Rita Hayworth.

How it could be:

If I was more of the kind of woman I believed I could be, I would be like the woman in that Edward Hopper painting.  I’d put on a red dress, apply red lipstick, coif my hair until it was just perfect, and walk into a bar by myself.  I’d sit on a stool with my legs crossed and my spine perfectly straight.  I wouldn’t look around to see if anyone was eyeing me.  I would seem distinct and curiously apart from other women in that bar, and I would carry with me an air of mystery.  I would make coy conversation with the bartender but save a little bit for a stranger, should they choose to sit down at my side.  I would be able to finish the martini that was in front of me without wincing at all.  I’d balance the olive between my teeth before swallowing it down.  I would rap my nails, also painted red, on the countertop, and toy with the bowl of salted peanuts before I decided I had had enough.  I would leave alone, or not, and either way, I would be fine with how I went home and who I did or did not go home with.  I would be unafraid to, again, begin any given night that way, and I would be unafraid by the uncertainty of how any given night like that would end.

How it is:

I would like to think that I am some version of that woman.  But I used to hate wearing red and only just recently acquired a red dress.  I bought it for the brand, not for the color.  Whenever I think about wearing red lipstick, I wipe it off and reapply it several times, checking myself in the mirror, before deciding that I am brave enough to go out in public like that.  My hair never looks how I want it to.  Despite years of ballet training, I still slouch a little when I’m sitting in a backless chair, and when I’ve had a couple of drinks, balancing on a stool with my legs crossed is a precarious venture.  My eyes always wander.  I will most likely appear very ordinary, and not all that different from anyone else, though one or two men will make a comment about the novelty of my blonde hair in New England (which, I will know but probably not admit, is enhanced by highlights and very talented hairdressers).  And as I claim that I am an open book, people might question that, but I will quietly know that that is completely true.  I never ever order martinis, and I hate olives.  I don’t like red nail polish, and anyway, I bite my nails too often.  I love anything with salt, but I have high cholesterol for my age and probably should avoid those kinds of snacks.  I almost always leave alone, and how I feel about that changes depending on the day.  I will generally not be afraid to begin a Friday or Saturday night at a bar by myself, but I am forever afraid that that is how they will always end.

We are all nighthawks.  We circle overhead, round and round.  We look for a place to land.

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