Sam and Me ~ Aimee Lynne-Hirschowitz

April 29, 2008

It smelled awful.  A rank, noxious, decaying-garbage-mixed-with-warm-urine smell –a city smell—and it was rising out of the ground like the mist of London streets in werewolf movies.  It was Madison Avenue and the steam was coming from an open sewer. Men in orange vests, yellow hats and work-boots were drinking coffee out of blue and white deli cups and standing around the hole, looking in.  The wind was blowing north that night, Uptown.  We were walking home after a long religious class, my sixth, three-hour session of learning how to become Jewish. 

Warmer than it had been, I took my coat off and held it over my nose to stop the smell.  Despite the coat, the smell got stronger as we walked closer to the hole.  The wind picked up.  One hand on my pregnant middle (as if to hold the baby from running away) and the other holding my coat over my nose, I nearly lost my balance when I saw him.  Sam Shepard, my hero.  Chelsea Hotel, fucking Patti Smith, his book of short stories, a true genius!  He was walking straight towards us.  There was no one else. He was walking with the wind. He looked straight at me.  In what seemed molasses-slow motion, we passed.  He stared.  I stared.  My friend stared, too.  Only the workmen were left out of the moment. 

When we’d passed each other completely we both stopped and looked back.  Not me and Sam, but me and my friend.  “He stared at me.”  I declared loudly, images flooding my head from some saving-the-farm movie he’d starred in titled  “River something”.  Oh, how beautiful his eyes had been in the scenes where he’d been covered with dirty river mud…

“You were covering your face with a coat.  Of course he stared” my friend said, the words reaching out and slapping me a little from behind.  My thoughts turned to Jessica, his famous wife.  Where was she?  Why wasn’t she with him?  And where was he going alone, walking on Madison Avenue like a lonely old man on a regular Thursday night?  I thought of my favorite Jessica movie, Frances, and how it had disturbed me.  I saw it and hadn’t been able to calm my blood for weeks—the way the people around her made her into a crazy woman when all she wanted was love.  And they locked her up against her will and no one would believe her.  No one was there to help.  And that mother!  What an evil mother she was!  Crazier than anyone else! And deceitful!  She’d ruined her own daughter’s life.

 “He stared right at me.”  I said again, this time thinking of the recent Vanity Fair photo of Sam, standing in front of the Chelsea Hotel. Then, strangely, I thought of Sandy, who had also lived in the Chelsea Hotel.  I met Sandy at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in a hospital on the Upper West Side.  That group had been surreal.  In the middle of a man’s “sharing” this woman, Sandy, a complete stranger to me then, had leaned over and whispered did I wanna’ go downtown for an art opening when this blowhard was through?  I was caught up in the man’s story and barely heard her.  The man was crying, talking about his missing lover.  He’d been killed and put inside a mattress in the apartment they’d shared.  Murdered by one of their friends–another junkie–and the man said he had slept on the mattress for a week, almost two, before he found him in the middle of it.  “Yes”, I told her, “I’ll go.”

 So after the meeting we headed down to the Village.  Turned out it was the opening of a photo show about Andy Warhol.  Sandy was in some of the pictures with Andy.  Everyone at the Gallery came over to talk to her.  Everyone seemed to know her.  I was only eighteen years old. I’d never heard of the Chelsea Hotel and the only thing I knew about Andy Warhol was that he had bad skin and white hair.  I wondered whatever happened to Sandy.  Then I remembered Sam.

 “Do you think I should turn around and go introduce myself and tell him that I’m going to send him my novel to read?  Or should I ask him who his literary agent is and send it to him instead because it’s like, less threatening?”  I thought of all the waiters and waitresses trying to get their big break and how maybe it could happen.  How it does happen, sometimes.  I thought about Madonna and how she met the father of her child while jogging in Central Park. Then I remembered how last year I trained for the New York City Marathon in Central Park everyday for nine months and never met a soul. But still, maybe he would like me?  Maybe he would sense just from my one sentence how bright and brilliant my future was going to be?  Why, yes!  Of course he would.  And he would want to facilitate my rise to the top, take part in shaping my career, maybe (hopefully!) even corrupt me lecherously, turning into a worldy sex-crazed svengali and guide.   It does happen, I told myself.

 “I know, I’ll send him my novel and attach a note reminding him that I was the pregnant lady he saw on Madison Avenue and 60th Street, holding the coat over her nose one night in April.  I’ll remind him he was walking Uptown.”  There was a pause. “He was staring straight at me.”

 It was then I realized my friend felt left out, clearly jealous of the attention I’d gotten.  “He stared at you, too.” I said falsely.

 “That’s because I was walking with a pregnant lady who had a coat on her face” my friend said.

 By 56th Street the smell had gone completely and we got in a taxi.  Inside, the driver smelled of Petrulli.  I stuck my head out the window, breathing in the shit city air and thinking of Sam the whole way home.


11 Responses to “Sam and Me ~ Aimee Lynne-Hirschowitz”

  1. Elizabeth D. said

    Wow! I was totally drawn in. I loved how you packed so much interesting information about the narrator into a two-page story, and revealed it so smoothly as the natural progression of the story. If it’s not drawing, photography, or cake-baking, then it’s fiction. What next?

  2. Lissa said

    Wow backwards. and I will go you one better I actually did go on and talk to Sam. you should be relieved–let’s just say I am not such a fan anymore of his but I am now a HUGE Aimee L-H fan. Where can I find more of your work? I love the way the narrator tells her story but hangs it on memories of sam. The I also really like the line ” It was then I realized my friend felt left out, clearly jealous of the attention I’d gotten. “He stared at you, too.” I said falsely.”

  3. W. A. Kingfisher said

    I rather liked that. Thank you.

  4. Nancy said

    You rocked it, Aimee! Congrats!

  5. Lisa K said

    You are a great story teller Ms L-H. Keep it up!

  6. jess said

    How many times have I “stuck my head out the window, breathing in the shit city air and thinking of SOMEONE I’ve lusted ALL the whole way home 🙂 ”

    You are a super talent sugar lovely!

  7. Freda said

    I am deeply honored to have been forwarded your writing, Aimee! I had no idea the depth of experience embodied in your beautiful form. You are a wonderful writer with a keen sense of smell. So many questions for you. Will ask you all soon!

  8. Darron said

    What is “Petrulli”?

  9. Mandy G said

    Hi, that was an amazing piece of work. I loved every word of every sentence of it. I haven’t read anything that good in a long time. KUDOS!!

  10. lolliloo said


  11. Pato said

    Very well done, captivating and very new york-ish. Looking forward to more of your stuff! …and yes, I will upload some pictures for you soon!

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