Literary Orphans

Survival of the High-Riding Bitch by June Frances Coleman

This lady, she likes a good brunch. Had been searching for the perfect balance of ambiance, patrons and excitement when came this lovely Harlem bistro last winter.  It’s nice that this lady doesn’t have to travel to the upper west side for some leisurely people watching and a good omelette with well-seasoned breakfast potatoes anymore. Chef here, he even piles a small mesclun salad on the proper entree plate; it’s lightly dressed in delicious lemony-mustardy vinaigrette.

Stashed away behind the entrance is a window seat to which this lady has grown quite accustomed. The view affords a certain kind of innocence when eavesdropping on other’s conversations. This lady can preside over the set-up–clunky, white curly-cue lettered mug in hand and first dibs on any ruckus should it be so inclined to walk through the door. Today’s scene is hardly disturbing, for when this lady spies that lady and her man-friend’s entrance, the room’s giddy takes up a jig on the tile ceiling. They’re being seated just 3 tables away. He’s all gentleman like–pulling out that lady’s chair, gesturing. Everyone in the place can tell that that lady chokes her desire to shoo him away or smack his hands or something. His fine manners carry on for sometime. The “please” and “thank you”, with the far too skinny waitress become a kind of nuisance for even the most clichéd Terry McMillan character. So this lady takes a break from them to stare out the window at the café across 116th street where there are loud girls transplanted from Washington D.C. and soggy potatoes.

But this lady’s got back-up eyes right about her earlobes, right. She catches that lady say, “You say I’m cold, but you have no idea to what extent”.

That lady then slowly lifts her head in a kind of Vera-Donavan moment. The rest of her words form a brigade that marches and ends up on her man-friend’s crisp white collar. Tight-mouthed with a stiff-necked head that sways slightly from one side to the other, what’s coming next demands this lady’s respect.

Reminds this lady that, “Sometimes Dolores, sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto,” or so said Judy Parfitt in the 1995 adaptation of Dolores Claiborne.

He’s handsome enough, could surely pass a strict family’s paper bag test during the 1960’s. That red caste to his skin, he’s got some Indian in him, this lady bets. Good bone structure and a strong jaw line, some other pretty girl with less ambition would be glad to have him.

This lady can tell that it pains that lady to say what she is saying. That lady’s eyes however, the way they’re set in not-too-deep and not-too-shallow wells–well they tell another story all together. The brood today probably tells her she should be a model. Emphasis on should, because anyone with any Goddamn sense can tell that that lady, she ain’t no model. The world we live in has captured the botanist whom once lived in that lady’s chest. He’s been replaced by an excavator of boring stones, so that lady will hide all that is lovely within her behind a turned up-mouth that delivers ever such a tongue lashing for as long as she has the strength to do so.

That lady’s man-friend is hurt, but he withholds his heartache and he just stares at her. This lady wonders what he did to remind that lady of her contempt, or if he even remembers what he’s done to bear witness to it. His plea is wispy, clear and a starless-night blue with its request that that lady give back what she’s taken from him. Give it back, give it back, girl. But she can’t, it just costs too damn much.

The bistro is filled with couples out for their Sunday brunch on one of the most pleasant fall days Harlemites could ask for. And nearly a year goes by before this lady gets the kind of action that that lady and her man-friend have brought. Tykes nowadays are too concerned with appearances. It’s just as well, for this lady here, sitting alone watching the modern mating ritual unfold, usually gets here before all of them. Just to watch. Perhaps this lady was apart of a dig a few decades old. A dig that made this lady- well–lonely. Though, this lady doesn’t feel particularly lonely or seem to be the type. Certainly, that lady and her man-friend have to be the best brunch date this joint has seen in almost a year. They have corn husk love–pale, stringy; it gets all over the place. But it still gets thrown away in the end.

It’s a brave woman whom can slip out on the supple organ music that used to fill her up. This lady likes a lady that won’t let a so-called love fuck up her life. The plate of half eaten Eggs Florentine and some of the most delicious breakfast potatoes this lady’s ever tasted, sit alone in front of that lady’s man-friend. An untouched pineapple wedge and strawberry that chef had carved into a rose before sending the plate out to the table are all that remain of the creamy hominy those two once made. Don’t give it back girl. Sometimes a twenty and a five is all that you can leave for a seat at that table.

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Born in Harlem and reared across the street from Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, June has always had great enthusiasm for the arts and creativity. She earned her BFA in Film and Video from School of Visual Arts and recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

June is currently slated to direct her optioned feature length screenplay, “The Life and Time of a Lady”, she has fiction forthcoming in The Altamont Enterprise and she is the founder of GWB Writer’s Studio Workshop.


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