I've retreated to the privacy and relative shelter of a railing far removed from other human beings in order to have a cigarette. The warmth of the sun, the cool steel at my back, a potato on the landscape of life, I am enjoying my brief respite. A woman crosses in front of me unaware that I am watching. Her back to me, she has entered my life and set off a chain of associations she will never know.
It's her long shorts or abbreviated pants. I can't decide which. But it's the fringe at the bottoms that evokes memories of shorts cut from Wrangler jeans, their white fringes carefully picked out with a large safety pin. The remembered act of combing out the blue weft or warp reminds me of two girls in my college English classes.
They were from Brooklyn, the equivalent of present day "Staten Island Girls." Back then, those of us growing up in Staten Island were just starting to emerge from the days when we bought our jeans and fringed jackets at Gold Rush on the then Richmond Avenue. And we were fascinated by these young women in their get ups and their eyelashes. These were a wonder to behold, each lash encrusted in an coating of mascara that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Queried one day as to why their lashes weren't gobbed together, they explained that after applying the stuff, they would take a large safety pin and separate each individual lash.
My English professor was fascinated by their shoes, most of which sported three inch heels and open toes or straps. "F___ me shoes," he used to call them. Remember, these were unenlightened times. Funny thing was he never lusted after them, at least not appreciably. No, the pronouncement was delivered with an indulgent, picaresque, and somewhat patronizing smile.
I had thought of him earlier in the day when I came across the magazine his wife had started. I was struck that it had not only survived but become quite successful. Neither he nor she, however, had lived to enjoy it. I remember the first day that I met him on campus. He was my advisor, this professor with his wild hair and extinguished pipe. The only thing I remember from his first lecture was that he was 48 and that when you get to be 48, death becomes a reality. Studying Shakespeare with him was wallowing in the lushness of perception and conception and Cleopatra and God knows what else. The man was inspired.
And all this because of a safety pin.