The Queen of Williamsburg on Furs and Death


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He has an Australian accent and a fur headband dangling between pinched fingers.
He is torn.

“Honey, you hesitate, you lose.”
Thick tulip lips a relief sculpture co-dominating her face with square Dior goggles.
A cartoon stationed full-time on Bedford Avenue.
89 and a face printed on Brooklyn Industries t-shirts.
A cartoon speaking aphorisms.

“Don’t wear low-cut shirts. What are you, trying to prove you have a breast? Don’t get tattoos, cannibals get those kind of things.” The first words I heard her speak last year.

She is called the Queen of Williamsburg. She virtually owns the block. She knows everyone.
It’s like she’s never alone.

“You know everyone,” a friend told me walking through the neighborhood recently. I nodded, waving at a subway singer I’d written about and a restaurant host I’d picked up at a bar. “It’s like you’re never alone.”

The Queen wears a red coat for fall, so bright her walker disappears.

“This girl put me on the Internet,” she tells the indecisive Australian. “I’m famous.”

I did put her on the Internet.

Then I saw her so often smiling on her bench that she became a nuisance, tugging at me to stop when I passed so I started crossing the street.

Last week she tapped my shoulder in the pharmacy. We both had colds. She hugged me.

“My husband died when he was 51. My son died when he was 41. You didn’t know that, did you.”


“I got there when my son’s body was still warm and I threw my body on his. Then I couldn’t stop screaming in our apartment. I just kept screaming and screaming, they didn’t know what to do with me.”

“How did it happen?”

“I kept screaming.” Pause. “Some people just aren’t lucky.”

Grabbed my shoulder.

“You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she said.

Eyed me with love and walked away.

A few days ago I dreamt about Leonora. Plump cheeks vacuumed from her face, shriveled and spotted with mascara. Naked eyes withered peas.

But here she is, reigning over the block.

“Buy it. Don’t hesitate,” she tells the Australian. “If you wake up tomorrow dead, it’ll be too late. You never will have had that fur.”

The fake dead animal expands like a grow-a-dinosaur in water.

“She’s a wise woman,” I tell him. I don’t wait around to learn his fate, though I’m the most indecisive person I know.