Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

She says its the Shoes. I Say She's Looking in the Wrong Mirror.


A curious and curiously amused reader asks: ‘So what happened to Clarisse that was so bad that made her fall in love with a dildo?’ (See archives: 'Someday her Prince will Come')


I shall endeavor to re-create the day as clearly as my memory allows:


(I would like to preface my recollection by admitting that to my mind, the incident seemed an elongated monologue to me. Also, understand that Clarisse, for all her seeming neurosis, is an ultra-sensitive woman with desires similar to many females, but these longings somehow morphed rampantly out of control. I wondered if it was an overdose on magazines such as Cosmopolitan; I secretly felt, had she worked in my business, the perspective she would have gained would have put the breaks on and cleared her perception. But who’s to say?)


We were to meet at 59th and 5th- outside the entrance to Bergdorf’s--at, as she stated in her ‘emergency voice’, precisely 9:45 a.m., before they opened so we could be the first inside and the first to rummage through their twice-a-year-only shoe sale.


Early or always on time as is my M.O., I slam the door to the cab, spotting Clarisse on the corner smoking a cigarette, with a cellphone pressed to her ear (as per usual). Above the noise of New York City cabs and bustle, she is yelling so loud into her phone, I can actually hear her side of the conversation.


Clarisse: "42??-??67-125?-???8!"


She sees me as I walk toward her and waves me over with her cigarette hand, then puts a finger up indicating I should wait, and rolls her eyes signaling me that person on the other end of the phone is either annoying or stupid.


Clarisse: "Expiration 12-99. Czajka. Clarisse. (Pause.) Yes. Could you tell me what my available balance is?"


My hips sway back and forth to keep warm. I light a cigarette. We exchange smiles as she waits on hold.


Clarisse: "Not possible."


(Waits and plugs her other ear to hear better. Speaks louder to overcome the noise of cab horns.)

Clarisse: "I think you need to do an investigation on that. I don’t remember making any purchases for that amount. Well then ask them to raise my credit limit. I am in (said with great dramatic flare as if a relative is in the hospital--) an emergency situation here. Yes. I will hold."


(She covers the mouthpiece and turns to me smiling, entirely relaxed, a completely different personality to that on the phone.)


Clarisse: So, listen, Persephone, the minute they open these doors I literally have to fly inside.
(She stops dead and begins to frantically fan herself and loudly blow air down the bosom of her shirt.)


Clarisse: Oh! Wait! Hot flash! Hot flash! On top of everything else, I’m going through menopause right? And (sotto voce): these hormones they’ve got me are on A-MAZING alright? I’m horny… (She tries to think of a phrase) No! When am I not horny, ok?
(She laughs heartily at herself.) Amazing. So, you look great…


Me: I do? Thanks. I like your hair. Did you get it colored?


(She runs her hand through her hair almost torching it with the cigarette.)


Clarisse: Yeah? I don’t know. I think I should have had him put in a few more highlights maybe here and here. But you know, it’s Fredrick Fekkai and what do you say, right? Expensive. Worth it. (Back to the phone): I am in an emergency situation here, all right? Listen, listen, your commercials are all about Citibank saving the day in emergency situations all right? Three hundred dollars is fine but I think you should think about changing your commercials. No, I mean they give false hopes all right? And that is not cool, am I right? No. I'm right. All right. (She snaps her phone shut.)


Me: So hi. What’s the emergency?


Clarisse: Bergdorf’s is having an incredible shoe sale and I am in an emergency shoe situation here all right? They open at ten so be ready. So did you have any new and wonderful dates of late?


Me: Always. But I’m still seeing John a bit.


Clarisse: John? He’s cheap. Get rid of him.


Me: Clarisse…C’mon. He’s kind and he doesn’t mind I’m in my business.


Clarisse: (putting her hands to her ears as if in pain) No! Ah! No! Listen to me. I am older than you are and I KNOW. You’re still young and attractive, and that man is rich. He should be GRATEFUL that he has a woman like you, you know, really! It’s disgusting! You’re like a Barbie Doll, every man’s secret fantasy right? He should be PAYING for you. I should have taken advantage of my beauty, all right? I mean, I had a lot to offer: I’m into sports, Go Bulls! right? (hearty laugh) I’m into sex, I’m into jazz, I keep in shape, I dress well, I like to party. But they’ve all been such blind, self-absorbed toads to bother to see how special I was, so it was just one disappointment after the other. So I kept turning down toad after toad hoping for a Prince and now look at me! (she sings the spelling of the word): S-I-N-G-L-E. Biggest mistake of my life. What about Larry?


Me: Larry? He’s client and I don’t love him.


Clarisse: But he’s got M-O-N-E-Y and he spends it.


Me: I don’t love him.


Clarisse: (singing and laughing at the same time) "What’s love got to do with it?" I’m telling you: marry Larry, hey it rhymes, "Marry Larry"… (She laughs) Marry him or you’ll end up like me, and believe me, it-is-NO-FUN-nnnn. Princes are rare all right? And Larry is almost a Prince. He’s not a Toad, right? Am I right?


Me: He’s not a toad.


Clarisse: Why not? Because he’s a client?


Me: No. That doesn’t matter. That’s a plus. I’m freezing. What time is it? Why are we here so early?


Clarisse: Last night I had a REVELATION ok? So remember George? George Praer? George "Pray that he likes me" George? George ‘the Infomercial Producer Guy but MONEY’! He invites me to the Blue Room Jazz Club last night. VIP seating. Champagne. Christal, okay? So I’m sitting there getting into it: (She starts humming in a ‘jazzy sexy’ way the first few bars to: ‘Sentimental Journey’, then laughs.) Fabulous! Fab-bu-lous! But then, all of a sudden, I’m lost! And not in the music, all right? I couldn’t fathom how I ended up there.


Me: Why? What do you mean?


Clarisse: Beee-cauzzze, why am I sitting there with pudgy, balding but MONEY George? I mean he’s not a Prince! He’s just another toad with money that’s all. So now I can’t even enjoy the music and I’m thinking about how there’s no men out there and how miserable I must have gotten to get to this place where I’m settling to be with George right? And for one second, I glance down and suddenly I notice…my shoes! And it’s… HORRIFYING! Persephone, I have been wearing the wrong shoes! My shoes should be saying, you know, ‘loyal’, ‘fun’, ‘the perfect wife and mother’, right…? But MY shoes were saying…(she thinks for a moment) ‘fuck me for the price of dinner at Daniel’s and you don’t have to call me the next day’, all right?


Me: You’re shoes talk too much.


Clarisse: This is serious. I was sending out the wrong message through my shoes you know what I’m saying so… I’m here, on a MISSION, and you have to help me all right?! Now that I have finally located the problem, we have to find the solution. We have got to find me the perfect pair of shoes.


The security guard unlocks the door to the store. Clarisse vice-grips my arm dragging me through the threshold, pulling me to the escalator, releasing me only when we arrive first and safely in the shoe section. She is the RoadRunner. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. Every shoe on every sale rack in her size comes flying of the shelves and into my arms. I plop down on the cushy chair, collecting the airborne shoes, building a somewhat organized pile next to me.
Finally, with all the size 8 shoes hoarded in our mound, she begins to slip them on, modeling them for herself in the low mirror, occasionally raising her eyebrows at me, to check my opinion. She is a woman on Speed. Shoes on, shoes off, mouth never pausing for a breath.


Clarisse: We are in an emergency situation here! I am, like—what—oh God—I get a pain—I do—huuu—see I can’t even breathe—it gives me a real pain right here (she presses he fingers into her sternum) when I even try to say it, but I’m almost (sotto voce) fifty! I mean I don’t look it thank you God! Please! Right? (She laughs.) But I’m telling you; I don’t have that much time left. This may be my last chance! Here. These. These say ‘stylish-but-domestically-inclined’, right? Am I right?


I nod. She tosses me the pair.


Clarisse: Put them in the ‘yes/maybe pile.


I start to put them on the other side of my chair.


Clarisse: Wait. How much are they?


I turn the shoes over to look.


Clarisse: No. Don’t tell me. If I don’t have enough you can lend me some right? I mean this is an emergency here. And you make enough money, right?


Me: (hesitantly) Clarisse.

(She is lots older than I, and through the many years of our friendship I have been guilted into lending her thousands, earned on my back and knees, that I know I will never see again.)


Clarisse: You’re too young. You can’t possibly understand what I am going through here.


Me: I do understand. I’m just not sure spending money you don’t have on shoes is the way to solve it.


Clarisse: Or maybe you don’t love me. Maybe you’re not a true friend. A true friend would---


Me: Unfair. You know, you could work in my same business if you wanted to. You’d make good money---


Clarisse: No. Not my thing. Strange men touching me. Whatever they looked like. God see? Now you gave me a pain. I’m not young. Men only want young.


Me: No they don’t. You don’t give them enough credit.


Clarisse: I KNOW. I know more than you. I’m older than you and I’ve been out there, okay? I’m heading for my ‘last chance Texaco’, alright? do you know what that feels like? No. No. You don't.


Me: Don’t get so upset. I’ll give you the money.


Clarisse: (kissing and hugging me a bit too zealously) I love you. You know that. You’re the best friend I ever had. You’re the longest friend I ever had. Right?


Me: I don’t make as much money as you think. And what I make I have to save for my future.


Clarisse: Now you’re upset. (She croons in my ear) "Who loves you pretty baby?" "Like a bridge over troubled waters—"


Me: (giggling again) Ok. Ok. Stop. Find some shoes.


(She laughs as she attacks the shoes again then suddenly, sees something--a man. A man she recognizes. Her body freezes. I follow her eyes to the man. She backs up until she is behind a shoe rack, then whispers loudly, signally me frantically with her hands.)


Clarisse: Perseph! Come here, come close.


(I stoop bent from my waist, tip-toeing although not sure why, to join her behind the rack.)


Clarisse: Look at that man--that man--over there…I KNEW that man! I dated him! When he was NOBODY, when he was NOTHING! Look what he’s wearing! It must be an Armani suit--Is it? It is! Or Zegna. Zegna or Armani Do you think he’s an INVESTMENT BANKER now?"
(Turning away, she can’t bear to look.) Let’s see the tie… (She turns around to look) Very conservative pattern--maybe Hermes; it is-- it is a Hermes tie! Um hmm. Right. Look at his shoes; you can always tell by the shoes! Am I right? Am I wrong? No. I’m know I’m right. (She can barely catch her breath.) God, tell me it’s not Gucci! (She squeezes my arm so tight it tingles.) Oh God they are! He is! He's an investment banker! This is just like my life!!! Oh Persephone, I KNEW THAT MAN! When he was nothing! When he was NOBODY!! (Burying her head in her hands, moaning) But how was I to know...how was I to know? Right? Right? Picked me up in a lime-green Buick--must have been a hundred years old--lime-green Buick--a hundred years old? Took me to Umbertos... a very OUT restaurant--very OUT--do you hear me: very out! Bought a bottle of Chianti, cheap Chianti--I mean how was I to know? (She looks again and spins back around) Is he looking at me? How do I look? (Her hands fall to her tummy) OH MY GOD! I’M HOLDING WATER!


Me: Shhh. Clar shhh, calm down.


Clarisse: (whispering loudly) Not a good day to be holding water! Did he see me? Oh my god, I think he saw me holding water. This is just like my life. This is just like MY LIFE! I have to go home. I have to---The man has ruined my day! The man has ruined my day. I have to go home. I have to have some scotch. (Begins searching frantically through her bag): No. I have to find a man. (Pulls out an airplane-size bottle of scotch. Decides against it): I have to have some GOOD scotch. No. No. I have to shhhh. I have to shhhh. Do you want to come with me? Maybe smoke a joint?


Me: No sweetie. Here. Stop. Stop moving. Breathe.


Clarisse: I can’t go out there and get my shoes when he’s standing right there. He’ll see me. Give me your shoes.


Me: (laughing slightly in disbelief) My shoes are too small.


Clarisse: GIVE ME YOUR SHOES. I have to go home.


Me: They’re too small. What am I gonna wear?


Clarisse: Give me your shoes so I can go out the other way. Then you can go get my shoes.


Me: Oh Clarisse. Just wait here. He’ll go soon.


Clarisse: Oh. Oh ok. No No! What am I thinking! Right! You’re right! I’m NOT thinking! I’m going to collapse! This is a DISASTER! Give me your shoes!


Me: (taking off my shoes, handing them to her.) Okay, okay. I’ll meet you outside.


Clarisse: What do I do? TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!


Me: Just go outside and I’ll meet you there.


I watch her hobble out in my shoes as I dig through the shoe mound we created searching for hers. Trying to be discreet in shoes four sizes too big for me, I click-clack to the escalator looking a bit like a little girl in her mother’s shoes. That, or an indiscreet shoplifter. None too pleased. With Clarisse there is always a drama.

Through the glass in the revolving doors, I see her on the street, like a wishful Cinderella in my obviously painful shoes, talking to herself.


Clarisse: Right. (On a mission digging through her purse, pulls out a cigarette, decides on two, one for each hand, lights them and seems to calm down a bit.) Better. Better better. Better. Oh my god! Fifty-three and holding water! I’m not thinking. Right! BERGDORF’S IS HAVING A SALE!! I have to go SHOPPING! I have to find my SHOES! (Makes ‘prayer hands’ as in ‘thank god for shopping’)


Me: Hey Cinderella.


Clarisse: (grabbing my arm) Oh my god! A-mazing that you said that! I am Cinder-fucking-rella wearing the wrong slippers! (In Shock again): Look at your shoes! Did you know you were wearing those shoes?! Do you not see what they’re saying?! They’re practically yelling: "I need you! I NEED YOU…but not too much… Come rescue me!’ I have to have these. Give them to me. I can’t give them back. I am in a desperate situation here. My need is much deeper than yours.


Me: Oh Clarisse. It’s not the shoes. (She gives me a ‘look’.) You can have them if you want them.


Clarisse: (Now limping around in my shoes that are painfully too small): It makes a difference already, right? No! It’s good that they’re a bit tight. The message couldn’t be any clearer: ‘come sweep me off my fragile feet, ok? I’m a candle in the wind!’ (Looks down at the shoes admiring the change in herself): It’s amazing. I’m going to take a walk down 5th; see the affect they have. Okay? Okay. We’ll get together later in the week and I’ll either give them back to you then or I’ll buy them from you if they’re working.


I can do nothing but let the weak smile spread across my face. My heart is breaking for her. For me. For all women that still believe men are their mirrors.


Clarisse: (strangely distant—almost insanely different than just minutes ago) Listen, it was great seeing you. You look great, you do. And you’re saving my life here. Wait until you get to be my age and you’ll know what a good thing you did here today. Karma. Really. So call me. Okay...bye…ciao-ciao...(Kisses the air on both my cheeks)


Me: You going to be okay?


Clarisse: No, yeah. I’m great. Ciao ciao.


Me: Call me if you need to?


Clarisse: Sure.


(Walking slowly away, I turn my head to see her standing in the same place still rambling to herself.)


Clarisse: Oh my god. This is just like MY LIFE!

On my way in a taxi to a fully-booked day at work where the ‘mystery of men and their motivations’ have long since been plumbed, unraveled and laid bare.

Although I once bemoaned this knowledge I’d unwittingly unearthed, thinking myself too cynical, I suddenly feel grateful for the awareness I’ve garnered. Had I chose a different route, it wouldn't have been farfetched to imagine I could have become Clarisse.

It is quite possible that my business saved me from that fate.

So that, my curious reader, was the straw that broke Clarisse's back and led her to her long-term monogomous affair with her Beloved: The Great King. Thanks for asking!


7 Comments:

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

P.
Is Clarisse aware of how popular women over 40 have become? Just look at the women in "Desperate Housewifes" during the Golden Globe awards! Terri Hatcher is on the cover of this weeks FMH. I'm sure there are a lot of men that would choose them over some of the Victoria Secret's models (especially after they say something).

If you've got, you'll still have it over 40 which means that you'll have a very long and prosperous career...

 
At 2:26 AM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

P.
Is Clarisse aware of how popular women over 40 have become? Just look at the women in "Desperate Housewifes" during the Golden Globe awards! Terri Hatcher is on the cover of this weeks FMH. I'm sure there are a lot of men that would choose them over some of the Victoria Secret's models (especially after they say something).

If you've got, you'll still have it over 40 which means that you'll have a very long and prosperous career...

 
At 2:26 AM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

P.
Is Clarisse aware of how popular women over 40 have become? Just look at the women in "Desperate Housewifes" during the Golden Globe awards! Terri Hatcher is on the cover of this weeks FMH. I'm sure there are a lot of men that would choose them over some of the Victoria Secret's models (especially after they say something).

If you've got, you'll still have it over 40 which means that you'll have a very long and prosperous career...

 
At 2:26 AM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

P.
Is Clarisse aware of how popular women over 40 have become? Just look at the women in "Desperate Housewifes" during the Golden Globe awards! Terri Hatcher is on the cover of this week's FMH. I'm sure there are a lot of men that would choose them over some of the Victoria Secret's models (especially after they say something).

If you've got, you'll still have it over 40 which means that you'll have a very long and prosperous career...

 
At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah SW! How right you are! A gorgeous woman is a gorgeous woman no matter at what age...now we just need to let the media, Hollywood and the rest of the world in on that secret...in termsof dear sweet confused Clarisse, she imprisoned herself long ago within the confines of what Pop Culture impressed upon her and she thinks it is the Truth..I'v known her many years and at this point, she is a captive bird--the enlightment that would free her would not be attractive to her, because in acceptin a new perseption would mean her whole life to now would have been a lie and a waste. Even if the cage door were opened, she would not fly away. But in terms of me and my business, from your mouth to God's ears! I hope to stay around as long as my tired old body can handle the physicallity of it! maybe until I have to take my teeth out before working! Then, I should probably call it a day..no?
love
Persephone

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

P.
You are forgeting that even if your teeth were removable, some of your distinquished clients do not need you to remove your teeth. I recall you telling me that your mere presence in a number of cases have made you clients elated!

Never forget!

There are lonely people out there that have felt even a some what platonic relationship with you to be a treasure (certainly worth paying for).

That part of you will be eternal where you can go into a room and light it up -- no batteries required!

SW

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger randini said...

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