“You ain’t a beauty but…eh…you’re alright” the old man grumbled.
He was hunched over a greasy notepad clutched in his fist and stunk of cut rate cigars. They were standing in the bay of a parking garage and the combination of the smell of the exhaust from the vehicles and the cigar this guy was holding was making Mary feel sick.
“Be here eleven-thirty tomorrow and..eh..”
He was waving his arm up and down in front of her swiftly,
“..do sumthin ’bout the color”
Mary walked away satisfied. She had secured her place for the meeting and was not offended by what the pit boss had to say about the color of her skin. She was used to the comments and she didn’t need this trumped up skin jockey to tell her what she already knew.
She was pale.
In childhood she had endured the jokes, played connect the dots with her freckles, and in adulthood she dealt with it on a professional level. She was known as a “great white ghost” to anyone who tried to light her, so body paint became her friend. Back at the rented room she had signed off on two weeks before, there was an airbrush kit with multiple heads and a variety of colors to do the trick. She was set.
It would have been a lie to say that she was not a little intimidated by the role she was about to play. She was going to run with the Desnudas. Everyone agreed it would be best to meet up in the crowded public square, not too far from where the action was really going to go down. With Mary in costume, she would be able to cause any disruption that was needed to cover the others.
There was a young woman she had brief encounters with a couple of times when entering the building where she was staying. One night Mary was running through the rain and suddenly, as if on cue, this young woman appeared and covered Mary with an umbrella to shield her from the downpour. When they reached the door, she banged the water off of the umbrella and handed it to Mary.
“Never know, you might need it.”
Mary thought her new acquaintance would be the perfect person to help her with the body paint needed for her costume. After applying the self tanner needed for a base color the morning after her meeting with the stinky man, she threw on a robe and made her way down the hall to the second door on the left. After two swift knocks, the door was opened and Mary’s eyes widened. Rather than the young woman she expected, she was greeted by a man wearing dark sunglasses that were too big for his face. They made his eyes appear very wide set and the glasses almost had a space age appearance.
As he jutted out his hand towards her, his mouth broke into a huge, toothy grin.
Mary, Ive heard all about you!”
She didn’t know what he could have heard about. The only things she and the young woman spoke about were the closest subway lines, employment possibilities, if the umbrella should be returned and where the closest fish monger was to purchase fresh salmon. The familiarity with which he spoke caused her to pause and just stare at his outstretched hand.
” Im Davis” he said, ” T.T. Davis.”
As she reluctantly held out her hand, the young woman came into view. After what felt like too long and firm a hold, she retrieved her hand and explained her visit. She had gotten a job and needed help painting the back of her legs, she could take care of the rest of the work herself. It wouldn’t take long and there was no expertise required. Could she help? The young woman replied, very enthusiastically, that she would be happy to, so they left the smiling man and headed off to Mary’s place.
There was no choice but to get into the costume in the small bathroom before the body paint was applied. Besides being shy, there were things that needed to be tucked in and attached in privacy. The young woman was friendly enough, but the man Mary had met at the door caused her concern. He was overly friendly, overly knowing and there was something about him that gave her a washed, de ja vu feeling. Just paranoia setting in, she thought, but her hand instinctively checked the back waistband of the skirt.
After two hours, the airbrushing and face make up were finished. The young woman had done an admirable job shading exposed skin after she had watched Mary paint the front of her legs. The end result of their combined effort was believable enough. It appeared that Mary was wearing thigh high fishnets that went almost to the top of her short leather skirt. Her exposed belly and back had been shaded to add some hint of life and the young woman had added a small umbrella on the back of her neck, beneath the ponytail. The detail fit the character.
There was one more thing she had to check before she left, but she needed to be alone. Repeating her sentiments of gratitude, she opened the door of the small room and gave as gracious a smile as she could, encouraging her new friend to follow her lead. Holding onto the doorknob, she felt a little lightheaded. Her painting partner stepped out to the hall, turning and flashing two thumbs up.
“Thanks, Kitty.” Was all Mary could muster.
After setting herself right, she headed off to Duffys Square. The subway trip was what she expected. A few mutterings about her costume and the seemingly endless drone of the muffled voice over the PA alerting the passengers of delays. There were many sneers at the announcements. Apparently, they were not up to people’s standards.
The square was bustling. Tourists milled about, pointing at buildings and displays while running themselves, oblivious, into anyone in their paths. It was selfie central. Mary quickly found the pit boss leaning against a pole and checked in. The job was easy, he said. Get the picture, get the money, give him his cut. He pointed to a group of highly painted, minimally clothed women milling about in the square and sent Mary on her way.
None too friendly, the group of Desnudas reluctantly accepted the new, clearly not Asian, dressed for battle “Mulan” into their ranks.
Mary had donned a full leather outfit of boots, skirt, gauntlets and a high necked breastplate with attached shoulder shields. It was certainly not the sexiest look on the pavement, but she thought she might blend in. The other women clearly had larger assets so she was happy to have them take centerstage while she worked as the add on in the forced pictures. The breastplate helped hide her shortcomings as well as the items stashed in her cleavage.
Continuously scanning the passersby, her eyes suddenly locked on two distinctly different looking men standing together on the sidewalk on the corner of forty seventh street. One had a striking head full of fluffy curls while the other wore an old style Bowler.
It was unusual to see someone wearing a hat on such a bright sunny day, but that wasn’t what made her so sure of who it was she was about to meet. It was the umbrella hung casually over the mans arm.
One long block away, a black Mercedes with out of state plates pulled up to the curb in front of the massive building that held the offices and studios of a major corporation. The driver stepped out, smoothed his suit and adjusted his tie. As he rounded the front of the car, he gave a quick nod to his passenger who made no move to exit the vehicle. Looking up at the buildings signage, he remembered a time that the name on the building garnered some respect. Days long gone.
Hoping up onto the curb, he noticed a young woman and a man with oversized sunglasses approaching him. He hadn’t met the young woman before, but knew who she was. The unexpected man,however, reminded him of…someone. As they drew closer, all three broke into bright smiles.
Hello, Kitty” he replied.