THE GREY SKIES and the slow rays of the morning sun welcome my face as I lay in bed with the covers wrapped around my body. I remember now that dust particles would greet my nostrils and I hated it in the first two weeks after settling into my apartment. Florence, my next-door neighbor, has dealt with the same problem but had learned to get used to it since it’s an old building. As I yawned and stretched out my arms dramatically, my nose begins to tickle and itch before suddenly a sneeze erupts out of the blue.
“Achoo!” I sneezed in a high-pitched squeal and covering my nose with my elbow as I jerked up forward. I still hate it though but I shook it off as I climb out of bed to start my morning routine. I knew that my hair is going to be a struggle so I decided not to worry about that for now and get onto breakfast.
I do often miss my old life in Ireland and life with my family since the war was going on. I was hesitant to immigrate to America for a new life after turning 20-years-old as I am now 22. As my feet bounce up against the creaky wooden floorboards, carrying me towards the bathroom. I flipped on the lights to see myself in the mirror, “Ugh,” I groaned in disgust of my morning looks whenever my hair was disoriented in many different places that’ll leave me feeling unsatisfied, and usually I would get the sniffles of displeasure. I take my time to brush my teeth then get started on making pancakes for breakfast.
The day after I moved into the apartment, Florence had me come over one morning since I was so busy moving stuff around the room and introduced me to the Aunt Jemima pancake mix. I never heard of the American way of making pancakes since I was new to this until she taught me how to do it normally rather than doing it in my Irish ways. I added in a little force with my stirs in the bowl full of dough-like batter, gripping hard on the spoon to add more muscle to the motion. After pouring the first mix into the slowly steaming pan, I have enough time to set up my plate at the table then going back to the stove to grab my spatula. I begin to hum as I flipped over the fluffy pancake on its good side then waited again. This should taste good as Florence’s when it’s ready. Two flips later and counted three in total after scraping some butter across the golden brown surface on each one. Feeling relaxed, I sat down at the table with a glass of orange juice beside my plate and next to the small canister of syrup. My dinner roots came to me as I started saying my grace before eating. The moment as the fork that pitched two stacks of the syrup-covered food enters my mouth, it takes me back to how my mother used to make them years before I left Ireland. She would always remain focused on what she was doing.
She’d tell me that to get the look I want, I would have to stay on target. I do hope that my letter to my parents gets there to Ireland soon... I miss them so much. Shortly after breakfast, I brushed my teeth and wrapped my hair into a messy bun then going back to my bedroom to pick out my clothes for today. I pick out a nice white blouse, a navy blue sweater, a long tan brown skirt, and my oxford heels. After getting dressed, I went back to my hair and decided to just leave it down but make sure to brush it thoroughly. An hour later goes by when I grabbed my purse then headed out of the door. As I waltz down the stairs, a smile perks up on my face in reaction to seeing my good friend at oof ne the mailboxes. “Good morning, Florence,” I greet her and she turns around and looks up to see me then smiles while sweeping back one of her curls.
“Good morning, Evelyn,” she says back when I climb down from the last step of the stairs and I hug her. The aroma of her French lavender scented perfume enters my nose and indeed it smells nice.
“Where are you off to?” Florence asks me as she closes her mailbox and locks it with a silver key.
“On a morning walk to get out of the apartment again,” I reply with a tiny chuckle at the end.
“I see and dust particles too?” she asks while folding her arms.
“Yep,” I say.
“Nothing but a good dusting around the place can’t fix,” Florence put a hand on my shoulder and gives it a good squeeze. “I’ll see you later, Evelyn,” she waves as she ascends the staircase.
The warm air soaks into my skin as I step outside of the apartment complex to catch a few breaths before walking. Now and then, the streets were always busy and even hectic than life was back at home... New York is always engaging. When I first arrived here in the city, my priority was to find a job that’ll pay me enough money to buy stuff at the right price. I’ll no longer use pounds here and had to have Florence show me uses of the U.S dollars as they call it. Plus, I believe that I have enough to buy some more food to fill up my refrigerator and a little bit more on the furniture. I check my purse to search for my wallet to see how much money I have now. Fifty dollars ... I might as well go on a budget. I had to thank my neighbor for showing me the ropes around the American currency. As I put my wallet back into my purse, the sound of a harmonious tune coming from the other side of the street. It sounds like the song that my mother sings when she was sweeping in the kitchen. It’s piano playing and whoever plays must be truly gifted. I hum along with the notes and it sends me into a daydream that I’ve dreamt before. A man who was deeply focused on playing his tunes right sways with the beat as I do the same and carefully walking across the street, keeping in tempo with my feet. ”Dream a little dream of me,” I sing a little quiet as I got closer but not too close to throw him off his focus.
There were numerous amount of people crowding him and handing him money as they go amongst themselves. The pianist must be trying to get by but... he doesn’t seem to look like an unfortunate man. Florence did inform me that here in America, they’ve forgotten about the social classes ever since the Titanic went down. The friends that my parents knew have died while immigrating here that year. If the social classes were coming back, the man would probably be in the middle class since he dresses up so nicely. The man looks to be my age but slightly older so he must be a college student or something. Few minutes after he finishes playing on the old piano that is laid up against a building. He gathers himself to stand then catches a glance at me. I don’t know why he’s looking at me with those beautiful eyes and his peach-fuzzed beard makes him appear of a gentleman. Not knowing what to do, I looked down and walked away as fast as my legs can carry me. Why did I walk like that? I can see his reaction is going to be confused after seeing my doing that in such a rude manner and I shouldn’t have walked off like that.
Later on, I stopped by the market to purchase some bread and then by the hardware store to buy a ribbon for my typewriter. It is now 11:50 as being read on my pocket-watch from my purse. There’s a nearby bench that I can sit down on to relax for a while and clear my head. Picturing the pianist and the song that he was performing was replaying in my mind again then I started singing to myself. I was a bit quiet though and didn’t want anyone to hear me as I’m doing it. I wrapped my arms around my body to get some little warmth as it was getting kind of cool... a bit too cool while I’m singing. I pursed my lips to ignore the aching pain from walking on my heels nearly all morning and I almost wanted to hate it but it’s just that I have to get used to anyways. Figuring out what to do from here... I could go back to the complex and spend some time with Florence but she may be busy. But if I try to ask her what is she doing for today, maybe I can give her a call. I begin to look around for the nearest telephone booth and much to my little surprise, there wasn’t one in my sight.
Then I stand up and gathered my things before starting my search for someone who knows where a telephone booth. Some nice people say that there’s one not too far which is only two buildings down towards the Broadway theatre. Broadway. I’ve heard many good things about it since the theatre never had any plays there nor any performances. Florence has told me about it many times before as it was a very big building that could probably fit over a thousand people in there which astonishing in every way. I take my time following the direction given to find the booth with my hands wrapped around the strap of my purse and my skirt swings from side to side as my legs were moving from underneath them. After fantasizing about the life of being an Irish Broadway singer, I arrived at the location of a red telephone booth and I was pretty glad that I remembered the directions. There wasn’t a door as in what I expected as I inspected the booth from the other side. After poking around, I went inside, dialed Florence’s phone number by running my finger around through the hole over the numbers, and then waited for an answer. It didn’t take long for the end of the phone line to click and I’m no stranger to using a telephone especially in America anyways but not using the booth.
“Hello?” I speak with a cracked voice.
“Hello, who’s this?” the person on the other asks, and I can easily tell that this is Florence speaking.
“Evelyn?” I answer as I wrap my finger around the short-length phone cord.
“Oh hello, I was kind of hoping that you would be calling. Is everything ok?” she asks after she chuckles.
“Well, I was wondering if you’re available this evening and then I thought that you would be busy all day,” I explain to her while leaning against the wooden wall of the booth.
“No, not busy but I’m going to a jazz event tonight, do you want to come?” she asks me. I think to myself for a moment and though I’ve never been to an event nor listened to jazz back in Ireland. “You do seem to have a thing for music, don’t you?” she adds.
“I mean, I’ve never listened to jazz before neither going to an event,” I announce, twiddling with my fingers nervously.
“That’s a reason for you to come with me! It’ll be fun, I promise,” she suggests and I do admit that going there will be an excuse to not be alone tonight like always.
“Alright, but what should I wear? I don’t think that I have enough money to buy a dress,” I tell her, and I know for a fact that fifty dollars short aren’t going to get me anywhere.
“Don’t worry Evelyn, I’ll take care of it,” Florence offers.
“Oh, thank you, Florence,” I sigh of relief before speaking again, “I’ll see you then!” I hang up the phone.
After my slow walk from the telephone booth to save some time for myself and the rest of the day, I stopped by the piano again to look back on what happened today. I wish that man would come back and play some more... he’s a very good player and I wished that I could’ve given him some money instead of just standing there. Though, the piano that he was playing on this morning was pretty old that probably why it sounded like it was out of tune. I was battling myself to either touch the keys or leave it be because it belongs to someone else but... why was the man playing on it? It might be his so I’ve decided to leave it alone. I walk back to my apartment complex to go check on the mail and I have a feeling that I should’ve done that this morning before going on my daily morning walks. I step into the warm air-conditioned room and close the door behind me then took off my sweater. ”#12,” the mailbox reads and it corresponds with my room number since it’s quite easy for me to just get up and go downstairs to retrieve my mail from the box. When I opened the box with the same silver key that Florence was using, as much as I was expecting... the letter to my parents is still in there since yesterday. I huffed with displeasure as I close up the box then locking it with the key and placed it back where it was. With the bag that has my two loaves of bread in my hand, I trudged up the stairs and with the mindset to take off my shoes as soon as I walk through the front door of my room.
Finally, I make it through the front door and plopped down on the couch after setting down my things. I lay there for a while and begin taking off my shoes and placed them next to my wardrobe. My heels were ringing with pain and I hated the fact that I could’ve worn flats... but still I have to learn to accept it as it was my choice. My stomach begins to grumble, interrupting my relaxing paradise, making it short-lived that I would have to get up and fetch myself something to eat from the refrigerator. ”Just a few more minutes,” I thought to myself as I’m lying face down on my belly, covering my face with my arms. I eventually get up and saunter over to the kitchen fridge to hunt for something to eat. I felt the cold air blow towards my face as I opened the refrigerator door and looked up and down for something to eat. There was a plate of mashed turnips that I didn’t get to finish from yesterday and there was not much left to scrap off my plate. I took out the plate from the fridge and close the door with one hand then set the plate down on the counter next to the stove. Even though the Americans use their newly invented microwave, I prefer to use the stove from now on because I know that it’ll cost money to have it installed into the apartment let alone finding one that I can afford since some can be expensive now so I used the stove to reheat them. To give flavor, I’ve added a pinch of cinnamon and a small slice of butter as the warmth of the pan melts them both on top of the mashed turnips, this is what Florence adds in hers when she had me over about two weeks ago.
“Now, I just need to give it time,” I say to myself as I step back up against the kitchen counter.
I do have some time to clean a few dishes in which there is not much in the sink to clean. I begin picking up a few plates, turning on the sink, and watch the water splash the surface of the food-stained plate. I’ve only done five so far in my spare time as the stove was slow with the heat. If I had enough money, I can at least afford to pay a repairman who works on those types of things such as the stove or any other kitchen appliance. I do often wish that this thing would heat up a little faster since the smell of the sprinkled cinnamon was enticing. A few minutes later, the food was finally warmed up for me to eat as I picked up a clean plate from the cabinet above me. The invisible smoke of heat rises after I turn off the stove and scrape off the mashed turnips from the skillet with my spatula. I sit down at the dinner table after turning on the lent record player that one of the tenants gave me as a welcome gift to America. It did make me feel like I was at home when the old Irish tunes were turned on... this was so many years ago and it was probably about 27 years, I’m guessing? As the music was playing, I keep thinking about the pianist over and over again as I close my eyes at the sweet taste of the butter and cinnamon. It feels like a terrible combination to compare someone whom I’ve seen with my own two eyes and to my mashed turnips. Yet, he does seem to be alluring but not seductive at all. He does have such a marvelous talent.
Before I left Ireland, I’ve always wanted to see other people or do the unexpected, go to places I’ve never been,n or maybe meet someone. There, I can expand my definition of singing... there are many reasons why I want to sing especially on Broadway. My mother used to sing to me whenever I was afraid or as a way to tuck me into bed and thought it soothes me every time. I don’t quite remember any of the songs from before and I do wish that I could remember them all at once but my adult mind is foggy at the thought of them. After lunch, I am sitting back down on the couch, feeling undecided about what to do now. But another song pops on and I immediately begin to waltz around the living room while being aware of furniture around me. The music had carried me around for a while now and it’s so... comforting yet it’s like it can take you anywhere... this is part of the reason why I’m so in love with music and the joy of singing. It is mostly my mother’s beautiful voice that made me want to do it. When I told Florence about my passion for singing and the wonders of music, she called me a stargazer. I had no idea what she meant by calling me that... I mean, it means that some people like to look at the stars for fun or science as in astrology.
I guess in her term, it’s another word for dreamer which I can take as a compliment. The trumpet plays a unique role to put the audience into some sort of hypnotic waltz and then it leaves you breathless until the very end of the song. I open my eyes as the song ends and there’s a knock at the door. I go answer it while pushing away the unwanted wrinkles of my shirt. When I open the door and am excited Florence welcomes me with a hug and I’m glad to see her. “I’ve found the perfect dress for you,” she squeals, keeping her hand around my arms and I am more than likely going to love it because whatever it is... I do need to get out so more and be wise with my hobbies.
“Really? Where is it?” I ask as my eyes wander around her looking for the dress.
“Oh! Come with me, ” she motions me to follow her.
She takes me by the hand and I close the door behind me. We hastily skip to her and she opens the door with beams of excitement which leaves me curious enough to know what it is. Before I can ask her another question, she blindfolds my eyes with her hands and instructs me to walk forward. Florence must’ve found the perfect dress for me so I might as well feel excited too. “Almost there...” she informs me as we keep walking until we come to a complete halt. “And stop!” she says as she lightly pulls me back and I nearly stumble over my feet. The moment her hands uncovers my eyes, they widen at the sight of the most gorgeous dress that I’ve ever seen. The dress was blue covered in poka-dots and around the waistline, there’s a little bow on the side. There was a small slit in the front and I hope it’s not going to bother me. I don’t know what to say nor how to say thank you without being feeling out of breath by the sight of it.
“Florence!” I manage to speak.
“Do you like it?” she asks me and I’m standing here in her bedroom in front of her wardrobe with my mouth wide open since I’m completely in love with it.
“Love it? It’s beautiful, Florence!” I walk up to it and touch the fabric of the dress... it is beautiful.
“I sort of knew you would. I didn’t know your size so I assumed that it was small,” she tells as she stands on the other side of the wardrobe.
“Oh, I don’t mind the size,” I tell her as my eyes keep wandering the dress and I look at her with grateful eyes, “Thank you,” I hug her this time and it took a minute to embrace the moment.
“What are you waiting for? Try it on!” Florence urges me with exhilaration and I take it off the hanger then rest the dress in my hand. “You can try it on in my bathroom,” she insists.
As eager as I am, she navigates me to her bathroom and she closes the door behind me. A few minutes later, I open the door feeling confident with what I’m wearing thanks to Florence. When she finishes putting on her shoes, she looks up at me as I’m standing by the doorway. “Evelyn, you look ravishing!” she compliments me and I look down at the dress to admire the artwork even though it’s covered with poka-dots but I don’t mind the design. Florence glances at my bare feet and frowns upon them. “If only I had some nice fitting shoes for you,” she says and I look down at my small feet.
“You don’t have to. I have some in particular anyways,” I tell her before fluttering out of the room to go grab a pair of shoes and I know which one to pick for the right occasion.
I opened up my wardrobe and skimmed around for the gold shoes that I’ve been wanting to wear. “There you are!” I say with a sigh of relief after finding them near the back corner. I grab them and run back to Florence’s room and showed them to her.
Her eyes widen with awe and I’m glad that she likes them. “That’ll do very nicely with your dress,” she says and I nod before putting them on one step at a time. “Just a little few things missing,” she informs me and she grabs a small jewelry box from the top shelf of her wardrobe, I am more than likely curious now on what she’s getting out of there. She pulls out a beautiful pearled necklace and showcases it to me.
“They look lovely, Florence,” I tell her with a smile while feeling each ball of pearl between my fingertips.
“Well, I’m glad that you like them. We just need to fix your hair, add the last two touches, and then we’re good,” she says and again leading me to her bathroom then instructs me to sit down.
It’s not like there was a problem with my hair but since it’s a jazz event... I guess events like these are formal in New York City. Each full strand of my hair was heated and curled to perfection as I’m looking in the mirror, picturing myself as a singer getting ready to perform on stage for her adoring fans. After curling my hair, I look at my reflection again and Florence rests her arm over my shoulder, admiring the work she’s done. “Stunning,” she adds a little hair clip to pull back my curly bangs. I exhaled a laugh through my nose and smiled into the mirror.
“Thank you again, Florence,” I look at her and she nods.