glbtq: the online encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer culture

:: Essence of Lady : Robin Lippincott ::
There is a door (open it, Lady automatically whispers). Whereas once it might have been painted a light blue, now, over time, it has faded and weathered almost to white, or to a very pale Robin's-egg blue. Lift the heavy, black iron latch and the door opens: inside is one large room and two picture windows. The wood floors are unpainted, three and one-half inch wide pleasing parallel lines; and the walls, too, are wood and sans paint. The room is bare. She would do her best to keep it that way: knowing clutter all too well, she knew she didn't want that.

Eyes closed, Lady is riding the subway on a weekday morning imagining her proto-dream-house, (this is a blue-green story, she thinks); she is on her way. It is February and she is cold (always cold). Made-up ghostly white, (the consummate consumptive -- La Dame aux Camélias?), arms wrapped around her chest as if embracing herself, she wears black slacks, a brown print shirt (only because all of the black ones were dirty) and a black, midi-length coat: she thinks black makes her less visible. Her long, dark hair tumbles out of a bun she might have put it in the night before and then slept on; she couldn't be bothered. As usual per weekday mornings, the subway is crowded, and so she has folded her thin, five-foot eight-inch frame into her seat in a manner that takes up as little space as possible. The train speeds through the underground tunnels; rushing wind and flashing lights sporadically accost her face, while morning conversation swirls about her, beating at her brain -- a co-worker's laziness; the President's decision; a coup; a winning team; a new hair-do; someone's stocks.... Lady closes her eyes and tries to block it all out. She continues the dream:

This one large room is the dream, her house, her new life. Outside the windows is, first -- beige sand, then blue water -- the ocean; a simple horizon: that is what she wants. The floor and the walls are the same color as the sand, the same color as her body, and what is outside of the two windows -- blue water and blue sky -- matches her eyes: she has become one with the house. She sees herself sliding along the floor in her pink ballet slippers as if ice skating, arriving at one of the two windows to find -- the ocean, her own backyard! She imagines endless days: moody blue days; bright, bleached-white days; rainy gray days; and foggy, almost colorless days, where the windows steam-up and drip, drip, drip. And then there are the nights: blue-black nights; deep purple moonlit nights; or the black-black nights she'd just as soon forget....

Now the subway pulls into a station and the doors open -- that violent, vacuum-packed sound: open/close. In/Out. Crowds come and go, and Lady looks around to orientate herself, to be sure she hasn't missed her stop, her eyes now those of a frightened animal. Because the ride is all-too familiar and thus deadeningly monotonous, she has been momentarily lulled into thinking it just another day: she has to remind herself otherwise.

She closes her eyes again; she is always trying to keep out most of the world -- reality, other people. Ask her and she will not tell you her name, "Lady" is all she will say, and even that is too much, more descriptive and defining and ultimately more limiting than she would like. She wishes that she could just be her name, or that her name could somehow describe everything that she is, the specific, characteristic air that is hers and no one else's (all those chemicals), what emanates only from her, like a scent (she pictures herself dissolving -- vapor in a perfume bottle); actually, she wishes that for everyone: it would be so much simpler if people were their essences.

Nor will she tell you her age, though not out of vanity. It is the obsession with nailing things down that she resents. Everything seemingly has to be named, defined, flattened, limited -- a butterfly pinned to a board. One is this or that. She will have none of it. She is on her own course.

She closes her eyes again and returns to the beach house; she pictures a specimen day: rising naked in the still-dark morning. Stretching. Turning on the gas jet to make coffee, the blue flame mirroring the color of the broody, early morning sea. Sipping coffee (she must lose her nightmares, recoup her dreams). Walking the beach. Reading. Swimming. Napping. Eating (lightly). Staring into space or at her elegantly simple horizon of sand, water, and sky: She could and would do that for hours, making up more dreams. Gulls would fly overhead. Maybe she would start keeping a diary. Or paint. Or...construct a palisade from old railroad ties, then put up a sign that said: "Keep Off!" But she didn't want to be too ambitious. Surely, she would sleep a lot, (she was tired, world-weary tired). At night there would be the sound of the waves, always the sound of waves, whether lapping or crashing, a constant, her cradle.

Someone in the subway car is wearing too much scent, or perhaps it is the mixed over-scenting of several passengers combined; whatever, it is too much, a form of pollution: there should be a law. Lady closes her eyes -- somehow this helps her block out the smells. She visits another dream:

Nineteenth-century Victorian London it is, (a blue and gold story). Perfect for her. Her face alone -- the almond-shaped eyes, the aquiline nose, the full lips, the abundant hair -- a Julia Margaret Cameron subject. But also, there is a certain fierceness of being in her, a fieriness which, if not visible on the surface, is apparent just beneath -- in her carriage, in her countenance, and in the color that can rush to her cheeks in a moment's time. Just look at that profile! She could be the figurehead at the prow of a ship, sailing forward, pressing ever on into the future, through the murky waters and toward a gleaming twentieth-century America.

In cameo, she wears a golden dress with white lace at the sleeves and décolletage. A single strand of pearls adorns her lovely neck. Her shiny chestnut-colored hair is up, in a chignon, neatly so -- strands all running smoothly and in the same direction, like her purpose and resolve; her eyes blaze. Now holding a pink spring blossom in her hands, she strolls the Serpentine (it is all so simple, she thinks), gazing abstractedly, transfixed by her image in the water, until it is disturbed by the landing of a few petals falling from an overhanging tree, blown off in a breeze. Lady watches the petals as they drift, cascade down towards the water, seemingly in slow-motion, almost as light as feathers, until she sees them double in the water just before impact, when her image is fractured and dispersed and becomes mere pieces, slices of color -- a gold band of her dress, a narrow strip of the pale pink of her breast, neck and face, a brown ribbon of her hair, all separating and floating apart, breaking up into smaller and smaller bits until, finally, disappearing. And all the while the little boat-petals sail on down the Serpentine if manipulated by the hands of fate, along the walk comes her beloved, dressed in a black suit and black top hat. He is dashing (think so many movie heroes) and cuts the handsomest of silhouettes against the pale spring colors. Because her dream is a silent one, she only sees him remove his hat, then come close, so close that their eyelashes might touch in a butterfly kiss. One of his arms encircles her waist, supports her. Their line is so pleasing, a ballet deux along the Serpentine. Now she can lean into him; now she can rest.

The train has just pulled into another station -- wind, lights, and that awful sucking sound again, always seemingly threatening to consume her. People get off; people get on. Someone sits down next to her, squeezing her against the person on the opposite side, who groans. She daren't look at either of them. She must stay alert now. The next stop is hers; she will mini-dream. Sometimes she does this: she chooses a painting she knows, and then she pictures herself in it, or even stepping out of it, into this world. Manet's Olympia, for example, or Vermeer's milkmaid; or maybe even one of the women in Picasso's "Les Demoiselles D'Avignon," who are already seemingly coming towards you, moving off the canvas, out of the frame and into the future: that would be fun.

But now her stop is fast approaching and she must prepare herself to get off; must rise from her seat and pick up her black overnight bag, careful to hold onto the overhead railing all the while. It is moments away.

The train shoots above ground. There is the city: She can see familiar landmarks. This is an ending, she thinks, but it is also a beginning: I am finally completing the journey I have been on since I was a boy.


:: 4.2.01 : 4.2.02 : 4.2.03 : 4.2.04 : 4.2.05 : 4.2.06 : 4.2.07 : 4.2.08 ::

:: Home : About The Authors : e-mail Blithe ::

©1997-2000 Blithe House Quarterly : All Rights Reserved