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A grey smog blanketed New York in a transparent darkness; it rolled over the tawny bricked structures, it slicked over the fuscous roads that littered with the bouquet of trash, that once a held value. It swaddled the maze of sidewalks, platinum pathways. The haze blinded the tops of structures that would scratch the sky, each monument leading them closer to their God. They were like rectangular mountains to reassure the ego. Ethereal lights dancing on bridges pushed through the darkness like a tapestry of a polluted blaze; the condensed sea of headlights and taillights like fireflies in black.
His bronze key was worn, but still had a timeless luster. He slipped it in with soft, large hands, in a movement of flourish and practice. Ricco pushed open the iron obstacle and led his lady through. The lush and tender trees of Gramercy Park guarded the pair from the sun. In a current mix of tweed and wool overcoats, he held her hand. His lady was dressed in an immaculate and mature white dress, cinched and bound with a coarse belt. Her black hair heavily swept to the right. Her matching shoes invoked an invisible pain. Ricco’s frenetic fingers, with perfectly trimmed and glazed nails, took hers and grappled to clasp them. In tandem, one like the stocky corpulent march of a king, and another gliding like a dainty leaf on ice, they walked. Ricco to the left, his lady to the right. He stared dumbly at his lady, tripping over twigs and rocks.
Outside the park, behind the inexorable iron pikes, a spider web of seclusion, the outsider’s eyes glazed with jealousy. “Gramercy’s always so pretty this time of year. What I would give to just walk around there, just for a few minutes, just to say that I did,” said a passer-by. The people outside the park dutifully agreed, each mind constructed a fantasy, each foot walked away.
Selene’s eyes drifted aloofly over of hazel pigeons plucking on smooth bullet-like pebbles, while grass vivaciously grew in between the stony rivers. Ricco stared at his prize.
“Stop,” Ricco uttered, “We’ve been together a -ah- long time, I suppose.” He said clearer, “So long, why, I know your favorite flowers are roses.” Selene looked with melancholy at the nearby lilies. “So long I know your favorite play, Macbeth, ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’, remember?” He said with a faux assurance. A thick silence cocooned the two. He trailed on, frustrated that his attempts at emotion were not met with due adulation. “Petty matters aside. Whose car got you here? Whose key opened up all New York for you? Whose money bought you those shoes, huh? Princess?” Ricco’s bulbous face bloomed in crimson and his claws forced a box in to Selene’s hands.
Soft, near gossamer, pulsing twig like fingers received a dark, richly colored, velvet, palm-sized box. Selene breathed in, savoring the air that could belong to her, the last thoughts she could call her own. Slow hands opened the box. She lit up her eyes, opened her mouth just so, raised her eyebrows just enough so as not to appear obligated, and strained herself to look at Ricco.
So what do you say?” asked Ricco. Selene’s mouth said yes, but her voice could not come through. He slipped on the cold diamond lozenge plated in platinum and rubies. The band was too small. Ricco kept trying, and eventually the ring’s pure ostentatious gleams blinded Selene’s eyes. “Mrs. Selene Ford, rolls off the tongue. Much better than Selene Ouroboros. Much better. Now I have a perfect wife. Perfect!”
Selene recalled a vivid memory.
A deep velvet curtains caped over the black stage she so anxiously stood on, facing a single filled seat. The two eyes scanned her. She smelt the sawdust and paint from behind the walls, the wooden cutouts of woods and trees. Beneath the cruel yellow light, Selene had, a few seconds earlier, cascaded every color, every emotion that could possibly be condensed in tangibility. She read the script with such zeal, and in her opinion, an expression of refined and somewhat raw ethereal essence for one human judge.
“Yeah, that’s uhhm… tone it down a little. It’s not really Ophelia.” The director said. Selene stood, eyes a little wider, feet a little farther apart, and fingers tracing circles rapidly on the palm of her hands.
The director adjusted his glasses. Feeling left her, and the hope of appearing in front of thousands playing out another’s story replaced reality. The thought was like a black stained glass window, dark and beautiful. Being able to live vicariously, adopting Ophelia’s life and loss, the thought made her dizzy. “Oh, that was very good. Callbacks will be out by… oh I forget the date. But, uh, keep those hopes up.” The yellow light died, and she walked off stage.
After the audition a hard wall of cold air greeted her. The blind bustling streets kept pulsing. She was the only thing that changed.
“Good audition today, Selene. Keep practicing, though. You may have your very first role soon.” the director said, his feet drumming along the hard pavement. “Please. Is there anything, anything at all I can do to improve…” her long eyelashes framed pathetic black coins. Her carefully arranged hair, sweeping to the right, blew out of place for a single second.
“No, no. Work on pulling back and-” The director started.
“I’ll do anything.” Selene’s eyes opened wider. She clasped the man’s hands, frantically blinking. Outside, on the cement blocks that Selene could count perfectly, under the Theater sign Selene had grown so used to, memorizing each curve and crack. Selene knew the smell of a small low-budget bakery she had grown so used to, and performed one last piece.
“Mrs. Ford, your husband controls half of- I mean- that’s not the point. Ophelia would call for her hair to be put up in a…” He fumbled for an excuse, a flaw he could cling to. A flaw of hers he could justify his actions. “The bright lights would make you look a little… it’s just not accurate, is all.” The director freed his hands. His face was crimson and his knees weak from holding up the built up pressure in his head. “I have a car waiting for me. Bye, Selene.” He walked off with long, powerful steps, strides of disgust and regret.
“Please!” she shouted in a raw voice, louder than expected. Eyes on the street glued to a grown woman, gushing in tears, shrieking at a man lost in the crowd. They surreptitiously watched, like an audience, the breaking of a human soul.
She looked back into the grey glass of the bakery. She pushed away her black hair. On right side of her porcelain face, under concealer, a circular, but still noticeable, scar starred on her cheek. It was circular and rusty, visible perhaps only in her mind, and to those who truly looked. And perhaps under the cruel yellow light of the stage. It was threaded so far deep into the curtains of her past that she had forgotten its original stitch. It was invisible to the blind and mentally myopic. It was her handicap. Director after director used it as a curtain, never explicitly saying Selene’s acting was atrocious, but considering the scar as an omen of God, prevented her from acting. In back rooms and under whispers she heard the real truth. Banshee, pathetic, juvenile actor.
Silence enveloped Ricco and his lady. Under golden chandeliers, above Persian rugs, and beside pearl encrusted tables, the glimmers, the object’s pure ostentatious gleams blinded her. Outside glass barriers, velvet darkness oozed into the living room. “You saw Miss Rockefeller, why, in my life I have never seen so many blemishes on a woman’s skin!” Ricco babbled on, his cheeks shaking with each syllable, his discolored face alive with delight. “I’m so glad my dear is perfect. Just like a doll.” His lady rested her hand on her right cheek, and pulled her eyebrows up for the effect of appreciation. “Do you want to go to the yachting function this Tuesday? I hear there is going to be a couple, who apparently, have been in…” Ricco trailed of on some precious gossip, his trophy nodded, on some other path not parallel to yachts. He abruptly stopped. Silence settled on the two for some time. “You’re always so quiet- are- are you having an affair?” His eyes quickly searched for signs to cling to, his eyes not full of love- but more of affirmation- scanned his wife. She shook her head no and smiled. A smile she assumed Ophelia would’ve given Hamlet.
“I thought so. You’re far too classy for that.” Ricco was not reassured, for there was never any fear, but more pleased with his own control over someone so impressive to him.
“What if,” she slowly pondered, enunciating every word like a professional actor, “I was not perfect. Had a major flaw, even?” she said. Ricco’s eyes opened a little wider. For her talking was quite a rarity.
“Why, dear, you have none. If you did, we could just as easily visit the best plastic surgeon. He’d fix you up in no time, back to being your usual self.”
The fibers of her past, those memories to hate but to never forget, she couldn’t give them all away. She breathed in, savoring what could be the last true thing of her. She thought, ideas of her own, one person could not cut her foundations. It would be like cutting off a tree’s roots, and letting it die, or worse, be dependent on a shallow pool of water in a pot. Selene lifted the coal strands off her face. It was still there, the pure simple flaw blinded his eyes. He had never noticed before, never questioned. Just a hollow object floating above an ocean, never looking down or sinking into deeper places.
We can have doctor Schurz take a look at that. It is rather disgus-.” Selene stood up abruptly, took Ricco’s wallet and left. The ostentatious gleams of the pearls, gold figurines and material distractions were no longer blinding her.
The bronze key was worn, but still lustrous. With no loved ones to pity her, she found herself back in Gramercy Park. She slipped it in with thin fingers, with perfectly polished and trimmed nails. She walked along the two-dimensional landscape, one so frequently walked, but she so rarely walked in true tranquility, until a statue emerged.
Under the limitless dark sky Edwin Booth, a prominent marble figure stood poised in a harmonious juxtaposition on a black canvas. He was a famous actor, who could have been Selene’s Hamlet. She could have loved and grieved for her own Hamlet. The single most wrecking choice of her life, she’d take with a grain of salt, a spec of dust, and a single word in a script. He stood, in an air of grandeur, in a circular base. She traced the rivets of her circular scar.
She thought it’d never end, Ricco, failure. Going on forever, like waves would punctually crash against a shore. She was an accomplished actress. Edwin Booth preformed as Hamlet in front of thousands. Selene played happiness in front of one. Perhaps she could be considered a great performer.
With that, she eagerly counted the cement blocks, until she would be able smell a small low budget bakery, and count the cracks on a worn Theater sign.