I WISH I could say that this was the title of my blog post, but in fact, it is the THIRD chapter in Helena Hann-Basquiat’s latest story.
WHAT? You’ve missed the first two? Well, this story is SO good you can just pick it up here. Or, if you want to be technical about the whole thing, I suppose you could start here, at Lizzi’s corner of the world, with Chaper One. Then, head over to Gretchen’s place for Chapter Two. And because this story is so captivating, you’ll want to visit Mandi’s blog for the next installment.
Like Gretchen (sorry, gurl, I had to copy you) I believe Helena is the kind of guest one pours the good wine for. Light the candles. Put on some great music (she has discerning taste, our Darling Dilettante) to set the proper mood for this most distinguished lady.
Thank goodness. Someone to finally class up the joint…
He asked me to dance.
It was like something out of a dream, and I’m not trying to over-romanticize it, darlings, but it was like we were the only two people in the club.
He asked me to dance, even though no one else was dancing.
He didn’t care about that, he said, when I mentioned it. He just wanted to dance with me.
I’m not talking about the Charleston or the Foxtrot, darlings. I’m talking about the type of dance where he could hold me close and tell me all the things that he’d been wanting to say, and where I could ask him exactly what he was thinking, and was he crazy, and what did he expect from me. You know, all that romantic stuff.
The band, Duckie’s Pompadour, was not bad, actually. They were a gimmick band, and their entire repertoire consisted of the soundtrack of John Hughes films – not the later ones like Home Alone or Flubber – I’m talking about the only ones that really matter. The Brat Pack films – Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I don’t know if Penny had told Spenser about my obsession with these films, or about my love for The Smiths, and Morrissey in particular, but as Duckie’s Pompadour launched into The Smiths song Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, he decided to ask me to dance.
It was hot in the club – it was mid July, and there was no way around the heat. I was wearing a light cotton sundress that I hoped would keep me cool, but when Spenser put his arm around me, I was suddenly very self-conscious about how much I was sweating, and would he notice, and and and…
“I’m done,” he said suddenly, without any explanation, gazing into my face, looking drunk.
I started to pull away, thinking that he meant he was done with the dance, but he pulled me close and whispered something in my ear.
“I’ve been looking for you for so long, I just didn’t know your name.”
I’d been with romantic guys before, darlings, and so I was leery of smooth-talking Casanovas.
I had no time for bullshit, and game playing. I won’t lie to you – there was a chill – that good chill, more like a shudder or a shiver. There was attraction, and god, the dance, the timing, it was perfect, and either he had plied Penny for information and was trying to manipulate me, in which case I’d have to put an end to this right quick, or… The alternative – that he was actually sweet, romantic, and smitten with me – my crushed self-esteem was having a hard time accepting that.
“What exactly do you want from me?” I whispered back into his ear, and that closeness – that intimacy – felt right, and it frightened me.
“You,” he said plainly. He looked me in the eyes, and I couldn’t turn away. “I want you. I want to get to know you. I want to know if you are everything I’ve dreamed you are. I’ve wanted that from the moment I laid eyes on you.”
For him, it seemed – and he would later tell me this was true – it had been love at first sight. He’d gone home that night and told his roommate that he’d met the woman he was going to marry. You think these things only happen in the movies, darling, but I’m telling you, this is what happened.
His straightforwardness and earnest honesty might have come off as slightly presumptuous and creepy from anyone else, but there was nothing aggressive or crazy about the way he was talking or looking at me.
“Would you settle for coffee?” I asked. “Call me sometime this week and we can get coffee, and you can get what you want – to get to know me.”
He smiled, and it was a look of pure bliss. His eyes were enormous! Not in a freakish way, in an adorable kitten way. When he smiled, his eyes opened wide and practically sparkled. God, it melted me. If he was going to smile around me like that all the time I was going to have to carry a towel around with me.
“I’ll call you,” he promised, and not in the way of a man who’s just crawled out of your bed without even knowing your last name and sneaking out in the middle of the night.
“I’ll answer the phone,” I said, with a grin of my own, which I’ve been told has the ability to stop heartbeats, and it appeared to be true that night, because Spenser reeled and turned away, wearing a grin so big it threatened to crack his face in two.
We were a couple of fools.
The band announced that they were taking a break, and I saw Spenser talking to the singer, and I began to feel suspicious. Did he know them? Did he put them up to playing that Smiths song just so he could ask me to dance? Later I would find out this wasn’t the case, but it didn’t matter – my suspicious anger would only last for a few seconds. I didn’t know very much about Spenser at that point. I knew his name, his age, I knew he was not a bartender by trade, but had gone back to school and was working so as to minimize the amount of student loans he took. All this I got from the Countess Arcade. What I didn’t know – what Penny had neglected to mention, was that Spenser was a musician.
He got up on the stage and sat at the piano. He didn’t look at me – not at first – but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He put his fingers to the keys, and played the first few bars of a song I knew immediately, and loved more than I know how to put into words. I first heard it on an Elvis Costello record, but of course, it’s been recorded by just about everyone, from Frank Sinatra to Miles Davis, Etta James to Chet Baker, right up to Sarah Vaughn or Rufus Wainwright.
He began to sing the introduction to the famous song that is rarely heard. Then he looked at me – looked right at me and launched into the song.
“My funny valentine… Sweet comic valentine… You make me smile with my heart…”
Suddenly I knew what he meant earlier. I swallowed my heart, which had risen into my throat, and whispered, under my breath.
“I’m done. Oh, god, I’m done.”
The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has. She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming. She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them. Some people attribute her with inventing the Ampersand, but she has never made that claim herself.
Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and has finished Volume Two and is in the editing process.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat