20 June 2009

The Face Of A Woman With An Umbrella

Today my dry-cleaner made the same joke my friends have been making: that she's moving to Seattle for the weather. Well, there's a silver lining in that: She speaks English, which is her third language, well enough to tell the joke convincingly.

Even if she'd botched the joke, it would have been charming because she is so cute and sweet. I know of at least a couple of guys who've expressed disappointment that she's married.

Yes, it rained again today. I guess I'm getting my feminine umbrella-holding technique down pretty well. Actually, it's more or less the same as holding or carrying a lot of things: I hold it with my fingertips and make it seem as if I could twirl it at any moment. I try to make it as lithe as my middle-aged-guy-body-with-pubescent-girl-boobs can make it.

It seemed to be working. I was walking up 21st Street, toward the dry-cleaner when, I passed an auto repair shop staffed by South Asian men. They were all staring at me; one of them yelled, "Come here, honey." And another said, "Can I see you tonight? Can I have your phone number?" Mind you, a much younger and prettier young woman passed before me, and they didn't give her the kind of attention they gave me.

The funny thing is that, aside from the way I was carrying my umbrella (which is printed with a reproduction of one of Monet's water lilies paintings), I was pretty frumpy, or is it dumpy? What's the difference? I tossed my clothes, which were from hunger, onto my body, which certainly isn't showing any signs of recent hunger. As I walked out of the house, I felt too fat, old, and anything else negative you can think of, although my face in the mirror, if not pretty, at least reminded me of why I have been making my changes: It reflected vulnerability, and even a kind of tenderness, along with a certain kind of radiance which, people tell me, I cannot suppress even if I want to.

In other words, at the risk of seeming vain, I can say that I now have a face I am not ashamed to show. All I have to do now is work on the body.

But, let me tell you, there's something about being a woman with an umbrella. It seems that men are always looking at you when you're holding one. I was also carrying a handbag with me; there's something about the combination of it and an umbrella that seems to get attention. Maybe they think of Pariseiennes or London girls strolling the boulevards on a showery or drizzly spring day.

Now I'm recalling a photograph: one of the few I took that I liked. In it, a woman is standing under an umbrella at a bus station. As I recall, I shot that photo from the rear, and the woman's backside is visible all the way up to her shoulder blades, onto which her brown hair cascaded. Someone suggested that I enter it in a competition; I have no idea of whether or not I still have the print, or even the negative. Any time I have looked for photos I've taken, I'm surprised at which ones I still have and which ones I don't.

What's even odder is which ones I remember, and how I remember them. If I ever do find that photo, I wonder if it will look anything like the what I've described now, which is to say the way I remember it. Maybe if it wasn't impressionistic, I made it so by describing it.

Then again, even if I had their talents, I don't think I could have made anything like the paintings Monet and others created. Or even a film. Well, maybe that. What would I call it? Les Demoiselles d'Avignon Sous Les Parapluies de Cherbourg? Well, I've been called a putain, but I'm certainly not one of Picassos Demoiselles. And I ain't in Cherbourg. All I am is a woman with an umbrella. At least I think, if nothing else, I'm carrying it with some grace.

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