“Don’t you look happy today?”
I pluck my headphones from both ears out of courtesy and a woman on the corner of Thompson Street continues to speak. She has a frizzy mess of hair flocked with coarse gray hairs, having grown even more unruly in their aging years. Her nose curves in an unattractive way and she has a gray mustache that makes me vaguely uncomfortable.
“It’s a beautiful day,” I say, further playing into my concepts of courtesy when talking to strangers.
“No. No, it’s a heavenly day,” comes her response through lips curling into a smile.
It was true. It was beautiful afternoon and I was happy, effervescent even. I had the day off and I was chasing the sun west as it disappeared from the buildings of SoHo to sit on the Hudson River. I kept walking and walking, the unseasonably warm day reminiscent of the coming of spring. This is the type of day that never happens in Los Angeles because it always happens in Los Angeles. Beautiful days – one after another after another after another. So many beautiful days, in fact, that you forget they are beautiful days at all. The “good weather” everyone speaks of when they talk about California rendered just “weather” – boring, warm, pleasant weather – that you take for granted like a girlfriend you’ve dated for a few years but no longer appreciate, a girl you’ll never marry because you’re bored.
I remain steady, pinned to a street corner while the Crazy/ Nice Lady talks to me about what I’m wearing. “Is that a matching suit?” she asks. I’m wearing navy shorts and an 80s nautical blazer I’ve recently removed the shoulder pads from – I’ve got shoulder enough already as it is. She tells me how adorable she thinks I look and how easy it would be to go from day to night in an outfit like that.
“You know what I want to see?” she says. I lean in, my fingers near my chin and mouth the way I do when I’m listening to someone – probably a body language cue I picked up from some actor in a movie I saw when I was six. “A different shoe,” she states. “Oh, a good heel might be nice,” I counter, willingly participating in this impromptu discussion about fashion with a stranger. “No. No. Heels would make this look cheap. And this isn’t a cheap girl. I’d like to see this with some nice dress shoes if you were going out at night,” she continues. “Hmmm…patent?” I muse, playing into her styling daydream. “Sure, patent. And no makeup. A freshly scrubbed face and clean, clean hair. Girls these days wear so much makeup. Tarts. The lipstick, the nail polish, the eyeliner…” She drags her fingers across her eyelids in emphasis as though she were applying war paint.
The things coming out of this woman’s mouth – her teeth yellowed and crooked and rat-like – are the musings of a fashion editor who is trapped in the body of a witchy, West Village hag wearing sweatpants and a fanny pack. I would never look at this woman and think that she would ever even dream about the perfect shoe or find pleasure in a matching summer suit. I find her completely odd and totally delightful.
“The girls these days,” she continues, “Their tits out, asses out. Their hooker heels. That stuff’s okay for the bedroom, but…You don’t need to go to the hooker bar every night.” I laugh, thinking this woman would be hilarious to be related to; Christmas dinners would be endlessly interesting. She’d be the crazy aunt that your mother said dropped too much acid in college and “Look what happened.” Still, this woman is more sane than most, at least in a sartorial sense.
I have started to make my way off of the sidewalk and into the street – this is a woman who would talk until Tuesday if I let her. As I walk backward, laughing, I say, “The hooker bar just a few nights a week suits me just fine.”