Ode to Miss Texas: Pt. I
December 31, I found myself yet again in my neighborhood dive bar, waiting with 500,000 people for the ball to drop from the Newsday building around the corner. I would have liked to have gone somewhere else; but an army of police patrolled the Times Square area, making it difficult to get to, or leave 44th St. I didn’t feel like battling the crowds and cops just to come back home. I had the good fortune to hook up with some tourists from Brookfield, WI, two towns over from my old stomping grounds in Waukesha. The look of awe on their faces infected me. It felt as though I were seeing the ball drop for the first time. I hoped to hang a little more with the Wisconsin party, but the women wanted to go somewhere where they could flash.
As the crowd started to thin, I noticed a table occupied by one lonely occupant, a petite, “All-American” blonde with sharp blue eyes and a tiny, sharp nose. She flashed a perfect-toothed smile at me. I returned the smile, then went back to chat. I ordered a fresh beer for her, and spent the remaining time getting acquainted. Within the first five minutes of conversation, she told me of her life as a former Miss Texas, an impoverished mother of two children, ages nine and thirteen, and as a high-school dropout with no GED, no job, no work history to get one, and no money. I asked why she’d come to New York. She explained that she wanted to visit a friend. She then changed the subject to small talk: weather, interests, etc.
I mulled over everything she had said concerning herself, and little of it rang true. To this day, I’ve never expended the effort necessary to verify whether or not she actually won a Miss Texas pageant. Granted, she looked the part, minus a couple of wrinkles and fifteen years. Still, a title like that seemed a little too grandiose for me to buy. She had to have some sort of income other than welfare if she were going to support two kids, and take trips to Manhattan. She’d made the trip twice in the past ten months, well beyond the means of somebody living on public assistance at $400 a month. Her clothes, while by no means extravagant, were new and stylish. I noticed her manicured fingernails, her make up, and her new shoes wondering how she could afford them all.
I went to bed, thinking that she was probably deranged. I felt sorry for her, but didn’t see what I could possibly do. New York is an expensive place. I figured she would spend what little money she had in a couple of days, then go back home to Denton, TX.
Nine months later, I found her at the same table, suitcase beside her. She waved me over, and asked if she could stay at my place. I carried her suitcase – which was heavy for me, let alone for someone as tiny as her – to my apartment. She crashed on the bed while I slept in my dirty clothes on the floor. I went out the next morning. By the time I came back, she had just finished up a telephone conversation to a New Jersey friend, who would take her back to his place. I lugged the suitcase downstairs while she waited for him to arrive. I would have stayed with her, but I had to dash off to the library.
I didn’t hear from her for a while. She had left some things at my place, so I figured she would come to get them. A little over a week went by before I accepted a collect call from her. Two things floored me when I got the telephone bill a month later. First of all, we talked for less than ten minutes, but the charge came to over $15.00. Secondly, she called from Cranford, NJ, the town next to where my very good friend, a former Marine Corps counterintelligence NCO lived. I think there might have been a good chance that she went there to see him. While I had never seen them together, they knew each other quite well, and each had spoken to me about the other.