A Brush with Royalty

Suddenly, all hell broke loose, with taxi cabs locking their brakes and one swerving right at us.

After college, I shared a railroad flat on East 10th St. with two struggling actors. We worked for a temp service that paid theater people eight dollars an hour. I lied about being an actor, and the money was just enough to pay the rent and buy food.

One of my clients was a wealthy art dealer who lived in the eighties off Central Park West. The lady of the house was a retired supermodel, and one of my projects was building a shoe rack for all the shoes from her fashion shoots. There were shoes with five-inch stiletto heels, zircon-encrusted platform soles, leopard-skin pumps, Gucci sneakers, and (my favorite) a pair of polished red heels.

One morning, I arrived to find the apartment full of tradesmen. People were painting and moving furniture, and the woman explained that there was a party that evening and that I had to run an important errand. She gave me cab fare and a blank check and practically shoved me back out the door.

The day had started out strange. The city was trapped in one of the coldest winters on record. On the train that morning, I sat down by an old wino. The subways were full of street people, and I thought nothing of the old man beside me, who seemed to be sleeping. It was then I noticed that everyone else had moved away toward either end of the car, and in that same moment the smell came up and I looked down to see that the man had no shoes. He was wearing what appeared to be multiple layers of women's stockings. Pus oozed from open sores beneath the sheer nylon. The train stopped at the next station, and MTA officials came aboard to remove the body.

I was hoping to take a moment at the apartment to recover, but instead found myself outside at the curb, hailing a cab. It was a gorgeous day, the park all gray stone and stark woods, the sky bright blue behind cold, hard buildings. As I waited with my hand held high, a woman came up and stood next to me.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose, with taxi cabs locking their brakes and one swerving right at us. I turned, and not three feet away was Jackie Onassis, dressed in a dark blue coat and silk scarf. My jaw dropped—literally.

"Excuse me," I managed to say. I think I may have bowed. She reached out and touched my sleeve. Even through my coat I felt the weight of her hand. "That's all right, dear," she said with a smile. "It happens all the time."

She waited for me to get the car door. I closed it too hard, and the cab sped away.


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