Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Harlem’s Love Story…
For your reading enjoyment, find the third installment of “Harlem’s Awakening”…This is the “True Hollywood Story” (as it were) behind the love affair between Joe and Harlem that plays out in the cabaret, “Harlem’s Night”.

Out of Sorts...Chapter 3
Harold Crossgrove and his gnarled teeth loomed in front of her.

“ Whatchu doin’ here Harrrlm?”, he drawled. Harlem assumed he was from Mississippi, but never bothered to verify this hunch. At this moment, she definitely could care less. Not only was he physically blocking her centered view of Joe – the very reason she was even at the Cornett Lounge – but his rancid breath was stronger than a Joe Louis’ left jab and caught her square on the chin. She actually shut her eyes and shook her head from the blow.

She could hear the strained notes from Joe’s bass calling out to her as though it were a strong whiff of smelling salts. She opened her eyes and craned her neck past and around Harold to let Joe know she heard him callin’. Harold turned with her.

“Didn’t know you like-did Jazz so much.”

This time she was ready for the Joe Louis K.O. and held her breath while Harold spoke. She merely nodded in affirmation.

“This band’s pretty decent. That guy right thur, the one strummin’ the upright, that’s my buddy, Joe.”

She tried to contain her resentment. He knows Joe. How does he know Joe? How could her Joe even be acquainted with a Harold? It wasn’t that Harold was a very bad man…he wasn’t a thief or a murderer (as far as she knew), he just seemed like a freakin’ idiot. And, she hated the way he lumbered around like a drugged hound dog. When her best friend Cora was around him, she turned into a passive poodle. The combination was sickening. The last time they all went out to see a Cowboy flick together, the two of them were so huddled up sniffing and snuffling each other while waiting on line to buy their tickets, that she wanted to run and line-backer tackle the both of them. But, she didn’t. She’d worn a new pair of pumps that day and didn’t want to scuff the toes.

Harold continued, “We works togetha’ down at Grand Central Station. Been tellin’ me to come down for quite some time now, buht my money wasn’t lookin’ towards entertainin’ these past few weeks. I’m alright now, though.”

Harlem was trying hard to concentrate. Between holding her breath and trying to be consumed by Joe, she was having a very hard time. She stood.

“Harold, will you excuse me please? I really must go powder my nose.”

“Your nose looks fine, Harrrlm.”

“Thank you Harold. Watch my seat please?”

“Will do.” He replied. “Will do.”

She couldn’t get to the powder room fast enough. She shot through the crowd like the little steel ball in a pinball machine; she tried not to bump into people with her silky hips, but wasn’t always successful.

The powder room offered the respite she needed. It certainly wasn’t as beautiful as the one at Macy’s, where she worked, but it would do. She slumped onto the dark green chaise and deeply inhaled soothing scents of rose water and cheap peach soap. Ahhh. She leaned her head against the wall and its wallpaper adorned with dark green velvety decal things that looked like they belonged on a French soldier’s uniform. She couldn’t remember what they were called. As she stared at them, trying to recall, a statuesque woman emerged from the bathroom and into the powder room. She didn’t look like she belonged in the Cornett Lounge.

“You all right, honey?”, she asked. It was funny that she said ‘honey’ because Harlem thought everything about this brown woman was like honey – her voice, her golden satin dress and wrap, her walk…smooth like honey. Harlem straightened herself. She felt like a fermenting sack of potatoes. Not sexy.

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.” Harlem felt they were about the same age, but somehow this woman commanded an elegant presence that’s usually attained with more years than her own. Harlem added, “Thank you, Miss.”

Honey chuckled. “I’m just glad you’re alright. You looked out of sorts.”

“I guess I felt out of sorts…” The woman hadn’t heard her. She was already through the doors when Harlem added that bit of truth. She pulled herself to the mirror. What she saw before her wasn’t half as frightening as she’d felt.

“I look damn good.” She whispered as she tucked a curl in place. She glazed a little iced ruby across her lips and, for fun, she strolled out of the powder room doing her best impression of Bette Davis.

(c)2007 Pen and Peppur LLC

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