The Opera Coat Seizes Olympic Power


Six days past the opening ceremony, weariness set in.  Almost ennui, though not quite boredom.  This portion of this summer had belonged to her sister’s Olympic dream for years.   At dinner tables and on every school day’s commute, the talk always raced toward the work of the family Olympian and the sacrifice to get her there.  Now, it lay done.  The work of, and for, the hard-body family athlete – finished.  The dream an awakening to something new.


In the shade of her had lived the little-girl aspirant of couture and style who longed more for the high ivory trees of New York than the flat blue bog of women’s water polo.  It sometimes seemed impossible she and her big sister had shared a womb. 


She is, eternally, the family baby, this little sister, Glenda, youngest of four, hoarse from joining in their earnest cheers for that oldest sister, Hannah, on this London trip they scraped the ribs of piggy banks to afford.  These days into the London dream, lived far out loud, a chance she prayed would come finally did. 


Quiet as an abbey ghost, she dipped into walking shoes and slipped her fidgety soul out of the hotel room, where everyone else napped through the mid-afternoon lull, trying to sleep off the anti-climax.  Like bears in December, she thought.   Every one of them spent from London’s thrill except her.  She thought herself like a tiny bird, throbbing of heart, eyes starving for what she adored, launching off the sill of this family.  Off to soar on foot and peck at the lovely oddities of Olympic Soho. 


Hardly twenty minutes on the random streets, bound for nowhere she knew, she felt it more than saw it.  The grace of its drape caught her, even from behind the window.  An opera coat, vigorous and rare, reached for her, nearly jarring in its catch of her eye through the glass of a used clothing store on a nearly lonesome branch of avenue where restaurants dish ground gray meat and mashed potatoes that resemble an American vanilla milkshake.


A black velvet opera coat in a window in August — somehow not out of place in a city where nearly all seasons converge in summer.  In this Soho where so many souls come to take their haunting by art and uncommon beauty, it was at home.  Glenda, likewise. 


She stood, a little daunted, pleasingly traumatized by the look of it, her breath hazing the window, acquainting herself with it for a bit, not wanting to rush their relationship as might some teenage Philistine.  Her reflection in the glass showed a girl of sixteen years.  The coat just beyond lengthened her time on earth deep into the American Jazz Age she had read about and adored. 


Across the three feet separating old coat and young woman, the fantasy rose into her like a hot dawn, full-color and sure.  No mere thought, but a dream, lived in this moment, waving her in, never minding she stood with pockets empty of money.  Her heart was full.  The coat, in this dream, hers alone.


She thought if a gentleman didn’t bow to the sight of such a garment on her shoulders, his tuxedo might do it for him.  At her door, his fine suit would seem sackcloth, and he a plebe made uncommon by her grace. 


In this opera coat, she ruled – this thought, this street, this city and the world its England once made an empire.  With the coat upon her, anointing her, the greatest of nations, of theaters and the innermost halls of a gentleman’s heart – these became her kingdoms.


Its black velvet warmed her and heated the atmosphere at once.  The mere sight of it cut the damp afternoon’s chill, as if a black sun, braced to outshine London’s  graying twilight.   The collar a silken snow cap.  The liner, her very own satin militia, marinara red and delicious.  A coat unlike all others and under her command.  Her crimson triumph of brocade.  Devastatingly interesting.   Yes, it was.  Yes, she is, in this day-lit dream, birthed on a sidewalk.


Formal, yet playful, the coat waved her out to romp under stars that light a girl’s heart.  Fitzgerald surely dreamt of this old time suddenly cool and real in Glenda’s mind.   Gatsby would be hers.  Upon one short sight of her, he would not resist Glenda of Indiana in this coat made for the world.  Together they would hold sway against his heart.  He would survive, after all.  The coat would re-write it.  Mr. Fitzgerald’s fiction, taking a new end.


And, yes, all in her mind.


Yet, the opera coat itself had come true. Real in its power to light up a cinema on the walls of her spirit. In the coat, and the world of this teenage day dream, a girl finds intuition follows her, the evenings parting before her stride, all the world her stage after all.    


Upstage her?  Never.  Though once at a late supper, even a dining chair, under such rare midnight drape, was mistaken for Hedy Lamar.  Glenda had read about Ms Lamar.  The coat had finally acquainted them.


The spell had lasted only moments when the store’s clerk quaintly shattered it, pecking the glass, finding a mesmerized young woman irresistible.


Glenda’s eyes shifted, only  a moment, to the reflection of herself in the window.  Looking back, for but a wink’s worth of time, was a woman – familiar, barely seasoned by years, lovely in the armor of feminine assurance.  Where Glenda’s teenage present had been, there lived, for that moment, the woman of her good times to come.


Bidding the coat her silent goodbye and a thank you, turning toward the hotel, she saw him.

A boy, but a year older, overcome by a glance at her.


With his eyes, he held her, long, warming and well.  And she him, with an air sweetened by the newness of womanhood.  And the world would never look the same again.



One Response to “The Opera Coat Seizes Olympic Power”

  1. heartwritten Says:

    This is beautiful. Soul captivating. I could only dream of writing such splendid words as you. Michael, you are so very blessed, my friend! Thank you for sharing your gifted heart.

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