My head was like a split walnut this morning. Too many boilermakers and butter cookies with Zinnia last night. Oh, it's been years since the two of us have been able to flit from nightspot to cafe like any old pair of girlfriends might do, not a care in the world except that which involves an irritated beau at home or a badly needed dose of penicillin. But then I'm getting to Amsterdam and I've no time for that night now, dears.
I had a moment of concern last night, sometime around 2:12 in the a.m., as Zinnia and I made our ways from the rear exit of the Fuzzy Chesterfield. A vagrant stood lurking just beyond the lamp, next to the refuse bin. It was Zinnia who noticed that the dirt on his face beaded peculiarly under the gently falling mist, an unlikelihood for a non-oil based smudge. “If that man's face has been filthied by anything other than a stagehand, then this is my real hair color,” Zinnia chirped, running her long fingernails through her tight flip. “Tell me you don't see that.” I rolled my eyes at her. “Of course I see it, darling,” I said. “It's simply that I care not in the slightest.” I explained to her that, while the man was certainly not who he appeared to be, he was nothing more than a plant, a lookout, a sullied set of eyes. “He might even be ours,” I said. It was his hands that were the tip off. His left, resting on the edge of the bin, the right, scratching the beard that was not a beard. He was nowhere near a gun or any other weapon, unless he was prepared to throw the trash heap at as. “He's a pawn, my little blossom.”
There's a song that I once heard, and I first heard it emanating from the washroom of the west wing of Ambassador Chao's mansion, a modest palace situated in the east end of Prague. It was the tail end of the Harvest Moon Ball, a nondescript Cambodian celebration in which most of the usual dignitaries had arrived dressed in Earth tone colors and adorned with accessories fashioned from the local produce of the region. It was really quite silly, I must say and I only participated because it's my duty to so such things. No sense in creating an international incident over one's ego. Again, I digress and my cheeks warm at the admission of such a fault. Pooh, pooh.
The song was a simple melody, one that I knew I'd heard as a child, but for the life of me could not place. While the lyrics were indecipherable, enunciated with a grossly thick Italian accent, the voice was heavenly, trilling like a tiny songbird who longs to be released from her gilded cage. Maybe it was the champagne clouding my brain, perhaps it was the melancholic nostalgia taking over, but I suddenly found myself swaying in time with the music, dancing as a sedated ballerina, eyes closed, tears streaming down my smooth face. Oh, how I'd longed to be in the arms of my mama, her thick limbs intertwining my spindly frame like an octopus's. Perhaps that's not the most appetizing of similes, but you must understand, dear one. When one is never at home, when the greatest thrill in one's life is that the next bed might be the one that allows you a full night's sleep, sometimes the only thing that allows that sleep to happen at all is the faint memory of your mother's dimpled smile and her gentle kiss.
Zinnia has arrived with a bouquet of daffodils, which is strange because I didn't know they were even in season. She has been crying, her eyes are all apuff and crimson, like red-ringed croquet balls. “What has made you so distraught, my dear flower?” I ask her. But she'll say nothing. She simply looks around her, takes out her compact, flips it open and hands it to me. “Perhaps you should clean the mirror first,” she whispers.” Holding it to my mouth, I breathe a cloud of minty breath onto my reflection and the mirror fogs over, revealing the tinily written message that she has scribed for me. “Oh mercy,” I intone, quickly wiping it clean with the cuff of my sleeve. “I'm going to need my cherry lipstick.”