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"Tears on my Pillow"

that old song by Little Anthony and the Imperials but this is a dream which is really a poem in which I find myself in a country club, but more like an officer's club; lots of polished wood doors, red velvet, ornate drapes, massive chandeliers.. very sparsely furnished; just small polished tables with a single small lamp on each. Rather than wallpaper, there were portraits painted directly on the walls, all the same muted, conservative colors; paintings of women who once attended social functions at this club. I walked through room after room after empty room, past hundreds of these paintings; profile shots of women with sprayed hair, all facing the same direction, wearing pale blue or pale pink starched suits, all terribly old-fashioned looking. All had the same smile, like Stepford wives. Or Breck girls. Some wore wire-rim glasses, others a Rose Marie bow in their sprayed hair. Some paintings had a group of three or four women in them, others just one or two. Some were just busts, others were full-body paintings wherein one women would be seated, arms demurely in her lap, surrounded by a small group of standing women.

In one large room there was a large TV screen showing videos of young starlets in their prime, singing big-band-style numbers. And they were grouped by decade. In the 40's area there was Peggy Lee singing on a black & white tv. In the 50's area of the room it was Ann Margaret. I saw Connie Francis, and a young Bette Midler with perfect skin, lightly-rouged cheeks, sparkling white teeth. At one point I said, Oh, that's Sandra Bernhard, I believe- I must be getting closer to the 1980's; and though no one else was in the room with me, I felt as though I was being watched. And judged.

And then I realized that all the women in the paintings were dead; and that they were also grouped by decades. So that the women in the 50's area wouldn't have known the women in the 80's area even though they mostly looked alike. As if-- no matter what time they lived in, they lived the same life. They played a subservient role to their husbands, and would come to the club dressed in their suits, to commisurate with one another; to dance with their husbands and possibly feel good about their lives, even if only for the length of a song.

I rounded a corner of this one large room, with a full bar, and here were these blue velvet-lined boxes of musical instruments- Benny Goodman clarinets in one, Al Hirt trumpets in another; xylophones lined up against knotty-pine walls.. glittery, sparkly Gene Krupa drum sets lined up against another wall.

And I sobbed, softly, seeing all those untouched instruments, knowing they had once filled this club with dreamy music; the bar once serving sloe gins & pink ladies to pale women in pale suits dancing with their self-important, uniformed husbands.

I started up a huge, panelled staircase.. old people standing around, immaculately dressed.. I think these were the few that were still alive. Some of them stood by paintings of themselves when they were young and beautiful. A woman said to me, Oh my dear, shouldn't you be bald by now? as I passed her on the staircase.

I laughed and replied Perhaps. I will be.. any day now.

ro'ss



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