She stands just inside the massive double
doors. Her eyes are taking mini snapshots
of the room, while she balances a faux
air of nonchelance
, hoping she's not as obvious as that toupee
directly to her left. Yes, she's multi-tasking. This hotel
was the nicest she'd seen. Everyone around was rich. They laughed "rich", they held their martini
's "rich", they ignored her "rich". Her inner dialogue
noted that everyone here had a scene. Everyone owned their own purpose.
While debating which practiced face to apply before absorbing some glamour of her own, she mentally refocuses. She has come to New York because she wants Broadway. She's always wanted Broadway. Mr. Hubkis, the highschool drama teacher (He actually applied as "Danny Greyson", but aparently the school frowns on stage names.) told her that exposure to the right crowd would create the confidence she needs to be a star. So, she never minds that she has 10 dollar hair, the fact that her name is Alice and not really Renee, that she doesn't smoke, and that she can't tell the difference between shaken or stirred, not even when you put a martini in her hand...not even when you kiss her. She lets her hair drop over one shoulder, her eyelids fall low, blase disinterest. The snapshots intensify. It's three steps, then eight, then
"Hello lovely, what's your line?".
The toupee has followed her. She thinks she misunderstands, or he as mispoken, since he said "line" and not "sign". She affords him a glance, cursory, and she hopes "Garbo-esque".
"Stop. Or yield, depending"
She replies as though he hadn't mispoken.
"And in this case?"
His raised eyebrows are clashing with his hairine. Not the exposure she wants
"Thanks, but I'm..."
"She's got an appointment"
Tall, elusive and very Broadway, the new character answers for her.
"I have, in fact, yes...an appointment"
Where has Garbo gone. Toupee slithers away, she thinks she sees a visible oil-slick trail behind him. Broadway, on the other hand, he's streak-free. He takes 'Renee' to the bar, to a cluster of two men and another woman.
the woman says, without expression. She is haute-monde, the feather in the cap of the room. One of the gentlemen, Dean, watches E with unashamed distraction. The other is so animated that 'Renee' stares in fascination as he seems to contort and flail, like the venerable Danny Kaye. In direct contradiction with his character, he introduces himself as Al. Evangeline has no eyes for anyone or anything, but she leans posessively toward Broadway. Renee almost misses it, he's introducing himself. Kent. She never would have guessed. She exchanges her name, and raises her eyes. He is watching her, and she lets him, not glancing away. She is resisting the urge to fade, to wilt under his stare. Finally, bless'd mercy, the bartender asks what she wants. Renee does not know.
Kent says with a worldly smirk. Dean, who seems somewhat urbane, though far too brooding attract substantial interest, directs a dry comment,
"Aren't you a little...green...for a scene like this?"
The word "green" is dropped like a bomb, heavy and accusatory. Renee scrambles to rally the ranks of effortless repartee. Somehow, the ranks are MIA. Dean's look says "One swift thrust, no parry required.".
"Why, Dean," says E, with cutting, sophisticated magnificence "You've only just drunk your way into our lovely little cabal. At least green is a good color on Renee, it leaves you looking..." she smirks "Washed up".
Al giggles buoyantly, grabbing his drink.
"To the many colors of our cabal, and it's newest face, Renee"
The situation is diffused, but Dean has had enough. His yet full Vodka rocks is thrown back like a man with an open wound and no morphine and with a nod he retreats. The air crackles, butter burning in a frying pan. Kent nods to a corner, the one farthest from the din. "Spare me a minute away from the lions den...over there?" Renee's inner Alice is whispering to beware. "Away from, or into, I wonder?" She asks, with as much foward bravery as she can muster, while yet finding her feet accomodating his whim.
They settled by a large frond, him propped with ease, looking almost herculean in the midnight blue chintz wingback, next to her, curious and spritely, looking ever ready to flee, feeling like Dorothy before the Wizzard.
"Sometimes I wonder why I keep coming here. My goals aren't exactly aligned with theirs" He said with a wry smile, inclining his head toward the room at large.
Formulating the assumption that he meant the race to climb to the upper echelons, Renee let her inquisition pause on her lips, and then
"Why do you keep coming here?"
He swung his passive eyes, meticulously ingesting the room, to her, inclining his head in consideration. Then, with a small smile and eyes that had ignited vital and potent he lifted his glass, and looked at her, knowingly.
"I come because I'm an observer. I look for all the things people don't want you to see, or better still, the things they haven't even discovered yet, staring them right in the face. It's something of an experiment of mine, my own science"
He lifted his glass, and then
"Here's looking at you, kid"
. Renee felt as though she were choking on air, on display before this enigma who seemed to penetrate the fragile veneer that she so dearly clung to as life support in this maddening crowd. He laughed then.
(He had said her name, startling her into stillness, because it sounded perfect in his posession)
"I have neither denuded you nor exposed you as anything other than what you are. You're why I like being here. People like you, young, desperately testing the fabric of their dreams, seeing if perhaps they can fly. You're the best sort of all, from my point of view."
Then the blunt edge of worldliness softened and he was suddenly gentle and wise,
"Look at you, you're graceful, and inventive and alright, even on your own. A room full of strangers didn't stop you from taking the plunge. You have spirit that, I'm relatively certain, would have put your drink in Dean's face if you'd had it yet. You light up a room, because for all of your attempted pretense, you're unable to hide the fire in your eyes, the dance in your step, the sweet in your voice. People see you and they're compelled. By what you aspire to be, perhaps, but more likely...by what you already are. And you couldn't see it if you were in a room full of mirrors, which makes you exquisite."
He stopped. He seemed strangely satisfied, sitting there, like an artist might when assesing his creation of the likeness of someone. Like the abstract vision of her life somehow fed a hunger in his soul. He touched her hand, his strong fingertips etching further reassurance. His smile had become essential. Renee felt self-doubt and pretense lying on the floor around her, shattered shards of unnecessary accessories.
"I am reminded" she said softly "Of being surrounded by angels, unaware."
Her face glowed gratitude. He shook his head and stood, extending a hand. He touched her cheek lightly,
"come away with me, for a walk, or a drive, someplace else, someplace new?"
His eyes dared and probed and his invitation was strong, like the line of his jaw, inclined in question, but his smile seemed to already know her answer. Oh, how she wanted this mystery, how she wanted to probe those eyes that showed her her reflection only, and no hints of what lies beneath. How dearly she wanted to follow him out those doors. But Alice put her foot down, silencing the insurgence to the contrary.
"I would like to, but really..."
going once, going twice...
He nodded, assured and triumphant. Then, kissing her cheek, he said
"They all see it, Renee, but I was more priviledged than most, to look so steadfastly into your stellar soul that bears such rare and profound treasures" and with a look seemed to blur his vision, he turned and left the room.
The next morning, Renee was downstairs at 7. She had not slept for the rolling thoughts in her head. She checked the desk every three minutes for messages. She sat in a chair that afforded her a view of the elevators and the stairs. At 9:07 she saw a woman in a cheap floral print dress swinging through the lobby, affording delighted nods to everything she passed. Catching sight of Renee, she approached, nodding delightedly.
"Renee, how are you this morning?"
This was not the woman of last night, the debutante, the untouchable ice. She was going on about how expensive the marble columns in the lobby must be. Renee was numb until she heard
"Well, it was good to see you again. We're leaving as soon as Al gets through haggling the bill. We come every year for our anniversary and every year it's the same!"
Renee nods, and smiles, attemping not to look as bewildered as she felt.
"Al!" Evangeline bubbles "Look who I found sitting in the lobby?"
Al appears, poker faced and mild. With a mere nod at Renee, he takes Evangeline's arm, and leads her out, her exit is made, nodding delightedly and waving madly. Processing as she walks, Renee goes to the dinning area, hoping she has overlooked the arrival of Kent. Surely he can explain. He is not there, but in the corner there is Dean, laughing jovially with a friend, a stunning blonde on his arm.
Feeling very much like the victim of a twilight zone prank, Renee made her way to the front desk.
"I, uh...I'm looking for a guest"
"Last name, please?" the receptionist asks. Renee doesn't know.
"His first name is Kent, I seem to have missed his last name. I was supposed to meet him for..." Noting the raised eyebrow, and bored expression from the woman behind the desk, she emphasized
"Please, can you just look up his first name?"
That woman's fingers fly, the mad crack of keys disrupt the cool marble stillnes.
"I have no guest registered with the first name of Kent. It doesn't mean he's not here, just, there's no room reistered under that name."
But Renee knew. Renee had known the night before, she's known in that last look, before he walked out the door. It was goodbye, in so few words. She walked the corrider slowly, an unusual ache was settling in her stomach. She wished she had told him her real name. She walked until she was facing the double doors, still flung wide, guarded on either side by massive potted fronds. They seemed to be a theme. She barely noticed the red-jacketed bellboy staff bustling in and out of the room, cleaning up the mayhem of the night before. She wouldn't have noticed at all, except for one, whose bald head reflected the florescent light overhead.
"Hello, Lovely" he greeted her, while wrestling a sign that had fallen into the leaves of the plant.
"Have a nice night, last night? It was a real humdinger, I thought. I go every year. I put in a request for time off 3 months in advance!" He was chuckling "They ought to get a bigger sign though, these posterboard signs don't stand a chance next to George, here" he said, sticking a round thumb out towards the plant.
Laughing at his own joke he propped the sign up and mopped his now toupee free head.
The sign read "Actors Guild Annual Role Playing Convention. 'What's your line?'"
he said as he walked away, leaving his trademark trail,
"Welcome to the big city, Kid! This's the life, ain't it wonderful?"