The woman who wore my hat
by Georgia E. Warren
I applied for and received my passport as a present to myself in 1972. I had the money for the passport, but certainly not money enough to travel anywhere interesting. The passport became my personal ticket to daydream about places I wanted to visit. I wanted to visit Greece and to stand in the center of the stage at Epidaurus. I wanted to visit Stonehenge. I wanted to someday go to Hong Kong.
Three years later in the winter of 1975 or maybe even early in 1976, I received an envelope addressed to “Georga Cunningham, Center Square, New York.” The envelope got to me, somehow, although my name was spelled incorrectly, (there is only one “n” in our Cuningham) I lived in “Central Square,” (the address said “Center Square,”) plus there was no zip code on it. It was post marked from either Illinois or Indiana; it was hard to read. The battered envelope looked like it had been to several post offices before it finally reached me. There was a handwritten note in the envelope. A picture of a woman with the Eiffel Tower in the background was inside the folded note. I read the note before I looked closely at the picture. I remember every word: “So sorry this took so long to get to you. We had so many rolls of film we didn’t get this developed until a couple of weeks ago and then I had to hunt in the bottom of the handbag I had in Paris to find your address. I spilled some makeup on your paper, I hope I got the address right.”
I looked more closely at the picture. My head got dizzy and I was so disoriented I had to sit down. The woman surely looked a lot like me, I even owned a hat the same as the one she was wearing. In this moment, as I looked at this photo my world turned upside down. In a very short time one memory came back to me. One memory with hundreds of little incidents inside of this one memory. I remembered Paris. I remembered four days I spent in Paris with my brother Freddy.
My mind flashed back and forth remembering a trip to Paris and looking over and over again at the photo in my hand. The problem was that hat: it was just like mine even to the hat band that matched my jacket. But I was also sure:
I HAD NEVER BEEN TO PARIS.
Was that possibly a photo of me in
front of the Eifel Tower?
Or was the memory only from a
vivid dream I had and forgot?
I am a vivid dreamer. I always have been. My vivid dreams are rare, but they include realistic details, streets, people, colors, even the feeling of sand, dirt, pavement, or cobblestones under my feet. In my most vivid dreams sometimes I awake with aches in my legs from taking long walks. But in dreams I am never able to read nor can I smell.
The thought that Paris was a dream made me a little steadier. I convinced myself that I received the picture of the lady in front of the Eiffel Tower by mistake, it must have triggered the memory of the dream.
I never spoke about the picture and note to anyone. But I didn’t throw them away. I put them in my safe deposit box along with some other trinkets that I had collected. Sometimes when I was at the bank to cash my paycheck, I would open the safe deposit box to stare at that picture and read again the note still protected in its battered envelope. In this isolated room I would let myself remember the places, people, scents, and the sunsets of Paris, not caring at all that it had to be a dream.
An Invitation to Paris, France
It was September1975, late at night and I was on the phone with my brother Freddy. He was in Paris during his Grand Tour of Europe and England. It was probably around 6:30 or so in the evening in Paris. “There is a round trip ticket waiting for you at Hancock Airport for Paris. It’s for 11:00 A.M. your time today. Pack enough for a few days. I’ll meet you at the Paris TWA terminal.” I don’t remember if he even said anything else. He was like that.
I laid down on my bed not sleeping but waited until it was late enough to wake my mother and tell her about the call and that I was going to go.
She was happy for me and helped me pull a few things together. She was 66 years old but still working full time. She left me at the airport on her way to work with three and a half hours to spare. I told her before she drove away:“The next time you hear from me I will be with Freddy and we will be calling from Paris France.” She smiled.
My Brother Freddy
Freddy was very talented and intelligent, you might have called him a genius. When he was an adult he lived in New York City and did some stage acting, TV commercials and was the man modeling on Simplicity pattern envelopes. He did oil paintings. He once wrote a movie script that was produced and released nationally. For his day-job he was a librarian in Brooklyn. Freddy seemed to do and know everything and had interesting and some very famous friends.
Beyond everything my brother was kind, considerate and funny.
His name was really George, but we all called him Freddy. He was the only Roman Catholic in our family. He had great respect for Mother Ann Seton and the work she did with Lepers. Mother Ann Seton lived part of her life in New York City. When my brother found out that she was being considered for Sainthood and the church needed part of their evidence for sainthood from her life in New York, my brother was inspired to help. He was an excellent writer, especially of proposals and formal papers. This was a perfect project for him.
His work in New York helped make Ann Seton become a saint. He was invited to Rome for the canonization celebration. He immediately decided to go. Not only go, but to make the “Grand Tour” of Europe (and England) along with the trip to the Vatican. I think he was gone for months, maybe most of the year.
My Dream Vacation in Paris
Connecting from Syracuse to the big TWA airplane at John F. Kennedy Airport went without a hitch. Flying was still pretty classy in those days. I was almost thirty years old, I had a drink or two, decent meals, and plenty of room to stretch out and sleep. I don’t remember how long the flight lasted; I slept most of the time. While I was awake I was brushing up on the French I took in college.
First day: When Freddy said he’d be some place he always was, and on time. He was waiting for me with a big sign saying “Georgia,” just like they did in the movies. He was ready to take me to the flat that he had rented for me to stay. We took the Metro. Now I was really getting excited. He had gotten to Paris just a week or two before, he knew the right train to get on, and his French was impeccable. I might have noticed that this should be impossible; but, heck he was Freddy, he was a genius, so I didn’t think about it at all.
We ended up in a part of the city called Montmartre. It is traditionally the art part of the city, where some of my favorite artists had lived and painted: Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Matisse, and Toulouse-Lautrec were just a few. So of course Montmartre was where we stayed. These few days in this area would have cost my Freddy, a fortune. When I suggested that my trip was costing him too much money, he said that me he had also been to Monte Carlo and won a lot of money. He said that he never before had enough money to give me a big present, but now he did and this was it.
The flat in Montmartre was a walk-up in a brick building that looked like it was covered in white frosting. It was a long and narrow flat. First when you walked in was the kitchen with a small eating table at the end, and on the table was a vase with Sun Flowers in it. Looking back with forty some years behind me, Freddy must have put the sunflowers on the table because of my fondness for Van Gogh.
After the kitchen there was a living room and beyond that a tiny bathroom and bedrooms. In the living room was a rope we pulled on and a ladder came down. We climbed up and sat on the roof.
Oh my goodness what a sight from the roof.
I said to Freddy. “They sure don’t call Paris the
‘City of Lights’ for no reason.”
Of course “Doctor Freddy” reminded me “Ville des Lumières” meant “City of Enlightenment,” not “City of Lights” but from a rooftop in Montmartre when the sun went down that city was something so bright and so special and so red that it could easily fit into any painting or a dream.
I certainly could understand why my brother wanted me to go to the apartment before we did anything else.
The four days went by fast. We went everywhere by the Metro or by foot, mostly by foot. Freddy was a walker. His home was New York City. In New York City... you walk.
Second Day: We went to some antique shops. Most of them were down a few steps from the street. He bought a painting in one shop. It was a small panting of a man’s face, very dark, very dirty, and, I thought at the time: expensive.
I myself bought the painting we are using for the cover of this magazine from R. Saminora, who was painting on the banks of the Seine River. I remember him distinctly. All the other artists were dressed like imitations of 19th century painters. He wore jeans, a t-shirt, and red suspenders (and NO beret). Freddy told me Saminora probably had a dozen of these paintings almost finished under his chair and finished them in front of customers like me. I didn’t care: it was rainy in the picture and there had been a rainy, foggy, mist early that morning and in my mind it was exactly what I wanted, what I was experiencing.
The other thing he had to show me that day was Le Dome Cafe (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse). He said it was Hemingway’s favorite spot to talk with other writers. We would have coffee there.
Well, we didn’t. It was jammed with tourists. Freddy said he knew another cafe just a few blocks away. He knew about this cafe, here in a city he’d never vsited until a week or two before.
This was going to be a long walk. It didn’t matter. I was with my big brother Freddy and we had never in our adult life had time to talk like this. It was just wonderful. He talked about meeting Pope Paul VI. He talked about his job. He told me about some of the things he was writing, and he listened to me. He truly listened to me. He even asked me about my last days at Kent State. He wasn’t home when I came back suddenly from graduate school in 1970. Nobody ever talked to me about what it was like to witness the shooting there. Now in 1975 somebody was talking to me and asking me about my experience.
The third day: We visited a church Freddy really liked in Montmartre: Sacré-Cœur Basilica. It had beautiful art and wasn’t a “touristy” place according to Freddy. That night we went to the Moulin Rouge. I could have stayed just in Montmartre for months and never see all the wonders just in this one section of the city.
The fourth day: I wanted to visit some famous places, including the Eiffel Tower. Freddy did NOT want to go there with me nor to the Arc de Triumph nor Notre Dame Cathedral. I took a day to myself looking at all the touristy stuff. A couple from the mid-west U.S. were at the Eiffel Tower with their camera and offered to take my picture. I was thrilled, I gave them my home address and they said they would send it when they got home.
When I got back from my “Tourist Day” Freddy was slicing long fresh loaves of bread, Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, and Chèvre (Goat) cheese and putting it all on elegant porcelain plates. Plus there were some bottles of very nice wine and a pot of coffee.
I found the photo of Andy Warhol and Liza Minelli on line while writing this. It is titled: "from October, 1975 at a party in Paris." In the background of the photo is Paul Raffo, my brother's partner. Andy Warhol, had flown in JUST for the evening, he arrived with Liza Minelli. I had met him at “Club 54,” with Freddy, when I was a graduate student doing a work project in New York City. I met and got to knew Liza well when I was rehearsing for a play in New York that was never produced. One night after rehearsal, as a lark, we sang together, at Club 54. She was a good friend of both Andy Warhol and my brother.
Robert Saminora, the artist who created the painting I bought along the Seine River, was invited. He was so nicely dressed, that Freddy had to tell me who he was. Some people came and went quickly. For a while it was crowded. The priest from Sacré-Cœur Basilica stopped in. I had never seen Freddy as relaxed and happy as he was that evening.
Liza Minelli and I talked about how different our lives had become. We drank wine together, and late in the evening we sang together (She told me she came there for that one evening just to see me). It was so natural singing and talking: not like a dream.
Early the next morning it was time to leave. Four days in Paris and with Freddy went by slowly and quickly at the same time. So much had been jammed into these days. Now I was going to fly back fly back to Syracuse, NY. Freddy asked if I would mind if he tucked his little painting into the back of my painting so I could take it home with me; he would get it when he came back. I said okay and we tucked it under the brown paper backing on my painting, then taped the paper back. He rode the Metro with me to the airport and waited until I was ready to go on board.
• • • • • •
On the trip home I relived all the things I did and recalled the friends my brother invited to the get-together at the apartment, the Moulin Rouge, and just everything we did in this amazing city.
As I sat in the airplane I remembered the feel of the sidewalks under my feet, brushing up against other people, so many people, going places. Some tourists, some just people coming and going to jobs and shops, people in the evenings, dressed up and busy laughing and talking. All of this bustling around and I was right there with them.
I still remember the smell of the rain in Paris. The fumes from cars, the smells of baked bread, coffee, all the smells of Paris faded away in the rain... except for the flowers. There were flowers in windows, there were street vendors selling flowers. Even along the streets you would see flower boxes outside of stores. The misty rain during my days in Paris and the sweet smell of the flowers have stayed with me over the years. I have never remembered smells from a dream, yet even looking at my painting gives me a sensory memory of Paris in the rain.
My Dream Vacation was over
I got home and my brother Jim was there. He was furious with me for going away. He began to yell at me. I told him I’d forgotten to tell him. (I didn’t forget, I knew he would have not wanted me to do anything like that on the spur of the moment). It should not have made any difference. My mother was not old or feeble, she was still working, and nothing bad had happened. We had called her when I got to Paris. She was happy the flight went so well and that Freddy and I were together.
But Jim still just yelled and yelled. It was terrible. I was never been good at handling it when he yelled at me. I would do anything he wanted me to if he would just stop. When I was a little kid I would put my hands over my ears and pretend I couldn’t hear him. This time I just couldn’t pretend.
I told him I would never go anywhere again, if he would just stop yelling at me.
I told him I would never talk about it again, if he would just stop, I would do anything if he would just stop yelling at me.
Paris was over and I forgot about the
phone call from Freddy and the trip.
Nobody ever said: “You did go to Paris.” Nobody ever said: “You never went to Paris.” Not even Freddy.
I had my painting. I believed Freddy sent it back to me as a gift from Paris. His painting was hidden in the back of my painting and he did take it out when he came back to the US.
When I thought about what I decided was a dream I blamed it all on looking at pictures in books, my French classes in college. I blamed it on Freddy telling me about his Grand Tour of Europe and England. I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t a person who went places.
I never would be.
In 2011 my HSBC bank branch was closed. I no longer had a safe deposit box. I emptied some little treasures I kept there, the picture in the envelope was one of them. The picture of the lady in front of the Eiffel Tower had faded over 36 years. It could have been any youngish woman and certainly it did not look like the old woman I had become. I don’t know what happened to the picture or note after that. I might have scanned it and it might be the picture at the beginning of this story, I am not sure. Maybe I just copied it from somewhere because I had a hat just like that one.
One day I found my passport in an old overnight bag. It was one of those hard cases that ladies used to take on trips. It was red plastic faux leather, I took the passport out of the case and threw it away. I didn’t want to see that in forty years there may have never been a single stamp in my “passport to daydream.”
IN THIS ISSUE–––
• DAVID S. WARREN
• MICHAEL CHAPPELL
• GEORGIA E. WARREN
The Woman Who Wore My Hat
• DAVID S. WARREN
The Third Leg
• FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
Dear Diary, 10,000 B.C.
• DANIEL LOVELL
• DAVID ROLLOW
Glad To Be Unhappy
• RHIAN ELLIS
•NANCY VIEIRA COUTO
Lily, Mister Bluebird, and the Beginning and End of My Singing Career
• GABRIEL ORGREASE
Stormy Daniels, Full Disclosure
• DYLAN THOMAS Before I Knocked
• MARY GILLILAND Vertical Before Dawn Strips the East
• FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
Burn the Timeline
• CHRIS MACCORMICK Disremembrances of the Russian Twilight
• PETER FORTUNATO
• MEMORY NUTS
OREN PIERCE Memory Nuts
R. Saminora, - Paris
Before I knocked and flesh let enter,
With liquid hands tapped on the womb,
I who was as shapeless as the water
That shaped the Jordan near my home
Was brother to Mnetha's daughter
And sister to the fathering worm.
I who was deaf to spring and summer,
Who knew not sun nor moon by name,
Felt thud beneath my flesh's armour,
As yet was in a molten form
The leaden stars, the rainy hammer
Swung by my father from his dome.
(the entire poem)
by Nancy Vieira Couto
"Nancy, I want to ask you something," my cousin Lily said. By the look on her face, I could tell it was important. "How would you like to be a flower girl at my wedding?" she continued. I didn't know what a flower girl was. I had heard people talking about sweater girls, and I sort of knew what they looked like, but I didn't think I could look like that. I was only four years old. "You would wear a pretty gown," Lily said, as if she were reading my mind, "and you would carry a bouquet of flowers." I was still worried about the sweater, but I liked Lily. So I said OK.
(go to story)
by Steve Katz
I was fifteen when my father died. He’d been sick for seven years already, was rarely home, usually bed-ridden in some dreary hospital in the Bronx, or upstate at some rest home. That was treatment for a heart condition at the time — stay in bed! Had my father been around, my fate might have been different. Without a father to slap me into the future I felt like upcoming life had been placed on the far side of a high slick wall. I couldn’t bust through it, nor could I scale it, but against its unyielding concrete I constantly slammed the enigmas of my adolescence.
(go to story)
by David Rollow
The writer sulked. She wasn’t wrong. In the flush of inspiration he’d typed up a report of her most recent visit, while still at the office (he had a day job to support himself), and he had unthinkingly left by the typewriter a second sheet for all to see. He didn’t use a carbon, so to anyone not overwhelmed by curiosity it would have seemed to be only a blank sheet of rough yellow paper. (go to story)
by Annie Campbell
I had gained only five pounds during my pregnancy, but walking in that oven-like heat made me feel like I had gained two hundred. My toes were so hot and swollen they looked like red potatoes and felt like they might explode. I could hardly wait for the heat wave to be over and my mysterious baby top reveal itself.
(go to story)
Review by Gabreal Orgrease
(go to review)
Before I Knocked (go to)
Vertical Before Dawn
Strips the East (go to)
Burn the Timeline (go to)
CHRIS MACCORMICK Disremembrances of the
Russian Twilight (go to)
1984 (go to)
I’d already been in bed four hours before I found out what the mattress pad was for. You don’t ask too many questions about hospital beds, in general, and I didn’t ask any about this one. They let me have a laptop, and the hospital has free wifi. My assumption is those things are supposed to make up for the horror I’m sitting on right now, just barely covered by the ratty mattress pad. (go to story)
The focus of our next Metaphysical Times will be
"Weird Tales" (see full size)
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