November always leaves too quickly for me. It is my favorite of the cruel months—nearing the end, but far enough for quiet sinning reverie--- still the magic feeling of 9 and newness, and the soft ember of the word. The annual Hendrix birthday gig brings up a sad tale I have been unable to write or commemorate—not in a song or a poem… so I will try here, in the lingery last hours of the month of long lunescent Rockwell Kent-ish nights….
My friend met this woman on a crosstown bus—she picked him up, she’d boasted… he looked so eligible and kind and ‘presentable’; she, the black-haired, black-clad, black-eyed stranger who in another time might have had a veil. The sex was great—you could feel that… he treated her with uptown attention, and she led him across the soft boundary of downtown edge. They’d show up late at my gigs—both of them tall and giggling… and they’d dance, like some old-world ballroom couple… they’d drink, go out to get high, come back and dance until the end. Although she was much younger, she instantly embraced my dark sisterhood, and confided with abandon things I felt I hadn’t deserved.
Anyway, it went on--- the relationship had its webs--- maybe a wanted or unwanted pregnancy, a dangerous flirtation with one of his friends…. some street drama, some interior drama…the usual. When they’d show up, I was happy. She always asked us to play ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and we would oblige. Jimi would have loved her--- she was leggy and unafraid and so dangerous in that black-Irish witchy sort of way.
I visited her once or twice at her place; it was an appalling mess. Clothes everywhere, food containers, ashtrays overflowing--- bottles, the scent of marijuana and sex and perfume. She was obsessed with shoes and had maxed out not just her own credit cards in a sort of charming way because everything was smashing on her, and worth every cent.
But most of all, she wanted my hat-- the old black Stetson which I could let her wear, but couldn’t give up. Until one day she called me urgently---I had to come over that minute… and she greeted me stark naked except for the new hat—she’d managed to find a twin—and her great hoarse infectious laugh and a joint and a filthy martini glass. So her fall outerwear debut—the hat and a new black Raymond-Chandler-esque raincoat, with whichever of her spectacular shoe choices--- was well received by all.
As the year wore on, her silly insistence on my friend making an honest woman of her began to wear on him. He was distancing himself slightly from her indiscretions, her excursions, her junky ex-boyfriends, the debt and the hangovers. I, of course, forgave her everything. All I had to do was watch her dance, listen to her stories, receive. You are my angel sister, she used to tell me; when you find a diamond on the street--- it will be me, giving.
One day he called me—in utter grief. She’d been standing on the platform at West 4th Street, 11 AM, about to change trains—and the rush of tunnel wind blew off her hat. Undoubtedly she was stoned--she generally smoked a joint before her morning coffee-- so as she reached for the hat, with impaired leggy grace, she leaned in and something jutting from the oncoming train slammed into her head with mythological force. And there she was, stunned and silenced, the white skin and the black hair, with streaks of red now, bleeding profusely into the lap of an NYU law student who spoke eloquently to the NY Post, the hat trampled and lost somewhere by the voyeuristic crowd. She was DOA, in her black trenchcoat--- hatless.
Somehow I felt responsible. Somehow I couldn’t grieve. It was more than I could stand. Her family came and probably witnessed with horror the mess of her apartment, apparently made judgments, because they refused to disclose the circumstances of her funeral. I craved a piece of her, I wanted to call the law student who maybe had a bloody souvenir. But I couldn’t find her.
I have yet to find a diamond, but I am always looking down and occasionally pick up a shining dime which I know is a wink from somewhere. And I silently dedicate the Hendrix always to her. Maybe they are together somehow, and he is playing 'The Wind Cries Mary' or 'Angel' or something new he wrote just for her. And she is dancing—with the shoes, and the trenchcoat she never paid for, naked underneath,a cigarette in her mouth, the mascara’d eyes closed, locks of black hair falling everywhere, wearing Jimi’s hat. She had a hat, I complained to some version of God, who took her for his own one rainy November wish, eleven moons in, never to grow old.