How is it I can be so eloquent in my head, say, making a toast, or giving an acceptance speech for an award for which I will never be nominated and, all the while, knowing if I were to ever get up in front of an assembly I’d stammer, wander, and blabber. [“Stammer, Wander, and Blabber. How may I direct your call?”] I make these speeches in the middle of the night, in bed, waiting to fall back to sleep. I am conscious, not dreaming, extemporaneously speaking the speech in my mind’s voice. I marvel at them. These are kind of speeches people would remember forever, and replay in clips, like ones that Meryl Streep or George Clooney come up with at the Oscars, or Barack Obama makes without the teleprompter. What happens to those speeches when I get out of bed? Where do they go? How can I resurrect these random, impromptu monologues and show the world, at least, the people I know at a dinner party, how eloquent I am? Why can’t I do out loud what I do in my head? I have had my chances and blew them every time.
I am not a collector of things, but I do gather post cards, paper, stationery, notes, not bunches and not regularly, only as I happen upon them. If a friend is off to some far place I will ask, if they think of it, to snag some hotel letterhead from the desk in their room. I have sheets of paper with Arabic (I think) lettering, some with elephants, a coat of arms, or fleur-de-lis. When I travel, I am on the lookout in a pharmacy, a whatnot shop, or stationery store, even supermarkets, where they may sell school supplies and notebooks, like ones from Japan with anime covers and vertical lines. Before I began using a PC, I would write in longhand on sundry found pads. I was partial to graph paper, or paper the color of Necco Wafers, easy on the eyes; careful not to buy so much that I would become bored. Since I don’t use a camera, I rely on post cards to document trips. Back home, I get a pinch of nostalgia as go through and select one to send as a thank you or a birthday greeting. They all wait in an old wooden tool box found at a flea market. I save up my best papers for years and years until the perfect occasion comes along. Sending a letter on a piece of paper earmarked for someone you love is like cooking for them with a recipe you don’t break out every day.
I met this young woman during the hay days of Soho. Restaurants and galleries and shops were attracting hordes. Bridge and Tunnel crowds had yet to figure out where it was, though the Holland Tunnel dumped them off on Canal. I will call her Inga. She was from Copenhagen, yah, about 5’11” and looked like Ingrid Bergman stretched on a rack. (Now, there’s an image.) Yah, she was a model making mad money as a hostess where I was bartending and we hit it off. Not as lovers. We liked one another. I think she found it a relief I didn’t hit on her, and I had heard enough about her vexing love life. We saw each other for lunch, movies, museums, the way friends do in New York. Inga had wit and brilliance and sensitivity that made her pleasurable company. And, since we weren’t fucking, it was relaxing to be with her. I got to look at her a lot. Everybody looked at her. This is where she was a bit cuckoo. I could see it in her eyes when we were at a crowded bar, looking to see who was looking, as if she needed someone to lock on her. It was the call of the wild. She never introduced me to any of her lovers. I escorted her to a clinic and waited while she had her second abortion, then brought her to my apartment to recover. A few weeks later, Inga offered me money if I would marry her for citizenship, do the ruse of photos of “our” wedding and life together, show Immigration her underwear in my bureau. Instead of money, I thought about asking for sex once a month. (Every week would be too hard to schedule, especially, if I found a lover.) It was an unvoiced impulse. I felt used and wanted to use her. She may have agreed, but then she’d hate me. I’d hate me, too, for such an ugly hold. I told her no.