What I’m Working On (An Excerpt)

When waiting on edits I like to tinker with an adult project, a “novel for the drawer” that allows me to try out different ideas, styles, and techniques. Stone Piano, so far, is about a young woman moving to New York and transforming herself to fit her ideal image of a Manhattan Girl. Here’s an excerpt I wrote this morning:

A crane shot. In the first gasp of fall, the city wrapped in amber felt and orange wool, Donna, clad in fitted tweed jacket with popped collar, crosses Cooper Square, hands in pockets, pony-tail swinging, boot buckle flashing— the speediest, sleekest girl to cut a path through the rarified streets. The camera follows her down a narrow lane lined with trembling leaves, her palm (in new leather glove) pushes against a glass door, releasing a double twinkle: flash from the gold handle, gleam from black sunglasses. Now cut to an interior. The viewer spies the high-haired, bare necked, black-legged girl drumming eight black fingers on the counter. She cocks her head, bites her lip, and points out (with a tap-tap on a plastic case) that one, please, with the orange and green sprinkles. Plastic tongs, the crackle of paper, a black company card extracted from a small red clutch, a smile, a thank you, and out again to Greene Street, to reappear in Camera One’s viewfinder, (it’s still watching from above, anticipating a repeat flicker of light). But a bus thunders by, and according to cinematic convention, when it passes so has all evidence of our star, save for a wadded paper bag on the lip of an overflowing trashcan, and a certain hollowness in the air where she stood.

Donna often imagined such storyboards, self-cast as the love interest. It was easy to picture herself in the third person. The city was full of mirrors, tinted windshields and tinted lenses. She sometimes caught herself admiring a distorted Donna in the shades of another girl, only to realize the other girl was admiring herself in Donna’s circular D&Gs. Along one block of Lexington ran a wall of especially reflective windows, where passersby looked askance, as if at something scandalous. She permitted herself one glance, lasting no more than a second, each time she passed. The goal was to catch oneself in profile, as a stranger might, in a natural pose. But the moment the peripherals caught the self-image, the body-language shifted. It was impossible to see yourself and be yourself at the same time.


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