Elaine chopped off her ponytail. Like the jazz singer, Keely Smith, she wanted to look "cool" in Greenwich Village. Elaine attended NYU during the day. She wrote poetry and prose at night. On Fridays and Saturdays, she worked the day shift at Mulligan's Stew on Woodycrest Avenue. At night, it was poetry and Mark. Mark was getting used to her new do. She was still his raven-haired colleen, with her Bettie Page figure underneath beatnik capris and sweaters. Hair had nothing to do with the action on his divan.
Mark tried to be the Jewish version of Kerouac, except his talents faltered with the written or spoken word. He could beat the bongos at parties, bars, and coffee houses. He was Crazy Man at the Kettle of Fish and The Gaslight. However, his right-sided brain was better suited for mathematical concepts. Between Elaine's artistic temperament and his rational "square" thinking, they were deemed as the odd couple. Between them, love's north and south poles did attract. It was Bronx-born Elaine who introduced Mark from Hewlett to her bohemian lifestyle. And Mark was ready to "dig" the culture.
Mark's friend Karl gave him a copy of Ginsberg's book, "Howl", 'the talk of the town of Frisco. Even hotter was the forthcoming obscenity trial. Elaine always talked about "Howl." Her birthday was this weekend. He thought about surprising her with this book.
On Saturday, he sat in the back booth. He observed Elaine taking an order from a family of four. The chain-smoking father was either Jewish or Italian. The mother with dirty blonde hair showed no expression. The boy with a crew cut was quiet. The squirming blonde girl resembled a pixie. Elaine looked out of place. Her thick red leather belt separated the dark elegance of her pullover sweater and pencil skirt. She belonged on the cover of Vogue, not inside a neighborhood pub in the Bronx. Yet she was professional and friendly. After she gave the family their food and beverages, she smiled and said, "Enjoy yourselves." The pixie child bit into her burger and spit it out. She gave Elaine a passing sneer. Mark watched and said nothing.
After the family left, Mulligan's Stew was back to serving its older patrons. It was nearing the end of Elaine's shift and just before the hectic Saturday night of loud dialogue, laughter, and juke box music. Mark tiptoed behind Elaine and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around and frowned.
3195126028 As he handed her the present, Mark whispered, Enjoy yourself. Do not open until Christmas . . . just kidding . . . happy birthday, baby.
"So you were watching me serve the family with that little brat and said nothing?
"I didn't want to cause a ruckus between you and your boss. You know that saying, the customer is always right!"
Elaine's eyes narrowed. She began to rip the wrapping. Mark's hand stopped her from going further. He quietly told her to wait until they get to his favorite Italian restaurant in the Village. She told him that she had other plans. He asked about Sunday afternoon. She answered, "Let's go for a walk. I have to be home in a half an hour."
They walked toward the step street at 168th Street and Shakespeare Avenue. Elaine lived in one of the Art Deco buildings along Jerome Avenue. Halfway down the steps, she stopped. No one was around to hear what she had to say.
"I missed my period. I"m two weeks late. I will be seeing a gynecologist. If I'm pregnant, what the hell am I supposed to do? I will need money for an abortion. I'm Catholic, but I'm not religious. My parents would kill me. Please help me. I'm short a few hundred bucks. I have a friend who knows a doctor."
"Hey, maybe you're late? If you are pregnant, let's get married. In spite of our quirks, we'd make a lovely couple. I'm not religious either. My parents won't kvetch that much. You could convert or raise the kid as Jewish.
"Mark, I'm not ready for marriage or kids. I want to get my Masters in English Lit. I want to teach on a college level. Having this baby would ruin my . . ."
Footsteps interrupted their conversation. Elaine recognized the family from her booth. The father and mother carried groceries. They said hello to Elaine and Mark, and wished them a nice weekend. The boy smiled and waved. The pixie-faced brat stuck her tongue out. Elaine and Mark nodded and said nothing.