فصل 02

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فصل 02

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A Late-Night Visitor

“Do you think I’m very bad? Or crazy?” she asked.

She didn’t ring Mr. Yunioshi’s bell again. In the following days, she rang mine, sometimes at two in the morning, or three, or four o’clock. I always knew that it was her. I didn’t have many friends, and no visitors at that time of night.

The first time the bell rang, I was scared. Was someone bringing bad news? Then Miss Golightly shouted up the stairs, “Sorry, darling - I forgot my key.” We never met. I saw her on the stairs and in the street but she didn’t see me. She always wore dark glasses and she was always well dressed. Maybe she was an actress, but she stayed out so late. Did she have time to work?

Sometimes I saw her outside our neighborhood. Once she was in an expensive restaurant, sitting with four men. She looked very bored. Another night, in the middle of summer, I was so hot that I left my room. I walked down to Fifty-first Street. There was a store there that I liked, with an old bird cage in the window. It was a beautiful bird cage, but it cost three hundred and fifty dollars. As I went home, I saw a crowd of taxi-drivers outside a bar. They were watching a group of Australian soldiers. The Australians were singing and dancing in the street with a girl. It was Miss Golightly.

Miss Golightly never seemed to notice me but I learned a lot about her. I looked in the trash can outside her door. She liked magazines and cigarettes, she didn’t eat much food, and she colored her hair. She received a lot of letters from soldiers that she cut into small pieces. Sometimes I read them. Remember and miss you and please write were words that were written on many of the pieces of paper. And lonely and love.

She had a cat and she played the guitar. On sunny days, she washed her hair and sat on the fire escape with the cat. When I heard her guitar, I went to my window. She played well, and sometimes sang, too. “I don’t want to sleep, I don’t want to die. I just want to travel through the sky.” That was her favorite song.

I didn’t speak to her until September. One evening I went to a movie, then came home and went to bed. I read my book but I felt uncomfortable. Was someone watching me?

Then I heard a knock at the window. I opened it.

“What do you want?” I asked Miss Golightly.

“There’s a terrible man in my apartment,” she said. She stepped off the fire escape into the room. “He’s very kind when he’s not drunk. But now… I hate men who bite.” She pulled her gray dress off her shoulder and showed me the bite. “Did I wake you? I’m sorry. But I climbed out of the window. He thinks I’m in the bathroom. He’ll get tired soon and fall asleep. It was icy on the fire escape and you looked so warm. I saw you and thought about my brother, Fred. Four of us slept in the bed at home, and he kept me warm on cold nights. Can I call you Fred?”

She was in the room now, looking at me. She wasn’t wearing dark glasses, and her large eyes were blue, green, and brown. They were happy, friendly eyes.

“Do you think I’m very bad? Or crazy?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Yes, you do. Everybody thinks I’m bad. It’s OK. Men like crazy, bad women. They think we’re interesting.”

She sat down on one of the old red chairs and looked around the room.

“This place is terrible. How can you live here?”

“I like it,” I said. I wasn’t pleased because I was proud of my room.

“I couldn’t live here. What do you do here all day?”

I pointed at a table covered in books and paper. “I write.”

“Aren’t writers usually old? Is Hemingway old?”

“I think he’s about forty.”

“That’s not old. A man doesn’t excite me until he’s forty-two. I taught myself to like older men. I’ve never slept with a writer. No, wait. Do you know Benny Shacklett?”

“No,” I said.

“That’s strange. He’s written a lot of things for the radio. Are you a real writer? Does anyone buy your work?”

“No, not yet.”

“I’m going to help you,” she said. “I know lots of people and they know other people. I’ll help you because of my brother Fred. But you’re smaller than him.

I last saw him when I was fourteen years old. That’s when I left home. He was already six foot two inches tall. My other brothers were small but Fred ate a lot. Poor Fred - he was very nice, but he was a slow thinker. He’s a soldier now. I hope they give him plenty of food. Talking of food, I’m very hungry.”

I pointed at some apples. Then I said, “You were very young when you left home. Why did you leave?”

She looked at me but she didn’t reply. I realized later that she didn’t like questions about her past. She bit the apple, and said, “Tell me about your stories.”

“That’s not easy. Maybe I’ll read one to you one day.”

“Pour me a drink, darling. Then you can read me a story.”

All writers want to read their work to someone. I poured her a drink and sat opposite her. Then I began to read.

The story was about two women, schoolteachers, who live together in a house. One of the women decides to marry. The other woman writes terrible things about her to other people in unsigned notes, and her future husband walks away from the marriage.

As I read, I looked at Holly. She didn’t seem interested. She was playing with her cigarettes. She looked at her hands. What was she thinking about?

“Is that the end?” she asked, when I finished. “Of course, I like lesbians. I’m not scared of them. But I’m bored with stories about them. Your story is about lesbians, isn’t it?”

I didn’t answer. It was a mistake to read the story. I didn’t want to have to explain it, too. She was stupid. A silly girl.

“Do you know any nice lesbians?” she asked. “I need someone to live with me. Lesbians are good home-makers. They love to do all the work around the house. I lived with a woman in Hollywood who acted in movies. She was better than a man in the house. People think I’m a lesbian, too. Of course I am, a little. Everyone is. But that’s not a problem. Men like lesbians. The actress in Hollywood was married twice. Usually lesbians only marry once, to get a man’s name. They want to be Mrs. because it sounds better than Miss.”

Suddenly she stopped talking and opened her eyes very wide. Then she said, “That’s not true!” She was looking at the clock on the table. “Is it really four-thirty?” she said.

Outside the window, it was already morning.

“What is today?” she asked.


“Thursday” She stood up. “Oh, no.” She sat down again. “That’s terrible.”

I was very tired. I sat on the bed and closed my eyes. “What’s wrong with Thursdays?” I asked.

“Nothing, but I must catch the eight forty-five train. They’re very careful about visiting hours. If you arrive at ten o’clock, you can spend an hour with the men before lunch. The poor men - they eat lunch at eleven! You can go at two but he likes a morning visit. I must stay awake. There isn’t time to sleep. I want to be awake and healthy. A girl can’t go to Sing Sing looking terrible.”

“No,” I said. I wasn’t angry now because she interested me again.

“All the visitors dress well, and the women wear their prettiest clothes. Even the old women and the poor women look nice. I love the kids that come with the wives. You don’t want to see kids there, but it isn’t sad. They have clean hair and shiny shoes, and it’s like a party in the visitors’ room. In the movies prison is terrible, but Sing Sing is OK. There’s a table between you and the prisoners. The kids stand on it and their fathers can hold them. The kids are always so happy to be there. It’s different later when I see them on the train. They sit very quietly, looking at the river.”

She looked at me. “I’m keeping you awake,” she said. “Go to sleep.”

“I’m interested.”

“I know you are. But I mustn’t tell you about Sally.” She was quiet for a minute. Then she said, “But it is funny. You can write about it in a story if you use different names.”

She took another apple. “Listen, Fred,” she said. “Promise me you’ll keep this story secret.”

I promised.

“You probably know his name. He’s often in the newspapers,” she said.

“His name is Sally Tomato, and he’s a darling old man. He’s very serious about religion. Of course he was never my lover. I didn’t know him until he was already in prison. But I love him now. I see him every Thursday. He pays me but I like to see him. This apple is bad,” she said. She threw it out of the window. “I did see Sally sometimes in the past because he went to Joe Bell’s bar, the one around the corner. He never talked to anybody but he was looking at me. Then he went to prison for five years. Joe Bell showed me his photo in the newspaper. Then I received a message from a lawyer. It said: ‘Call me immediately. I have good news for you.”

“You thought that somebody wanted to give you a million dollars?”

“No. I thought that somebody probably wanted money from me. But I went to see the lawyer. He says he’s a lawyer. He doesn’t have an office - just a telephone answering service. He always wants to meet in a cafe. He’s fat - he can eat ten hamburgers in one meal. He offered me a hundred dollars a week to make a lonely old man happy. ‘You’ve got the wrong Miss Golightly,’ I told him. ‘I don’t sell myself to old men.’ And a hundred dollars isn’t a lot of money. Men give me fifty dollars when I go to the ladies’ bathroom. And I always ask for money for a taxi, too - that’s another fifty dollars. ‘But the man is Sally Tomato,’ he said. ‘Old Sally has liked you for a long time. Be kind and visit him once a week.’ What a romantic idea! So I agreed.”

“It’s a strange story,” I said.

She smiled. “Do you think it’s untrue?”

“Complete strangers can’t visit prisoners.”

“They don’t know I’m a stranger. They think I’m his niece.”

“And he gives you a hundred dollars for an hour’s conversation?”

“He doesn’t. The lawyer, Mr. O’Shaughnessy, mails it to me after I leave the weather report from Sally on his answering service.”

“You’re going to get into a lot of trouble,” I said.

I switched off the light. We didn’t need it now because it was morning. Birds were singing on the fire escape.

“Why?” she said seriously.

“You’re not his niece. And what’s this weather report?”

She gave a tired smile. “It’s nothing. Sally tells me what to say. ‘There are strong winds in Cuba’ or ‘It’s snowing in Palermo’. Don’t worry, darling,” she said to me. “I can look after myself”

She moved to the bed and pulled the bed covers over my shoulders. Then she lay down next to me. “Is this OK?” she asked. “I only want to rest for a few minutes. Don’t say another word. Go to sleep.”

I didn’t sleep. It was six o’clock when she put her hand softly on my arm. “Poor Fred,” she said softly. She wasn’t talking to me. “Where are you, Fred? I know it’s cold. There’s snow in the wind.” She rested her head on my shoulder. Her face was warm and wet.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

She moved away from me and sat up. “Oh,” she said angrily. She ran toward the window and the fire escape. “I hate people who ask a lot of questions.”

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