1958, Greenwich Village, corner of West Tenth Street. Cyn's Place.
People on the street look in, look away and sometimes look in again. I can always tell the ones who are going to come inside. Usually thin people, or their tops are thin, so they’re going to look good in leotards.
They start with black but if they’re dancers, they want other colors too. Magenta and navy are the favorites; now and again somebody wants white. I have a lot of other colors too but those are the Big Requests.
Ruby’s got a cold, or so she says, and asked me to write something for her today. I don’t like to talk but I do like to write, which is why I agreed. She thought it might be a chance for me to say stuff I don’t usually get to say. I thought about it and decided maybe she was right. So here we are.
There was a big storm last night and everyone lost power. The restaurant people are upset but if you sell clothes like me, you can still open up. I swept like always and put some scented candles around the store. Once I lit them, people started peering and gathering. It’s just a matter of time before some of them come in.
Since the walls are all black in here, the candles make it look all boheme, especially with the red swirly mural on the back wall. Ruby’s mom Nell did that for me. I like Little Nell. Tall and thin, with long curly hair, kind of coppery. She calls it sandy brown, but there’s a tinge of red all through and she could play it up more, if she wanted to. She’s kind of busy though, a little sad, I think. Doesn’t go in for fashion much.
Ruby, on the other hand, wants leotards, ballet shoes and thousands of black jeans (even though she has three already.) I know she wants a red top and hoopy earrings, but she’s going to have to save up for them. I gave her a pair of shoes once, but can’t afford anything more.
There’s a couple outside I’ve seen before and they look they want to come in here. The woman is trying to get her man to agree. She tried on a pink leotard the last time she was in here. I can see red, but why would anyone want pink? She must be a dancer. They have the best bodies, but no sense of style. I know because I study at the Fashion Institute and even they say pink is for children. Unless it’s accented. Accents are fine.
What I really want is to open a bigger store with a spiral stairway and have fashion shows in here. Not just leotards, but all kinds of clothes—sheaths and heels and blouses you can knot at the waist with rolled up sleeves. I’d pair them with denims. Different days you’d have different colors; say, a black day, white day, green day, purple day. I told Ruby and she’s already angling to model. I think her mom would be better though. So tall.
People hear me talk about this and they say, Cyn, it sounds like a lot of work. But if you really love something, it’s not like work to you. I mean, yes, it’s work but so what? I’m not lazy. A lot of people think Beats like me sit around all day doing nothing. But that’s not how it is for any of the Beats I know. They’re writing, painting, doing music and stuff. Just because they don’t get up at six in the morning and go to some job on Madison Avenue doesn’t mean they don’t work. That goes for me, too.
And by the way, those people on Madison Avenue? They come down here too. They look at the clothes in here like they’ve never seen them before. You can see they’re trying desperately to be hep, hip, whatever, especially on weekends when they’re not at work. I think it’s funny, because they always act like they’re in the jungle or something. “Oh, look, Susie, what is that? Is it a purse? You’re kidding!”
But then they buy that purse and a leotard too. Someone’s even coming in here now and I bet they’re from uptown. I can just tell. Now that couple is coming inside, too, and I bet the dancer lady is going to wheedle her man into getting her something. Maybe I should hide the pink leotards, you think?
Just for fun.