I Just Used My Hair

by Marshall Marcovitz

I can just imagine her walking into Harry’s Bar in Venice. Her blonde hair is hanging over her right eye. It always covered her right eye, creating an attractive air of mystery audiences were drawn to. There was just a wisp of grey now. Her face was not youthful anymore, but she still had the figure of a 1940’s pin-up girl. Tonight her profile was illuminated by a shaft of light drifting through the room. She had tried everything to stay young in an industry that relied on faces—youthful faces—lotions, massage, mudpacks, even a rubber mask—but not surgery. She hated the way women her age looked with their skin pinned back behind their ears.

She sat down on one of the puffy red bar stools, her body caressed by the arching Art Deco high back. “I’ll have my usual.”

“We’ve got the fresh white peaches tonight,” said Marco the bartender. He knew the secret to making a great Bellini. The cocktail was named after Giovanni Bellini, the magnificent fifteenth century Venetian painter. It was the specialty of the house. Everything—the glasses, the Prosecco, and the white peach puree—would be absolutely as cold as possible, and ordinary yellow peaches were never used. The secret to the extraordinary concoction was in the fresh white peaches. Marco occasionally added a sugar cube into the bubbly mix.

He eyed her over the low, long counter. It was an unusually quiet night and he had time for conversation. Usually there were waves of customers trying to get his attention with their eyes or a slight wave of the hand. The bar counter was his protective wall holding back the besieging customers.

She was one of the regulars and kept returning after all these years. She was loyal, and he liked her for that. She had drunk Bellini’s with all the regulars—Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and with dear Peggy Guggenheim—but that was a long time ago.

“Remember,” she said, “when Papa Hemingway dropped in that cold winter night and practically never left.”

“He kept trying to get behind the bar and make cocktails with me,” said Marco, “but I wouldn’t let him pass. I’ve always believed the client’s place is on one side of the counter and the barman’s is on the other.”

“That’s the side I stay on,” she said as she gazed at the pink glow of her Bellini. Her tongue was pressed against the slenderness of the perfectly rounded lip of the cocktail glass. It was crystal clear and the pink liquid appeared to change shapes and shades inside the cylinder.

“I’m toasting you tonight, Marco,” she said in a breathy voice.

“Here’s to you,” he said. “A movie star with genuine class … .”

She let his words wash over her. Her movie career had been over for many years now. She was never going to have her Gloria Swanson moment. That was what the business was like for most women her age, and anyway, she had never had that much confidence in her acting ability.

“Marco,” she laughed. “I didn’t have enough talent to fill your left eye.”

“What was your favorite role?” he asked.

She didn’t answer and stared down at her drink. Now she only had regrets about the films she’d never made and the ones she had—those 1940’s and 50’s Hollywood B- movies.

She looked up, “I always loved the one I starred in when the villain said, ‘This man buries himself with his mouth.’ I played the part of the sexy hitchhiker wearing nothing but a tight belted trench coat and spiked high heel red shoes. I walked into a gloomy farm house, the wind slammed the door shut, and the audience heard my terrified high pitched screams—end of scene, end of movie—strictly shock value. I worked constantly—three or even four movies a year—a horror monster movie, a tear-jerker romance, or a crime mystery. They just kept churning them out. And I was the one thinking up catchy titles to draw in the popcorn-eating crowd: I Married a Witch, This Gun for Hire, and All Women Have Secrets.”

“What was your secret?” Marco asked.

“I never did cheesecake,” said Benita. “I just used my hair…that was my secret…”

Marshall Marcovitz spent most of his life in Chicago, the home of the ‘big-shoulders,’ and not many Veronica Lake look-a-likes who drank Bellinis. But a boy can dream. His love of storytelling and writing started when he read Treasure Island. (After all, Venice is an island and so is Manhattan.)