my friend and i were walking up 3rd avenue from midtown some time ago, when the weather was warmer than it is now. the sun was waning and everything was on the verge of changing into another season, but not really. everyone was out on the street all over the place with their kids and their dogs and their kids on tricycles and whatnot. like the sidewalk was their backyard. it wasn't particularly crowded, but there were people everywhere.
we were on our way to ej's luncheonette for dinner. they have great chili, texas style.
i can't remember what we were talking about. what i do remember is that this woman sort of materialized out of the crowd and kept a steady pace directly in front of us. she wore her hair in a bun and she was terribly pasty and she looked taller than she actually was, in those strappy silvery sandals. as the gauzy dress swirled around her, my friend and i fell silent. and then we looked at each other with the same thought hovering over our heads in one collective glassy thought-bubble: we could see straight through the dress! we could see her thin flat backside and the flab that twitched with every step. we could see that thong that was so much darker than the dress that for a minute there, i figured she must have wanted everyone to see her backside. we could see everything.
i'm going to say something, i whispered. no, you're not, my friend hissed, grasping my arm. (clearly, this wasn't the first time he'd done that.) what's she gonna do? go home and change?
and i said, well, yeah. so then he countered with, you don't think she knew what she looked like when she left the house? i thought about that one. i mean, who doesn't have a set of flesh colored bra and panties? don't they make slips anymore? didn't all of that gauze come with some sort of filmy underlay, or something?
i felt sorry for her. i thought, that could be me, walking down the street naked. did other people notice? were we the only ones who could see this spectacle? did anyone else care? i would want someone to tell me something. i told that to my friend. he made a face and shook his head, saying no you wouldn't.
so the three of us walked along in grand strides and as we did, my friend explained that in polite society, people wouldn't say or do certain things. like yell in the street. or draw attention to themselves. or be rude to anyone, in any way. that's the behavior of true aristocracy -- but the thing is, they have enough handlers to insulate them from having to interact with people and live in situations that might compell them to raise their voices above a conversational tone. they never have to yell at anybody. that's somebody else's job.
as i told my friend my favorite story about jackie o. that epitomized this way of life, the visibly naked lady took a right turn and disappeared into a movie premiere private party that left us not wondering who she was. and i was left to wonder: what would my life be like if i behaved like an aristocrat?