DARK PLUMS– my first novel

“Dark Plums reminds me of places where I used to cruise,” said my brother, many long  years after the novel was published.

It’s the story of a young girl seeking love—physical touch and connection–with a kind of desperation.  It takes place in Manhattan of the 1950’s, a distant time of automats, five cent coffee, and cheap rents

July, 1959

A  man in a pale green shirt was watching her. She could feel his gaze as she walked along Broadway in the steamy afternoon heat……When the light changed, the man crossed the street, following her as she made her way uptown towards the Forty-Ninth Street subways stop….Noise of traffic and people, blaring music from a record shop…As she slowed down to glance at her reflection in a window, the man overtook her… overtook her. … ‘Hello there,’ he said With his small eyes and narrow, reddish face, he reminded her of an animal that had been trapped underground.. Transfixed, Adrianne stood absolutely still while people continued to press around them  Then he reached out and held one of her hands. Empty and lightheaded as she was feeling, there was comfort in his touch.  When he moved a step closer, she fought an urge to press herself against him. His warmth was protection against the waves of human electricity all around them. However, she tried to wrench away. But he only gripped her more firmly.

“Come, follow me.”

His voice was commanding, with a rough edge, and in spite of  herself she wanted him to hold her and soothe the anguish inside her, even if it were only for an instant….oh, this was crazy, she knew. Yet she felt as if the crowd all around her could suck her into itself and leave her hollow as a gourd, while the stranger’s touched defined her body and gave her a sensation of being solid.

Discarding all caution, she want with him to a hotel which had peeling cream-colored walls.

cHe asked with seeming casualness, “Do you need money.”

Adrianne laughed. On an impulse, she said “Yes”

“How much?”

“Twenty-five dollars would help.”

With the money she could buy the beautiful dark dress she’d seen in a Macy’s window….

She felt giddy in the dim light which seeped in through the closed Venetian blinds.

“Do you know that asking or money is prostitution? I can have you arrested.” His voice had grown menacing.

“If you’re a cop, let me see your I.D.”

“Don’t get fresh. You’ll regret it.”

Maybe he was crazy.

She’d better do what he wanted or he might hurt or even kill her. Why had she come here with him?…..

…..She floated above both their bodies. She saw herself—a plump, flushed girl with bleached hair spread out in a tangled mass over the pillow and she watched him—a rabbity man, pumping away at her…….

Afterwards  when he dozed off, she made her escape, fleeing with shoes and stockings in hand.

 

IDENTITY

Pierre Janet, French philosopher and psychologist, wrote in 1889, “Personal unity, identity, and initiative are not primitive characteristics of psychological life. They are incomplete results acquired with difficulty after long work, and they are very fragile.”

I began to realize how the mirrors of other people and of the surrounding culture created a self that at the age of 18 lacked a sense of boundaries, a core, a sense of what violation was. Writing was initially an act of rage, an attempt to integrate what lay beneath the surface. It was an attempt to create wholeness within myself, to understand what had formed me and those close to me.