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THE GREEN SUYÏ/Dwight Allen ONCE UPON A TIME—September of 1976, to be exact—I went to New York. I was twenty-three. I had a diploma from a coUege Ui the hüls of eastern Tennessee, a school that until myjunior year had not admitted women. As I drove to New York from Kentucky, where my parents Uved, I sometimes looked at myself Ui the rear-view mirror. I had longish hair and dismayingly round, soft cheeks that required Uttle shaving. My smaU, turned-down mouth showed the effect of my wanting to be taken seriously. In my eyes I thought I saw something flashing, some twitchy eagerness I'd faUed to suppress m my desire to be a person whom Ufe wouldn't burn. When I stopped at the George Washington Bridge toUbooth and looked at myself a final time before entering Manhattan, I saw someone who had drunk seven or eight cups of coffee and smoked a pack of cigarettes between the Ohio River and the Hudson. The thrumming I felt at my temples was almost visible. Td made arrangements to stay at my Aunt Vi's apartment on the upper West Side. Aunt Vi was my mother's older sister, a painter, twice-divorced. She had a house out Ui Westchester, her primary residence , which she shared with two Airedales. I was supposed to get the keys to her apartment from a man named Elvm. It was after eleven when I found my aunt's building, a brownstone between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. A man was sitting out on the stoop, taking the mild September air. He wore a lizardy green suit. The trousers were flared and thejacket lapels were as big as wings. The suit brought words to mind—predatory, naive, hopeful— but none of them seemed quite right. The suit shined Ui the sulphurous glow of the street tights, but it would have shined Ui pitch dark, too. The man, who wore a white T-shirt beneath the jacket, didn't look at me as I came up the stoop with my luggage. He was smoking a cigarette . He had thick, dark, wetted-back hair, like an otter, and a pale, bony face that was not unhandsome despite the crooked nose. Under his right eye was a purplish smudge—the remnant of a shiner, perhaps . I thought he might have been Ui his late twenties, older than me by several years, anyway. Across the street two men were shouting at each other Ui Spanish. Their curses flew back and forth, blurring the air. "Tm looking for somebody named EIvUi," I said to the man on the stoop. I remembered that my aunt had said that EIvUi was from down 276 · The Missouri Review South—Mississippi, maybe. "He's a hick just like you, honey," she'd said, "except he's got a lot of mustard on him." The man picked a piece of tobacco off the tip of his tongue and flicked it away. "You're looking at him, bro," he said. "You're the building superintendent, right?" "I guess I am," Elvin said. "Td rather be the Sultan ofSwing, but you got to deal with the cards that get dealt to you, don't you?" He was watching the two men across the street; one stalked away from the other and then turned back quickly to deliver an elaborate, gaudy curse. New York was like opera, Td read somewhere. People in costumes discussing things at the top of their lungs. Elvin said, "So you must be Violet's nephew. Come to get down Ui the big city." He smiled and brushed something visible only to himself off the sleeve of his jacket. Where, I wondered, did Elvin go in his suit and his ankle-high black boots that zipped up the side? "Peter Smith," I said, holding out my hand. "Pleased to meet you," he said. He clasped my hand soul-brother style. "What you got in that box there?" He pointed to the case that held my new Olivetti, a graduation gift. "A typewriter," I said. "Ah," he said. "Tap, tap, tap into the night, right?" He dragged on...


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