|A Matter Of Style
Ciro T. De Rosa
© Copyright 2003 by Ciro T. De Rosa
Daisy Futterman had two strikes against her the day she was born, her first and last name. Unfortunately Daisy grew into a rather unattractive young lady saddled with saddles and poor skin. No matter what diet she tried, or acne cream she used, the results were always the same; she looked like a mess most of the time. Believe me, I don’t enjoy saying these things about her, but to avoid the obvious, especially in this case, gives credence to the notion of the old saw about burying one’s head in the sand. Daisy neither attempted to hone other “attractive” elements of her personae, nor did she even contemplate the idea. As a result she grew up hating all things of beauty and grace, while attaching herself to that brutish subculture of society that one finds roaming the streets of the city.
She became a Punk. She dyed her mousy brown hair a vivid magenta, whereupon she pomaded it, and sprayed it until she fashioned snake like plaits that emerged from her rather large pink skull reminiscent of Medusa and her sisters whose stare could turn a man to stone. Anyone seeing Daisy would agree with the allusion. She wore a huge spiked dog collar that matched the rest of her ensemble that consisted of a black leather mini skirt that accentuated her broad behind and a heavy mailed apron like affair that draped around her ample waist…
God! Who the hell writes like this? I thought. And they pay this guy to turn out this dreck? I had been an associate editor at Milburne Enterprises, publishers of a half a dozen Romance and Confessional magazines, for the past year and a half. In that time I’d seen more bad prose and mangled metaphors to last me a life-time. But I needed the job, and I was determined to make my mark in the publishing world no matter how circuitous my route. I kept telling myself that this job was just the pit stop to bigger and better things. Yeah, I know!
Anyway I picked the piece up and attempted to finish it. This proved impossible. I looked around the office to find another reader who might just enjoy reading this thing. Lois Nance was sitting at her desk reviewing a piece for the March issue that was to go to press in a few days. As nonchalantly as possible I ambled across the room and began patting the sheaf of pages under my chin while assuming a puzzled look that I hoped would get her to notice. She didn’t. I shifted my feet a bit and asked, “Lo, ya know, I’ve got a question about this piece that I think you can help me with. “ I sounded just perplexed enough for her to stop reading and give me her attention. “This piece, ya know, it’s, well it’s a bit beyond me. I don’t seem to be able to get a handle on what the guy is after, ya know” I figured if I said, “ya know” enough, she’d positively figure I was really sincere, since no one wants to sound like an idiot if they can help it. Especially at work, especially at this job, especially in this business! Lois took the manuscript and glancing over it she nodded a couple of times, screwed up her lip in a contemplative grimace and smilingly benignly said, “That’s o k Gale. I’ll take it from here. Sometimes a different perspective can make all the difference.” This was Lois’s way of telling me that I was a ditz ball and should be teaching school in Scarsdale. Having her think me a jerk was worth getting rid of the lousy story.
For the rest of the day I waded through a couple of dozen of the hundreds of stories that found their way here every week either through the mail, or as an e-mail file, or from the writer who was real sharp, and sent a hard copy along with a disk. A couple looked promising, so I tagged them for tomorrow’s read and began getting my rags ready to leave for the night. Kay Fallon was in the ladies room putting the finishing touches on what used to be an attractive face, but looked more like twenty miles of bad road. “Oh hi Kay, I enthused, flashing my “sincere smile” I saved for all the muckity mucks of which she was one.”I don’t know where the day goes, honest to God.” A little roll of the eyes right about now.
Kay glanced at me from the wall mirror where she was checking her caps for lipstick as she daintily plopped her make up into her bag. “ I know. Sometimes the day just flies by.” She said indifferently, continually checking herself out in the glass, patting a wrinkle here, molding a strand of hair there; inspecting her too long red nails that reminded of Vampira from, ”My Fiancée Was A Blood Sucker”, one of the stories I had to slog through a couple of issues back. Before I had a chance to grease her a bit more, she glanced at her Movado, made an exasperated grunt and headed for the door.
“Good night Kay!” in my best good night voice. Then I made an exasperated grunt and walked out.
Seventh Avenue was just starting to bustle. Most of the offices were letting out and like lemmings making a mad dash for the cliffs, everyone converged on the street and headed toward the subway at 31st. I decided to walk to Madison Square Park. As it was a glorious evening, a bit of greenery I thought was just the thing to put me in a much better mood than I had been in the past week. I strolled down to West 25th and thought I’d cut across Broadway to Fifth. I wasn’t in any hurry considering David wouldn’t be at the apartment. I continued to twenty-third, then crossed down to 5th. Avenue to the park The sun was starting to set; one of those wonderful New York spring evenings began to descended gracefully over the city, defusing the amber lights of the shop windows as though through gauze. The evening traffic began to pick up as the theaters and restaurants readied for the crowds going to the eight o’clock shows. The streets, as usual, were filled with folks heading in every direction. No matter how often I had been part of this scene, it always thrilled me to be in the most glamorous and vital city on earth, and allowed to participate in its life. It was this very aspect of it that drew me from my folk’s Split- Level in Babylon, to Manhattan.
After college I had made up my mind to tackle the problem of getting a job doing something in publishing. I wasn’t sure just what that might be, but whatever, it was going to be the first step of making a name for my self. At the time I thought it was great good luck when I got the job at Milburne Enterprises. I envisioned a steady climb to the top where I would nurture and cultivate new and exciting talent. That was then. Now after the rude awakening of the reality of life in “publishing,“ I was less idealistic and a lot savvier as to how to “get along” in this business. Certainly talent was required. You needed to be able to spot the comers, those writers who had a particular way of viewing the world that engaged and entertained the reader. I had to admit that there were some really sharp people on the staff that had this ability. A couple of the editors, women who by virtue of their intelligence and the possession of those qualities, were able to display them every time they recommended a story that was always on the mark. I admired that, and it was this type of editor I wanted to be. Pam Venuti was one of them. I’d seen her help a young writer find his voice and get him started doing really good work. She was always ready to encourage the tyro to expand the horizons of his budding talent to try new approaches to a subject. She particularly appreciated the idea that as an editor, she worked with and brought along writers all the time. But there was so much other stuff going on in the rarefied atmosphere of “editorialdom” that I realized dedication and talent were not always the ticket to the top.
It was about this time that David and I began to have problems. He accused me of turning into a cynical bitch who was ready to cut someone’s balls off if it would further my career. He was right, of course. That’s exactly what I had become. It was exactly what I was ready to do, metaphorically speaking, of course. He on the other hand was content to “make his bones”, his favorite expression, and wait his turn at Merrill Lynch before he started making his six figure salary. Maybe that was the rub. I was making a big thirty- two a year and for the foreseeable future that would be it. I wanted more and my frustration of seeing it happening was eating me up. I was a bitch! Pretty soon our relationship degenerated into a series of verbal battles whereby his arguments were rational and sane, and mine reduced to four letter words I didn’t even know I knew. Because I kept everything cool at work, these explosive moments were even more debilitating on me emotionally. Dave had enough. He packed his things while I was at work, and when I got home he was gone. Not a word from him since. I knew he was staying with his brother, Robert in the Village, so if I had to get in touch I could.
I started to stroll up Broadway toward 6th Avenue. Night had settled in and now the pulse of the city changed. Everything seemed in motion. From the pedestrians to the myriad sights and sound of this living thing called Manhattan, the steady beat of the city filled the air, infusing it with a heightened expectation of excitement. When I got to 27th, I went into a little hole that passed for an authentic barbecue restaurant. The dinner crowd was just starting to fill the place. I found a table by the bar and ordered a double cold Coors. Just one other wonderful habit I had acquired since my coming to the “Big Apple”. It was times like this that I was glad my mom and dad didn’t know what I was up to all this time. They didn’t know I was living with David either. I had always wanted to tell them, but I knew what their reaction would be. While they considered themselves liberal enough to accept the enormous changes in our society since the sixties, their daughter shacking up with some guy they never met would have blown their minds. In fact, even if they knew Dave, it would have blown their minds. They thought it was all going swell. Their little Gale was making her way in the world. The food was greasy and delicious, I officially completed the meal by sucking the red sauce from each finger and washing it down with another beer. An hour and a half later I left and headed home.
When I got to the apartment, the ritual of kicking off my shoes, removing my bra, and setting up a hot bath took no time. Especially since there would be no love making now that Dave was no longer in the picture. As I began removing my clothes, I thought about him and my stomach ached for his touch. He was a gentle lover. He’d begin by brushing my lips with his; and with an, oh, so delicate touch caressed my body with his very practiced hands. Then things would really get hot. Often times we’d literally wind up all over the room, climbing all over each other feeling our way across now familiar terrain until we embraced and…. Eventually we’d wind up in the tub together. There the lovemaking became whimsical. He’d massage my feet with gobs of scented suds. Then nibble on a toe, or lay me on top of his hard young body and speed me across the four feet of tub space while making motor sounds. It was a lot more fun than it sounds. I even missed his wacky perspective on the world. To Dave, life was meant to be enjoyed, to take it as it came. He didn’t obsess over his job like me. He really expected, in time, for everything to work out and we’d live happily ever after. He always told me that he wanted to marry; that he loved me. I, on the other hand, had decided that matrimonial bliss could wait. So I’d put him off with a million dopey excuses that I knew he saw through, but loved me enough to accept. I told him that I had make it no matter what the cost. That I was determined to succeed in spite of the sneaking realization that both of us were coming to that I didn’t posses any real talent for my chosen profession. So I had concluded that the way to get the “brass ring” was to suck up to the senior editors, and ingratiate myself to anyone at the top; Thus the bitch thing. The plan was actually working. I did find myself getting better assignments than the other new girls. Senior people were recognizing me in the hall or in the lounge. A few even knew my name. But now I was paying the price of my ambition. Dave was gone, I had betrayed every decent instinct I ever had, and my world was crashing down around my ears. So much for ambition. After my bath I tried to watch a bit of television. I couldn’t get my mind off of my situation. Did I really want this big deal career, or did I want what Dave had been telling me I really needed, his love, and the next fifty years together. Maybe I had known all along that my dream of making it in the high powered world of publishing was just that, a dream. Maybe that’s why I was always wound tight like a spring. The funny thing is that I never envisioned myself getting like this. I never dreamed that what was once a reasonably nice kid would devolve into a conniving wretch who was starting to hate herself with a passion. I had to do something soon or I might just be making the biggest mistake of my life. I loved David. I knew that especially now that he was no longer here to give me the steady hand of support I desperately needed. I went to bed determined to come to a decision within a few days. I also knew I was going to call David and tell him what a jerk I’d been. I only hoped what we had was salvageable. The idea of not being with him caused too much pain. I rolled over to his side of the bed; tears welled up as I buried my face in the pillow to stifle the uncontrollable sobs that started.
As if to foreshadow unforeseen events to come, the day dawned dank and dreary. A fine wet mist spread itself across the city releasing all the strange smells that permeates the very stones of the buildings. The swooshing sound of tires across wet pavement; low hanging gray clouds that stretched across slate skies threatening a down pour any minute; scurrying walkers weaving down the streets, jumping under awnings, or using a paper as an umbrella, attempting to dodge the rain completed the scene. I stared out at it for a bit then dragged myself back into the shower.
Rather than fight the rain, I hailed a cab and a half-hour later arrived at my office. The elevator was crowded and a dank smell followed us into the car. Fortunately I get off at the third so I didn’t have to put up with it too long. The office was still quite empty. Probably because of the weather most of the staff would arrive a bit later than usual. It seems whenever it rains above, the subways below react in a very peculiar way, they either slow down, stop permanently, or leave a station with a snail’s pace. Go figure. My God I hadn’t been in the building ten minutes and I was already thinking like a bitch!
The stories I set aside yesterday lay on the desk ready to be either rejected or accepted with the least amount of rewriting as possible. I guess I was really absorbed in the work because I didn’t hear Pam come into the room.
“Hey, kiddo. Got a minute?”
That was the way she greeted everyone. Her wry smile twisted her lips in an amusing way, and behind her rimless glasses resided clear dark brown eyes that very little escaped notice from. She came behind me and glanced over my shoulder, scanning the page I held.
“Any good? I hope so, we still need about four more stories to complete next month’s issue.”
I was about to assure her that a couple of the stories had potential when I realized Pam was the person I should speak to. I trusted her to give me the right advice and besides, I guessed she must have figured out by this time that a lot of stuff was going on in my life. Not the least of which was whether I was cut out for this work, and was I really as asset to her at this point. ”Oh, hi Pam. Yeah, a couple look pretty good. I’m sure we’ll get what we need.”
“Good enough. Let me know what you decide and I’ll look them over.”
She pressed my shoulder affectionately and started to leave.
“Pam, can I talk to you a minute?”
I got up and she allowed me to gently guide her into her office. When she sat down, I shut the door and pulled a chair up to the desk. I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to begin. I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I said too much that might jeopardize my job if her advise was something else. Yet I wanted to be candid with her to get her best advice. She waited patiently until I got my thoughts together. I wanted it to be right and not sound like a long whine.
I searched for the right words, but also the right tone.
“What do you think of my work? Am I making a contribution? I just sometimes feel like I’m not pulling my weight.”
I didn’t know how safe these questions might be. Pam looked directly at me, thought a moment, and as if coming to a conclusion, she began,
“ Look Gale, this isn’t an easy job. Don’t you think we know the pressure you guys are under? Remember, we were there once ourselves. No one can make up your mind for you, and I’m not sure how much advice is enough, nor do I know what is the best advice. Look, you’ve got to come to this decision. If it’s because of a guy, well, is he worth it? If it’s because you think you’re not ready to give the kind of dedication this profession requires, maybe you’re not. Either way, you’ve got to decide.”
So there it was, straight from the hip and right on the money. It was my call and nobody else’s.
“ I will tell you this. I am prepared to offer you an editor’s job. “Andrea Luft is leaving.”
“You’re kidding. Was she…”
“No, not at all.” she dismissed my obvious conclusion with a face. “She’s decided to have a baby before the “Old Clock” stops ticking.” She shrugged her shoulders,” It’s no surprise. She’s been hinting about it for months. I guess she and her husband think this is more important than her job.” I only heard bits of what she said. Dashing through my mind was the editorship. It was the start I waited for, what I wanted more than anything!
“Think about it”, Pam suggested. “ Don’t decide in a moment. She isn’t leaving for another few weeks yet. In the mean time get back out there and get me those stories.”
Now what? What do I do now? A minute ago I was ready to chuck my job, and now… Returning to my desk, I plunged into the stories. I kept my head down, my eyes on the page and tried like hell to concentrate on what I was doing. The day passed quickly enough, but even with my total energies focused on the work, a nagging feeling that I was about to make a very important decision that would effect my life forever kept creeping back into my mind. I knew I had to speak to Dave, tonight.
I sat staring at the phone for the last half- hour. When I picked it up I would set in motion events that I wasn’t sure Dave or I could control. I tried to imagine what he might say when I told him the news and what he might say if I told him I was going to take the job. Then I imagined what he might say if I told him that I loved him and wanted to get married and spend that fifty years together. The phone on the other end was ringing. I heard David’s voice.
“Dave, Dave is that you?”
“Gale, gee I’m glad you called. I’ve been moping around this place for days. I miss you.”
It was just like him. He lacked any guile or phoniness. It would never occur to him to play the injured party, and affect coldness toward me.
“How are you Dave?” I could hear the warmth coming from my heart for the guy. “Oh Dave, it’s been a long time hasn’t it?” I felt the tears rolling down my cheeks.
“It has babe, too long. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted call and make it up with you.”
“No, David, no. You shouldn’t have to make anything up with me. I was always making things impossible for us. I know it. You always tried to set things right” These certainly weren’t the words I thought I’d be speaking! It was as if for the first time things started to make sense.
“David, come home. Please come home! I love you! I want to be with you always!” I was crying and laughing at the same time. “Don’t wait a minute, come home!”
I heard the phone crashing to the floor. Then there was
a lot of noise and I definitely heard a door slam. I hung up, walked to
the window and watched the city come alive. I’d take the job Pam had offered
me. It was what I worked for and I knew David would support my decision.
I might even get good at it, but in the meantime I’d give it my best effort.
A dusky blue sky framed the million city lights like I knew I’d leave it
someday for a split-level in the burbs, a couple of kids and Sunday football.
The prospect of which suited me just fine.
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