Peggy Monroe, a 60-something former cabaret singer from New Orleans, deals with life and the lack of love in post-9/11 New York.
Published in The Dirty Goat. (February 2006, 15th Anniversary Issue.)
Peggy Monroe cried out to no one in particular as she lugged her overstuffed bags of groceries up the stairs to her fifth-floor Village walk-up. “God, what’s wrong with these people?” She could already hear the music from two floors below and did not approve. What kind of sick joke was the Lord playing, letting people with no musical taste move into the apartment right across the hall from her? She wouldn’t mind so much if she thought her neighbors were genuinely interested in the musical selections they made, but these people just left the radio on all day as background noise, letting it blare out whatever garbage happened to be governing the taste and warping the minds of pre-teens that week. Whatever happened to lyrics?
What is this thing called love? This funny thing called love? She paused just outside her door, remembering the tight gown she wore in New Orleans the last time she sang that song in public. Bright red, like her hair. She loved the way the light bounced off its sequins, sprinkling fairy dust all around the room. And just a hint of a boa at the neckline. She looked like a goddess in that dress, if you didn’t mind her saying so herself. Cost her a month’s pay, but worth every penny.
Yo.Yo.Yo. Take it, sexy slut! Good Jesus! Did the station manager listen to this stuff? Slamming the door behind her, she dumped her groceries on the kitchen counter. She had to go to the bathroom in the worst way, but she ran into the living room to attend to a more pressing matter.
“Where is it? Where is it? Oh, please, God! You didn’t lose it, did you?” She gave up the search for her favorite Sarah Vaughan album and grabbed a silver disc lying face down on top of a precariously piled collection of plastic cases. After slipping it into the player, she kept pushing the play button until the digital counter finally started to move. “Thank you, Ella! Bless you!” She hummed along and started to unpack the groceries until her bladder reminded her to attend to it immediately or it wouldn’t be responsible for the consequences. Planting herself in the bathroom, she gave into the first truly satisfying sensation she’d had all day.
If that ain’t a damn state of affairs, when takin’ a pee is the highlight of your day!
Studying herself in the full-length mirror behind the door while attending to her business, she decided she liked what she saw, all things considered. Nice body for someone her age—she led people to believe she was closing in on sixty, but she had passed that milestone years before. Stylish haircut, just like Shirley MacLaine’s. Skin as white and smooth as cream. Porcelain, even—a thought that brought her back to her immediate surroundings and the tiles going halfway up the walls. She hoped she wasn’t being perverse in finding this the most pleasant room in the apartment. The flowered wallpaper. The chrome-and-glass shelf unit. The elegant plumbing fixtures she bought herself.
And the light. Endless light thanks to the room’s unblocked southern exposure. And the view. She was lucky the bathrooms in this line of apartments had such large windows. Across the hall they just had tiny openings looking out into an airshaft. Even from her seat, she could see out the window across Jane Street all the way down to the tip of Manhattan. As she stared at the view, the sadness returned. How could you miss a couple of buildings? The Twin Towers were big ugly monstrosities, that’s what they were.
Not just one, mind ya! Two!
Yet she missed them. Another reminder that she couldn’t control the world. And she didn’t like that one damn bit.
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