June 20, 2016 by The Citron Review
by G. Evelyn Lampart
I don’t belong on Eighth Street. Maggy D. sees me going into the clothing store with a FIRE SALE sign in the window. I recognize her across Eighth Street watching me, and I must go in, or she will know that I see her. That is worse than smelling singed air and touching what the fire has seared.
I walk into a darkened shop. The lights are out, and women’s clothes are scattered inside bulky cardboard boxes. Women are sifting and sorting through piles of mesmerizing skirts and blouses in the quiet and dusty room. With Maggy’s eye piercing, I pick up the first Greenwich Village blouse from India that I spot. It is blood red, with mirrors embroidered around the neck and bust. Lifting the blouse in my hands overhead I see in the kaleidoscope of my reflection that my eyes are scorched. I pay for the blouse, my fingers burning, caught with the scent of fire singing my eyes.
I am toast.
I do not walk over the bridge to Brooklyn when transit strikes. Women begin to switch from heels to Reeboks, and lace up to stride around Manhattan. I am not one of them. I accept car rides home to Brooklyn with the married boss of the occult bookstore I work in. He has the wheel and passes the Municipal Building. He laughs at the angel atop the building where I once worked. King Kong, he swears, and steers me in an opposite direction, to his house, and his wife. They sing: You are the sunshine of my life… You make me happy when skies are blue. They want me to sing along. My voice evaporates. I want to go home. I want a do over.
Maggy D. reads horoscopes in the book store on Saturday afternoons. I do not want her to read my chart. I light sticks of incense to burn slowly, and the ash scatters silently over the esoteric volumes. The books on sexual secrets with red flamboyant covers are displayed in the front window, and on the edges of book cases. Maggy D. reaches me at the cash register, and grasps my wrist. She shouts that I am not invisible – everyone can see me.
I miss the music and songs of the sixties. Tambourine Man leading the way, lighting the fire over and over, and Layla bringing him to his knees. Like lightning bugs the music sparks and kindles and spreads and is extinguished. Guitars glide around the fountain, three quarter deep and people young, like me, sing along, shoes off, hair free. The sun, white and copyrighted, is now in the public domain. I stand back. I don’t have a song to sing. My music is like a ghost dance, a wailing saxophone crossing bridges, the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, and the Williamsburg, bringing me here, to Washington Square.
I return to the Village with cash to score drugs and overdose. Cash is all the pushers want, not answers to questions no one asks. I circle the fountain in the cool evenings, and pay for pills under the arch, a few blocks from Eighth Street. The pills are safe in my jacket pocket.
The store I used to work in is gone. As are other familiar store fronts, with passage ways from jewelry shops to leather shops to head shops to the art cinema house that served cappuccino. The brilliant orange NEDICKS sign glares at the intersection.
When the Eighth Street bookstore loomed over the street, poetry and psychology were up the stairs, and I hid with Emily and Maslow. It is the West Village and it isn’t burning like the South Bronx – it is for sale. Small shops transform into a shoe emporium palace of mass market shoes displayed in every window.
My bargain Indian blouse is infested with smoke. It is blood red, and embroidered with reflecting mirrors. The image clashes with my heart braided onto the gathered sleeve. I shall never wear the blouse. Maggy D. will not cross Eighth Street. She turns her back to peer at a showcase of stereo equipment in a basement window. She stands in profile, and I walk backwards and away from her, over to Canal Street, down Centre Street, and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
After working in the field for many years as a clinical social worker, G. Evelyn Lampart gratefully leads an art workshop in a mental health clinic. She is published in Poetica, Nous, Dirty Chai, Rozlyn, and The Quotable. Evelyn is a life long Brooklynite, and has witnessed, and been a part of, its many revisions over the years.