats that smell on you? Nothing. it's hard to be sober & stern when youre drunk, but I fooled Aunty Clara enough times.
I started dating Xavier when I was 14 and a few months. He was 16. We went to the different schools, then met at a party, you know, the oldest story in the world. And then we started hanging out with just him, me & and a few friends (Jesse, Linda, Marco...) and then one day we went to buy some more beer and in the line up at the store he paid for all of it and when I said, Do you want some money?, he said No, no, and slipping his hand over my neck, and the hairs next to my ear curled like snails and then that was that. A few days later we told Jesse, Linda, Marco and etc. Xavier used to take me to photograph the big bridges. He had a Polaroid camera with ratty red cord to tuck under his collar or over a t-shirt. I took plastic chips off the street and put them into a plastic bag and then threw them into the water under the Queensboro bridge. And I watched the circles radiate and dissolve, they were graceful and blue and then they were gone.
When Xavier was 17 he moved in with his brother who was 20 and his brother's girlfriend who was also 20. They had a tiny little place in the Bronx with a few empty flowerpots and a blue-and-rust fire escape. Rust isnt a color in the Bronx, its just rust. He asked me, Did I want to come live with in? Well, I had to ask permission first from Mama, but I was 15, so I was old enough and then she and Marcy could have the bedroom all for themselves and their perfumes and magezines and sowing kits. J.M. helped me bring my suitcases on the subway. He didnt say a single thing on the whole ride other than, Your hair-brush fell out and excuse me. When I got to Xaviers apt., he gave me a hug and his brother Ricardo shrugged/smiled and his girlfriend Sarah went into her room and closed the door. She didnt want a 15-year-old living with them, she thought Id be a handful, wanting help with homework and money and making noise and everything but I wasnt and she didnt ever like me but she got used to me.
And I had to go to the same school, only I needed money for the subway ride which is how I started working at the longeré store folding and stacking underwear.
4. And one day Ricardo was in the apt. with 3 of his friends who I didnt know and an old woman with big blue apron on and Ricardo grabbed me and took me downstairs and we took a taxi (and we never took taxis) to a hospital and we stood silent in the elevator like paper dolls with our faces white cause he knew what happened and cause I was afraid. We went to a room and Xavier was there but asleep and he had been shot by a rival dealer and three days later he died. We cremated him and gave the urn to his grandmother (his mother was dead) and she took it like a baby against her breast and said, Good afternoon because it was the only English she knew and she didnt know I spoke Spanish.
And then mama found out and she said, You have to leave that place and also Sarah wanted me to leave so I moved back into the village apt., but by then Aunty Clara and J.M. had moved out so it wasnt so bad. And that was when I started doing h, after Xavier died.
5. Roger, did you hear this? Are you reading this, are you? I'm sorry for relapsing again, I swear to god. Give me another chance. Please. And he says, You do this to me each time. You think it was easy for me? The crash of the lamp, sparks, SHIT! Mimi. Honestly, you know I—wait—no, you listen to me this time. A million chances, and they splinter apart into a billion, a trillion little lies and more chances after that like glass bits into dust. He dragged my by the coat into the bathroom, made me look at my face in the mirror and it was swollen, puffy, red and blue under the eyes. Don't you see what youre doing? To yourself?
And then I looked at him behind me, the dirty blond hair, light stubble, his slender forearms and the bulge of his wrists...will you stay with me tonight? I...can't you come upstairs? He doesnt want to sleep in my apt. with the moldy tiles and the naked walls. I dont have much furniture as I have other things to spend my money on, and he laughs a cold laugh, no I'm talking about clothes and MEDICINE, Roger. Yeah. Im telling the truth. From your mouth to Gods ear. Im going upstairs, you can come if you want. But of course I want to. Oh, sweetie. No. Just this once, goddamnit, no.
Fuck. I ran downstairs in just a loose knit wrap, over the snowflakes and subway steam and the store-light and the telephone booths. Oh, here we go again. I know I shouldnt, please beleve me, I know I shouldnt, but the chills are from the cold now and its easier when you arent dizzy to slip a five to my friend John and even easier if I tell myself it was Roger's fault. Is that lying? And then I ran back to my home, up the stairs and stairs and stairs, and tears slid hot as a blush down my cheeks. In the door, its dirty metal smell, its thickness- I pushed it shut and slid down against it and what does relief feel like but this?
Mimi? You. He came downstairs, he came he came he CAME BACK. I love you.
I'm taking this away.
...are you alright?
and I— I feel ill
He picked me up and he.....and and and
could you still love me?
7. "who knows where, who goes there...here goes."