Danseur On Tulane Avenue

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic


Non-fiction.

Submitted: May 25, 2018

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Submitted: May 25, 2018

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Please Note:  This short story is based on an actual person and our true conversations back in the early 1980s. I do not care about anyone's sexual preferences or identity.  I don't care what people are doing, as long as they aren't bothering me. The dialog is nearly verbatim, and I am only reporting -

 

Danseur on Tulane Avenue

 

By Alexander Guinevere Kern

Copyright, 1982

 

So . . . I lived with this man ballerina bastard down in New Orleans, in a peeling bungalow near Tulane University. He lured me away from my bastard woodsman husband - and I figured: Why not?

 

At least he didn’t have dead deer heads hanging off the wall and taxidermy stuffed duck lamps on his end tables. He hadn’t banged his secretary on the construction site’s cable trays - thirty feet off the floor, their yellow safety belts stretched to their maximum capacity.

 

Raymond was smooth, quirky and maverick, like a Zoot Suit, a young Nureyev. In fact, Nureyev craved Raymond’s attributes: lissome dancer’s body, inflated lips, dark, molded hair, and latex-white skin. Rudy like to send Raymond plane tickets, asking him to perform a United Airlines Grand jeté up to NYC and perform a pas de deux. Skin to white-hot skin, no doubt.

 

“I don’t like him,” Raymond said. “He can’t leap anymore, and his ass is down to his knees and he’s still filling houses. I think he should retire and save his dignity.”

 

Raymond danced.  He liked to dance nude around the house; he was in love with Raymond. Directly in front of our hallway mirror, he’d strike a pose and flicker his dark, Russian eyes like a geisha. Sometimes I’d catch him examining his brilliant flesh by candlelight - it seemed he would stare at himself all night long.

 

“Look at the shadows of my muscles!” he would say in his breathy way. “I’m just so perfectly cut. Barre buff!”  He was in lust with Raymond.

 

But not with me. Soon after I moved in, I learned from mutual gal pals at Housermann’s jewelry store that Raymond still fondled the memory of his previous horizontal tango partner.  

 

“Well,” I thought, “they were together eleven years.”

 

Their intimate history did not, however, airbrush the fact Paula was a rat-faced, twig-ribbed, flat-chested ballerina with delusions of prima.  Furthermore, she was illiterate.  While plowing through the disordered walk-in closet we used for my daughter’s bedroom, I found shoe boxes full of her love letters to Raymond stored on shifting shelves.

 

He would read them aloud, his geisha eyes marinating in dramatic tears.  My impulse was not lugubrious, I barely bridled my laughter. She could not complete a full sentence, seriously. And her world view, her religious beliefs, her naive and shallow perception of her life and her relationships, were those of a child. At thirty-three years of age, Paula was still a mere pretentious parvenu - a wannabe Balanchine, who taught ballet to preteens after she bombed out of New York. For additional jingle she sold designer clothes to the New Orleans Smart Set Society matrons at the local Mall.

 

I’ll say one thing for Paula; her cavernous frame was an impressive coat hanger. She should have been a model. But whatever. To sum: for no reason anyone could decipher, Raymond considered Paula to be the One Great Love. That’s what he would say, dribbling his salty tears all over her old press photos, “She was the One Great Love.”

 

Raymond shucked it up in a three-piece tailored Undertaker black suit and pink tie act and worked in a well known jewelry store between performances. I was his assistant Sales Girl. He exhibited our gleaming wares with hands as expressive as a mime’s. Women loved him.  A Russian ballet bud of his stopped by one day and said in a hush: “Those feet, in those shoes . . . and no one know?”

 

Yes, Raymond could dance. He obtained the premier roles due to the fact he “could do the heavy lifting,” according to him.

 

He confided in me that he’d developed a jones for Julie, another Sales Girl. “Because she has the Three B’s - Blue eyes, Big Boobs and No Brains.”

 

Lifting one poised mime hand to his preciously damp forehead, he would sigh, “But I’m in love with *someone else*. It’s so difficult with Julie - our auras were shooting sparks just now. But I cannot let go of HER sweet face, I can never forget HER.”

 

Paula with the reeking feet and bent, bloody toes.  Erg.  While putting away Raymond’s clean underwear I I found a pair of her thin, age-stiffened ballet shoes, with the hard nose for dancing en pointe.  Ratty pink ribbons stained with  . . . something.  There were several old, soiled bandaids stuffed in the toe portion of one of them. Pink handwriting, pink envelopes, pink ballet slippers, pink blood. 

 

“You can never fully understand,” he pleaded. “She was precious, lying on the floor in her Laura Ashley dress and carefully using her crayons to stay inside the lines of the pictures in her coloring books. So innocent.  30 years old and happy as she could be.” 

 

Paula with the hair down to her nonexistent derrière - Raymond explained all ballerinas grew long hair.

 

“For all those roles, ballerinas require different hair styles for their characters.  She had such a long, thin neck. I loved her earlobes, soft and slightly fuzzy.”

 

Tears danced softly on my cheeks as I swallowed my hard laughter.

 

Yah, Long-haired, fuzzy-necked Paula . . . whom he had not seen, nor heard from, in over a year. Paula who told him she planned to marry a jeweler 15 years her senior. Paula who “possessed the libido of a mummy.”

 

Clearly Raymond had an insatiable necrophiliac craving for the bejeweled Dead. 

 

“She didn’t really love sex. I would hold her darling body while I jerked off,” he said. “It was so meaningful, that she was there, with me, in those moments.”

 

I stared and declined to comment on his Too Much Information confession. The Mummy and the Danseur, a novel version of The Nutcracker Suite.

 

Ray had contracted herpes, so he was often jerking off his drawers to make sure he wasn’t having an outbreak. He examined his tube with great care, to ascertain whether those pink spots were freckles or lesions.

 

Paula who had slept with several other ballerinas while spurning sputum with Raymond, because “Everyone in Ballet is gay. It’s part of our heritage.”

 

Then she comforted his mashed ego by saying, “I didn’t get much out of it, Ray.  Their bosoms were too . . . pancake-y, if you know what I mean!  I don’t care too much for you, either, though.”

 

Whatta woman.

 

Syrup, Raymond?

 

Our watch repairman told me Paula was ugly, arrogant, dense and bland. 

 

“She needs a new dial,” he said. “She always walked around with her schnoz hoisted in the air, like she was waiting for God to hook her bony ass into Heaven.”

 

Well, Paula never showed her skeletal derrière around our bungalow, even if Raymond was forever sobbing over his latest literary attempt to regain her affections. “My darling, I can’t believe I don’t see your precious face next to mine when I lie down at night. When was the last time we tried to speak?”

 

We’d get those letters back, with “Return To Sender” inscribed on the envelope in her pink hippy-chirpy rounded handwriting. Raymond would flop his face into his designer pillow case and weep. Definitely a bit effete, that man.  His sheets were decorated with the Deco faces of teary-eyed mimes.

 

Paula was correct about the gay thing: everyone in the Ballet Troupe was bisexual, at the very least. They would walk right up to me at parties, hand extended, and lips in pre-smooch position. “Hi, I’m Gorgio, I’m GAY.”  Like his or her sexual preference was a vital part of their identity and he or she wanted you to be aware of those preferences second only to the formal announcement of his or her name.   Like a bold Stage Intro or Splashy Movie Poster.  I shook hands with them, but did not care to know their private, personal, lascivious inclinations, of whatever kind or nature. 

 

They never asked my name and I did not tell them voluntarily.

 

Somehow, “Hi, I’m Alex. I’m a girl.  I voluntarily share bed and bungalow with a herpes-afflicted male ballerina - ever since I found out my Louisiana Deer-Slayer Spouse was letting his secretary pull his trigger,” sounded  evasive and fictional.

 

Raymond thought I was a nebbish prude.  “You don’t know what it’s like,” he whispered sotto voce, “dancing all day next to those sweaty, perfect bodies.”

 

No, I guess I didn’t — even though I had studied dance for five years. The sight of two-hundred and fifty bun-headed fem bods was not about to pop MY pilot light. I’d never been introduced to so many conceited, self-adoring people in all my life. You’d think their every existence would violate some sacred principle of Physics, such as Nature Abhors A Boor.

 

But I did like Raymond. He was a hothouse flower, a Caravaggio boy beauty. He liked to make oatmeal and frothy cappuccino and then he’d serve it on our “Third World Dining Table,” which was an Indian silk-screened wallhanging spread out on his grungy carpet floor.  His bird Ronin would hop about, helping himself to whatever we didn’t consume. 

 

Ronin slept on the back of the bathroom door inside a towel. I had to be careful not to slam the door when I entered to use the commode.  Raymond rarely shut the door when he used the toilet.  HIs elegant brother Robin bellowed at him once in his delicious Alabama drawl, “Are you a damn Horse? Where’s your manners?  You are an uncouth, uncivil son of a bitch!”

 

Ray and Robin were raised in Alabama and that molasses accent decelerated their speech to a dreamy, undulant pace. I loved to listen to them talk. Their father was the last chaplain to serve at Pearl Harbor. His sons were heathens, in his opinion.  No redemptions. Robin’s wife was a rank psychotic; she controlled his every breath, from non-dancing toes to his sweep of blond hair, because he worked as a Teller in her father’s bank. She refused to get a job. Instead she sat in their costly-appointed antebellum mansion with their young son Taylor and plotted ways to make Robin miserable. Yet - Robin was wise to her schemes. He planned to join the French Foreign Legion. We would discuss the vital details of his escape plan while she left frantic messages on Ray’s answering machine.

 

Robin liked me. He kept reminding Raymond of my finer qualities, such as the ability to string together two sentences without giggling or doing a spontaneous plie.

 

“Yes, but she isn’t Paula,” Ray would pout. He could pout well and prettily. The local Thai restaurant was operated buy a diminutive collector-doll Asian babe and she absolutely treasured Ray. We’d eat there, for free, quite often. He carried a leather strapless purse and wore pink plastic sandals, but women still sang the Siren song in his ear. Must’ve been that perfect body.

 

New Orleans is smoky, deep, mystic, arcane, demonic, spooky - opulent as orchids and secretive as spies. But one day, one molten summer day, when the pavement steamed your slippers and the magnolias unleashed their scent like holy innocence, Raymond left. Sometime while I was at work, he pulled up a rented U-Haul and took everything in the apartment - including all my possessions.  33 1/3 records and posters from the 70s, several French Provincial chairs and an assortment of stuff I’d grabbed when I abandoned the trailer I’d formally shared with my estranged, rifle-carrying Redneck Darlin’.

 

Ray boxed up all of Paula’s childish honey-child epistles, still in their baby pink envelopes, her coloring books, his books on Dentistry, his leg weights, his workout clothes, his Mummy-loving black professional work suits, “Those Shoes And Nobody Know” and his ballet slippers, even our Third World Dining Table Former wallhanging. 

 

Raymond did leave my clothes, my daughter, her toys and our soon-to-be gypsy baggage.  I guess my dresses weren’t stage worthy and although he once tried on one of my bras, it didn’t fit him. Too flat-chested.

 

He left me no money at all. Not even taxi fare.

 

His farewell, fuck off note said he was moving to Baton Rouge and wanted to learn to be a diver, so he could investigate shipwrecks, and he really wanted to be a dentist, and he needed to find Paula at last, and rescue her from her fiancé, just as he would rescue Ronin if he flew into the sea.

 

I swear, that’s what he Mont Blanc fountain-penned on his dignified vellum paper. A dry, buff-colored piece of paper, fragile as a mime’s tears - for once not a tear-stained phrase among the fatuous lies.

 

Script like that of a Victorian Gentleman of Letters - I could nearly smell cigar smoke.  Something dancing, burning, in and around the words.

 

He felt that I “owed it to him to relinquish my record collection and other sundries, as he had paid my rent for three weeks.”  My record collection alone was worth more than his apartment. 

 

He once told me he was the only straight male in the ABT, but my subsequent enemies taunted me with the possibility I might have “caught AIDS” from Ray.

 

Back then, AIDS was just a rumor and no Medical reports had been issued or published as to the cause or origin of what would become a viral global scourge for many years.

 

My enemies - they kept prayin’.

 

Ray did catch a spicy case of herpes from a lesbian whore in New Orleans.

 

But he never did give it to me.

 

What Raymond gave to me was this: Don’t dally with Dancer dangers who love prissy pink ballerinas, and stay away from men who cry like a girl, wear pink plastic sandals, and carry a blazing torch for past-dated women . . . 

 

Once, he brought back from the jewelry store, and allowed me to try on, a 15 carat pillow-cut diamond set in platinum, bracketed by finely cut brilliants and baguettes. A diamond as big as Betrayal. As white as Raymond’s exquisite bod.

 

I couldn’t sleep - it was impossible. I stared at it all night long.

 

 


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