Betty tells her story


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yaknow .. there are . sometimes things that happen to you along the way

that you don’t ever forget

not because they are very dramatic or anything like that

but because I guess they tell you something

that you always knew really

and one thing that I remember from my past

way back as a poor teacher in Connecticut

is the day that I was invited to the Governor’s Ball

and I yaknow I had no clothes

my my most dressy outfit for a fancy occasion was a black felt skirt and a black top

and I had some friends

who were very very cloth-conscious

and one of them just insisted

that I had to go to her favorite dress store

and find a dress

that was appropriate for the occasion

so I went off one afternoon after school to this dress shop

and the whole thing was yaknow a real surprise for me

because when I walked in the door

it wasn’t like being in Filene’s Basement you know

with all the dresses ah sort of hung in rows

this fifteen of the same kind

and you look for your size

but in this store there was just plush carpet

and beautiful dove gray walls

and once in a while against an appropriate drape there is a beautiful looking dress

well out of the kind of the hush shadows of this place a lady emerged

and she was sort of dove gray

and she had sort of a dove gray voice

and she said uhm may I help you

and I said well yes I’m going to the Governor’s Ball

and I’m looking for a dress

so she asked me about colors

and she suggested that possibly green or something purple would be just just right

so about four minutes later she emerged with three dresses in her hands

and uhm I went into a discrete little dressing room

to try them on

and one of them was a kind of beautiful emerald green chiffon dress

and it was just yaknow absolutely exquisite

and I tried it on and I I felt so glamorous

it was just the most incredible feeling I ever had in my life

I mean there I was with chiffon panels hanging uh out off the back

and yaknow I don’t think I ever in my whole life felt pretty until then

I felt yaknow suddenly transformed yaknow

it was like some fairy story out of my childhood

and I got very nervous

because I looked at the price tag

and it was like two or three weeks pay for this one little dress to wear to the Governor’s Ball

and it seemed all out of proportion

and you know somehow not very right to spend that

so I called up my clotheshorse friend who had suggested the place

and she came down

and she saw me in the dress

and said you have to buy it

n no question about it

ya know this dress is just fantastic

it’s beautiful

so against my better judgment I bought the dress

and I watched while they wrapped it up in pink tissue paper

and put it into a pink box that said Miss Lynch’s on it

and I carried it out of there yaknow sort of feelin’ at n sort of at the same time kind of all excited and very guilty

I went off to visit some friends an Italian family

with whom I had lived when I was in Bridgeport the year before

and they were just a very warm and wonderful group of people

and when I came to their house

it was very close to Christmas time

and I showed them the dress

and they insisted I had to try it on

so I went upstairs

and put on the dress

put on a pair of heels

and I came down

and all- the whole family went out of their minds yaknow

they just stood at the bottom of the stairs

and said ah you look beautiful

you look gorgeous yaknow

and I felt like a princess when I walked down the stairs

they were all oohing and ahhing and exclaiming

an- I just yaknow felt- well I never felt that way before

yaknow people were sort of admiring me

and telling me I was going to be the belle of the ball

and then the Mary Deephalis is the Mamma of the house

said why don’t we go up to Marie’s

and we show her the dress

but before we leave

yaknow I have a lot of presents for your family

and I like you to put them out in the car

so that when you leave for Christmas vacation

you’ll have them in the car to bring home

so I lugged out the bundles of presents for my parents and home-baked Italian foods

and of course my dress my precious dress back in the car

and so that I wouldn’t in any way damage my dress

I put it very lovingly on the trunk of my car

while I loaded up the car with all the goodies from the Deephalis family

and then the time came to go up to Marie’s

and well we all got in our cars

and we drove off

and when we got to Marie’s

Maureen started telling her about my dress

and how I you know had looked so beautiful

and she was so excited

and she was so glad that I did this

and went out and bought and did something for myself

and she said go out and get your dress and try it on for Marie

I want her to see it

so I went out to the car

and I looked

and I looked

and there was no dress

hhh it was nowhere to be found

so we sort of sat down

and we collectively tried to figure out

what could have happened

and traced my steps

and retraced the the business of putting packages in the car

and suddenly you know the image came to my mind of this beautiful pink box on the trunk of my car

well the whole Deephalis clan all their relatives got into the cars my car their cars

and we retraced all the steps

and we drove around for oh about two hours

and no dress

nowhere to be found

so I finally in desperation Phyllis Deephalis

who was a former student of mine

said let’s go out once more

and let’s be very calm

and let’s get in your car

and I’ll take the flashlight

and we’ll go very very slowly

and it had snowed that afternoon

and the snow ploughs had been through

and there were banks of snow everywhere

so Phyllis and I started out five ten miles an hour

oh it was about one thirty in the morning by now

and down by the place where the supermarket dumped its trash

we caught at the corner of a snow bank just the corner of the pink box

I stopped the car and ran over

and there indeed was the pink box and the pink wrapping paper and the sales slip

but no dress

The dress was gone

and I remember being very heartbroken and

and yaknow sort of feeling

that there was some kind of poetic justice there

because I yaknow somehow was never meant to have that dress

I don’t know why

and I don’t think I’ve ever cried about things before

I’ve cried about people and feelings

but I’ve never cried about things you know

not when my car is broken

nor when someone stole my brand-new Brownie camera

when I lost my watch

when I was twelve

but I really was heartbroken about that dress somehow

and I remember the next day

calling up a the friend

who had come with me to buy the dress

and weeping and weeping profusely on the phone

and telling me you know

my dress was gone

I lost it

and it was beyond her well-organized imagination

to think that anyone could lose a dress

without ever having worn it

and her mother got on the phone

she was a a very warm Albanian lady

and you know she said to me on the phone

did someone die

I said no uh no

I lost my dress

that’s all

and she said

is anyone sick

I said no

she said it’s only a dress

you should get a new dress

and have a good time

so I did get a new dress off the rack at Alexander’s

I remember it was seven-ninety-eight

and it was electric blue

I found out weeks later

that my Albanian lady friend had spent many hours and much money long distance and all over the United states

trying to find me another dress

just like the one I’d lost

but I did after all go to the ball

and .. yaknow had a good time

but- yaknow that vision of myself is- is somehow yaknow just a memory

like something that never happened yaknow

I really- I really think there’s something there I

haven’t fully understood yet

but oh maybe I just need to think about it a little more

I don’t know- I- I guess there aren’t too many times

that I’ve had a chance in a lifetime to feel . oh very special or very noticed or something

.. and yaknow maybe that’s why I remember .. my green dress from so very long ago

because it was one of the only times I think that I ever was in a situation

where people sort of admired looking at me

or. or treated me in in kind of special ways

and and the story started with something special too

because I remember I got a call

and and was invited to the Governor’s Ball in Connecticut

and I’d never really been to anything like that

and uh and that was yaknow sort of a unique thing to begin with

and because I had never been to anything like that

I I had nothing to wear that was yaknow just right for that occasion

and I called a friend

who was always very well dressed

and was always sort of hounding me about buying clothes and so forth

and she told me to go to a shop downtown

and one that she shopped quite frequently

and to get something there

and I remember ah you know whole strange thing

when I went into that shop

because there was something uhm uncomfortably plush and posh about the whole thing

it was all sort of quiet and cathedral like

and and the ladies in the shop were very soft spoken

everything looked very expensive

and yaknow I was sort of treated like a queen yaknow.

they they brought three dresses out to me in a very special kind of room

and I remember trying them on

and um one in particular it was a kind of emerald-green with chiffon panels that floated down the back

and I don’t know It was like yaknow going to the beauty parlor

and having your hair done

which I never do either because it makes me feel uncomfortable

but it yaknow was a strange kind of special feeling

I mean I I I felt suddenly um luxurious

and I remember looking in the mirror

and and feeling suddenly kind of transformed or something

because I never looked that way before

I mean I really thought I looked pretty and

well I bought the dress

even though it cost far too much

I mean it was far too expensive

I really couldn’t afford it

and I left there with very mixed feelings about having bought the dress

so I head over to the home of some friends of mine very excitable Italian family

that I had lived with the year before

and I went out there

and of course they insisted that I tried the dress on

and I went upstairs to try it on

and I knew

when I went downstairs

that they would be really excited about the way I looked

yaknow I mean I felt beautiful in that dress

and when I came downstairs

they yaknow they were just so excited

they ran up and hugged me

and i it was just a strange feeling

I was it was like being on stage

and being the center of everybody’s concern

and I think it was probably the first time

that anybody ever told me I looked beautiful

and that that was yaknow something I really didn’t know how to cope with

I was very embarrassed by it I guess

well it was near Christmas then

and the family had a bunch of packages

that I was supposed to deliver home to my family for Christmas

so I went out to load the car with these packages

you know they were very cumbersome

and I remember going out

and opening the backdoor to the car

and getting sort of nervous about my dress

because I don’t want it to get crushed of course

and so I took the pink box

and I put it very carefully on the trunk

and I loaded the car up with those packages

and and then we went off to the home of some relatives of these people

that I was staying with

and when we got there

everybody was yaknow so turned on about my dress

and about the way I had looked in it

that they sort of insisted that I go out to the car

and try it on again for this family

so I went out to the car

and sort of sifted around through all the packages that were there

and I couldn’t find the dress

and I remember at first I I really couldn’t believe that it wasn’t there

and I I got sort of frantic and started yaknow sort of pulling everything apart

and tearing away

and trying to find it

and and then it struck that I had left it on my trunk

and yaknow it was hhh I I really couldn’t believe the whole thing

it was just yaknow sort of a weird feeling

because it was like yaknow everything was so temporary

I mean a minute ago I had been so excited and now it was gone

I really had no hope of finding it

I remember when we got into the cars

to go and retrace our steps

and try to look around in the snow to find it

that I I somehow knew yaknow that that dress was gone

and and it never would be found

and I don’t think I’ve ever cried about losing things you know

but I never really cared about anything I lost before

because I I don’t know I had the feeling

I had lost I guess more than a dress

I had lost sort of the feeling that went with it

and and knew I’d never find it again

so after just a futile search of all of the byways on the way to Marie’s house

we went back

and sat around

and have coffee

and sort of commiserate with each other

about what had happened

and then Phyllis

who who was one of my former students

said look let’s get in your car

and let’s go back the way we went

and I just I know we’re gonna find it that I know

and with no conviction that we would

I got in the car

and we drove around

and sooner or later yaknow probably after twenty minutes the flashlight picked up just a corner of the pink box

and we got out of the car and and walked over

and picked up this box

and opened it

and yaknow of course the dress wasn’t there

I mean the bill was there and the pink tissue paper

and all the elegance that went with the dress was there

but the dress was gone

and it never was found

I mean it never turned up

and it was funny yaknow not knowing who had it or how they felt about it

and not really being able to sort of figure out how I felt about it

and I remember yaknow probably three days later

after I kind of recovered from the shock of the whole thing

going down to okay yaknow Connecticut’s answer to Zaire’s I guess one of those off-the-rack places

and and picking out a dress for seven-ninety-eight

that didn’t make me feel any special way at all

I mean it was just a dress

and I don’t know why yaknow

I guess I still haven’t solved how I felt about that the the uncomfortableness of of being praised for a prettiness I never had.

but yaknow kind of excitement about being very special suddenly

and it’s gone yaknow

and I don’t know what else to say really

it just seemed very strange somehow

I don’t know


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