The Hancock street place was more of a studio than an apartment. The only window opened onto the alley behind the building, and you could time noon from when the sun lit up that window. But it was a step up from the rented room I had been in the month before. It was cheap and cheap was what I could afford.
It’s Sunday morning. I sit on the bed, running some simple scales on the guitar for flexibility. It was what I could afford in the confines of an apartment without a radio, television, or other entertainment.
A group of friends had run off to Cambridge for breakfast, but I had begged off because payday wasn’t till Friday. In the meantime, I had ten dollars to cover everything. My friends liked me but were not so well off themselves to pay for the meal.
I switched to chord progressions and let the chords take my hands where they would. In times like this, I wished things happened as they did in the fantasy and sci-fi novels. A luminous door would open, and I’d be invited to a world of opportunity and adventure.
When the knock came, I gladly put aside the guitar and went to the door. There was my next-door neighbor, Peggy. Our apartments shared a common kitchen, and we only saw each other when we met in the kitchen.
I’ll keep this story PG, but there she stood, all five foot two of blonde beauty asking, “Wes, how does this look on me?” Well, how does any costume made to be stripped off a beautiful woman in layers look to a twenty-one-year-old heterosexual male? Peggy was an exotic dancer and asked my opinion on new outfits. Some of the males reading this might think I was lucky, but this was stressful because the chances of Peggy and I having a meaningful relationship were nil. However, I helped gauge the male reaction to her costumes and her dance moves just by her reading my face and body language. I was a captive audience.
Peggy had killed several developing relationships when visiting girlfriends had been there while Peggy sought my opinions. It wasn’t so much that Peggy was seen as competition as the whole thing of an exotic dancer asking their prospective boyfriend for his opinion was not seen a being harmless, it was a relationship killer.
So there she stood in some little sheer thing I could not look away from. She then did something unexpected and offered me a cup of coffee. Over coffee, she told me she was moving but wanted to thank me for my support in the several months we had been neighbors. She then whipped out a photo of herself in very little and signed it ” to Wes, with great love, Lulu.” It seemed that she danced under the professional name of Lulu. Then, reaching over and kissing me, she again told me what a great neighbor I had been.
Since my financial abilities did not extend far enough to own a simple AM/FM radio, I wasn’t in a position to follow the career of Lulu, even if I had the hankering to do so. So she rapidly faded from memory.
The photo lingered long enough to go through multiple moves, shipment to Philly for grad school, and shipment back. It eventually became lost in one of my files. I came across it the other day while sorting out old photos and purging old tax documents. There she was, just as she had looked over fifty years ago—five foot two, blonde, and in some skimpy outfit.
OK, I ran to the computer, Googled her, and looked her up on Facebook – married to some Boston Mob prince, divorced, and living in Boca Raton with her five poodles. So Peggy had managed to orchestrate an exemplary life for herself.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to toss the photo, so back into the folder, it went. But, on consideration, I’d like to think that my fashion advice had something to do with Peggy’s success.