This Magic Moment

September, 1970. I’ve just turned 18, and my “boyfriend” – the much older, married musician I’ve recently decided is a god – has asked me to come to New York City to be with him for a couple of months while he records an album. Am I going to say no?

I arrive at the place he’s been staying. My long hair is already hanging in greasy strands because of the air pollution. My bare feet are dirty black. His hosts, two middle-aged homosexual men, cling together as if in horror as they look me up and down. They have tracks up their arms and look too pale for just-past-summer. That’s before I realize everyone in New York is too pale.

We go to the loft in the garment district arranged for us by his producer. “Loft” means little area cleared out in a SoHo warehouse full of junk, with a bed, a sofa, and a bathroom. With mice that run over your feet when you walk from the bed to the bathroom.

I open my suitcase to find several packets of birth control pills, obviously stuck in there by my mom. My mom, who didn’t say anything when I told her I was going to New York, except “Be careful” and “I love you.”

We spend our nights at The Hit Factory. Take-one of the producer’s favorite song. No, not quite right. Take two. Everybody (but me, who wants to sleep on the leather sofa) snorts a line or two. Take three. The music is getting faster and faster. Am I the only one who can tell? Take four.

“My recording engineer,” the producer boasts to me, while sniffing and wiping his nose, “is a genius. He’s fluent in Mandarin. He’s the wisest man I know.” I look at Mandarin engineer. He stares at me for a long time half-smiling. He looks at my boyfriend, then back at me. He shakes his head slightly. I get the message. But am I ready to listen?

One day, a guy from Jay and the Americans comes by the loft. He practically forces his way in, saying he wants to see me. I don’t remember meeting him. He sings me old Jay and the Americans songs. He smiles and he is the only one in New York who isn’t pale. I like him. He asks where my home is, and if I miss it. My boyfriend kicks him out.

We walk down the city sidewalks, hand in hand, on our way from the loft to the studio. People stare at us. “Look at them,” my boyfriend scoffs. “They envy us because we’re blonde, and they’re all dark.” I’m not sure that’s the reason they stare.

When the recording is done, I go home to Maryland. I grieve because my god has not seen fit to keep me with him in the magic moment that I thought would last forever. I grieve because magic isn’t what I thought it was. And because I have no idea what it is.

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© 1/20/2014, Bette Ojala

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