The Fragrance of Immortelles

Meryl Streep said she moved from Hollywood back to the East Coast because, in L.A., she always had to be on display. No bad hair day for her, no rushing to the corner deli in teddy bear pajamas, always, she must wear haute couture and makeup.
So yesterday, I took a day off and walked about while I made my list of pros & cons of being incognito, a humble nobody in Manhattan. I took the bus to go to the East 86
th Street Barnes & Noble to buy a wall calendar. No limo, no chauffeur, no entourage, just me, buried in my mustard parka, wrapped up in purple shawls, sensible boots, sunning myself at the bus window watching the stagnant subway construction sites, many shop windows with new signs crying they’re available for rent. Abandoned by the bankrupt previous owners. Ruinous subway constructions. Endless.
I then walk the large avenues, bemoaning the trash floating in the wind. How much can it cost to clean the streets of this super rich island?! Perplexing that they allow it. Media coverage: Madonna In Fur Coats Sues Mayor Bloomberg For Disfiguring Her Iconic Beauty! Upon Exiting Her Multimillion Condo Got Hit In The Face By A Plastic Bag, And Soiled Styrofoam Plates, Her Eyes Hurt By Plastic Forks.
Right before Barnes & Noble, I peek in a window filled with yellow dry flowers. Must enter, gain respite from grubby streets, inhale perfume samples.
The aproned shop keeper welcomes me, offers me tea to warm up while I peruse bottles and start spraying them on strips of sample paper. She brings me more bottles. I inhale. Summer. Fields of flowers. Wild strawberries. River freshness. Orange tree orchards. Peonies dropping fragile petals in the breeze.
The shopkeeper drifts away, lotioning her hands. Shea butter. I ask her, ‘Why on some days is my skin dry and on others, not?’ ‘Would you like a complimentary facial?’ she offers. Why not?! It’s not like they will now ask me to represent their milks and peels and lotions in glossies. And I’m idle today. I separated myself from myself. I need time to reflect and choose between being in hiding and not being in hiding.
I’m hiding within myself from myself.
We walk by bouquets of yellow. She tells me they flower only every ten years. What kind of flowers are these? Immortelles. But others work hard at flowering every year, while these ones seem self-defeating. Well, the helper adds, that’s why the beauty extracts from that flower cost a bundle. Immortelles.
We pass by a long boarding school tin sink and smoky, cracked mirrors. Okay, they’re going for the vintage, antique, old European look. She seats me on a wooden chair after she covers it with brown towels. Then she covers me, too, in coarse brown towels.
Another aproned woman watches me like a hawk.
Suddenly, she turns into my entire hometown staring at me.
Well, the matter is I wrote an essay and published it in my old country and judging by the viewer counter on the website and the circulation of the print edition, well, the readers equal the population of my hometown. I’m still digesting this phenomenon. It’s not like I went on a book tour exhibiting myself and signing ad nauseam my books, or read ponderously from my oeuvres to rooms of people. No, I just pressed a keyboard button and then someone else pressed his keyboard button and then before you know it an entire town sits pressing their keyboard buttons, and now here they are staring at me. Some let me know what they think! Some throw rotten tomatoes, smelly eggs at me, some set their dogs to bark and even threaten to unleash them, just because they can, protected by their computer screen.
I don’t know why this hawk woman stares at me.
My calm beautician commences to explain the benefits of the cleansing milk, toning water, then proceeds to massaging my face. I ask her, since the staring hawk won’t go away, ‘Why are the brown towels so stiff? Do they have a beauty purpose? Is it a new trend?’
The hawk jumps on me, strips the towels off, plunges under the table where there are rolls upon rolls of brown towels, pulls at my pullover neckline stuffing in the edge of a soft towel. ‘Goodness,’ I laugh my head off, ‘it’s not necessary. I was just wondering if this is a new beauty tip? Does the store recommend stiff towels for blood circulation, or what?!’
The hawk exclaims while looking ugly at my helper, ‘That’s exactly what clients should not think about our store when they go away!’
My helper now massages my hands, blocking the hawk’s view of me. I ask her if I got her in trouble, is the hawk her supervisor? She neither says yes nor no. She explains that the towels were not dried in the dryer, so they got stiff.
Finally the hawk gets her own lady to massage so I ask my helper, ‘Well, were I to buy all these yellow jars and bottles would I get a discount?” She shall ask the manager.
My lucky day! The General Manager herself is at the desk. A young, alert lady in her twenties with a terrible, terrible case of acne. All the makeup, foundation, concealers, and powders in the world won’t hide her red bulbousities.
They start ringing the cash register to give me a total, ‘…minus the 20% discount, plus a complimentary travel kit, a mere $299.’ I don’t want to ruin their sales pitch, so I go along. ‘Splendid. Well, I shall stop by tomorrow when I make up my mind which perfume to buy, since this is why I primarily stopped by today.’ Oh, but the manager won’t be in tomorrow, and only she can approve the discounts. But if I call back later in the day, they’ll deliver the jars and bottles, and the travel kit, by messenger. Here is Rosalinda’s General Manager business card.
I fend her off, ‘Well, I prefer to buy in person when my gracious helper here is at work so she can get a commission’. ‘Oh, no,’ the pimply General Manager laughs delighted, ‘we don’t work on commission here. We believe in our product.’ Right. Well, good luck with that. I surely don’t want to have my face flower into an acne field of poppies like yours.
I say my gracious good-byes and trot into Barnes & Noble all rejuvenated.
All their harping about how this and that lotion shall erase my eye wrinkles annoys me. I’m fine with my wrinkles. I love my wrinkles. I won’t buy bottles and jars of your chemical goo. I’d rather use honey and yogurt and cucumbers, like my grandma taught me. With $300 you can feed how many starving kids in India? So…
No matter.
In the huge bookstore, bricks of books pile everywhere. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to tell me about his amazing life, so does Richard Burton, and on and on, actors, politicians, sportsmen, survivors, they all want to tell me about their incredible lives.
I ask my way to the wall calendar section, but they repeatedly try to discourage me. Apparently they proudly think they ran out of them. By the end of the cafe full of pensive readers, I find the calendar section. Mainly sport hunks and Playboy girls in minute swimsuits.
I leave without my calendar.
I’m still undecided, do I want or do I not want to come out of hiding? Amaze the readers with my incredibles too? And then what? No more dilly-dallying on escapades at thrift stores, perfume-sniffing vacations, no more Facebook nonsense, but constantly watching what comes out of my mouth, to avoid my townsmen and women staring at me further?
Or, maybe I’ll just burrow five more minutes, like my son under the covers when I give the wakeup call for his job interview, ‘Just five more minutes, please.’
New York City
Thursday, January 24th
It shall be also on my radio blog starting with Thursday April 4th, 3 p.m.
Proofreading by Ethan Black,
Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, I’d be ever so grateful.


Thanks go to my family for their quiet support.


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