Ondrea Barbe, Photographer, NYC: A Night of Metaphors.

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

It was a night of metaphors the last time I saw her; however, when we said goodbye she quite literally plucked her own eyelash, passed the lash to me and said, "Make a Wish."

And then I never saw her again.

I was loosely wrapped in yellow packaging tape, the word "Fragile" twisted around me like a barber’s pole. And she was an angel.

It was Halloween before the turn of the century and we stood face to face, the din of the party around us muted as I accepted the eyelash between pinched fingers.

If forced to describe her, I'd need only one word: Light.

We'd met months before when she’d arrived from Paris. She’d gone there from somewhere here, maybe anywhere here. She could have been from California or Seattle, the Midwest or Maine.

She was normal, but in no way average.

She was living her art; given over: integrated. And the Big Apple was the next step after garret living in Paris.

We looked like Wild West card dealers in black pants, white shirts and black vests and we served twenty-five dollar hamburgers to the midtown lunch crowd. The place was owned by a Long Island Italian who kept a bat behind the bar (Louisville Slugger 125 Ash), and started each conversation with, "Look me in the eye."

He was a hell of a judge of character and didn’t like me on sight; a man intolerant of verbal sleight of hand, he was direct, some might even say aggressive in his search for truth (hence the bat).

One afternoon before his Gumba (I use that term with great affection) buddies were coming in to eat, he was barking orders at the manager, a lovable grey haired neurotic Jew who had the shiniest finger nails I’d ever seen (or seen since).

Standing in his black leather sport coat, feet wide apart, with not a hair out of place, the owner glared at me and pointed (in case I was confused) and said, "And you, don't even come near my table... you'll be lucky somebody doesn't get up and give you a smack."

He was affectionate in his own way.

Shortly thereafter, Sinatra died and things changed between me the owner. Before my shift, in a cloud of creative marijuana smoke, I'd bought black arm bands for all the waiters.

He didn't say a word but he looked me in the eye (and in my mind he nodded three small times but maybe that didn’t happen).

What I know for sure is that he never saw me the same way again.

I was living in an apartment on Prince and Elizabeth, in a room without windows. The whole world could be on fire but you wouldn't know it from my bed; the darkness was so complete.

I remember the smell of coffee beans roasting on an industrial level, it's less pleasing than you think... the whole block was acrid with the stink.

The boutique downstairs sold cashmere underwear to Madonna for two grand a pop and across the street a Chinese family ate around a small table; the father shirtless in loose white underpants (now gone grey).

I wore a silver ring with the word "Faith" inscribed on it.

I lost that ring that night, like I said, it was a night of metaphors.

I was fragile in Soho with the eyelash of an angel and a wish to make.

I never saw her or the ring again

And although I don't remember what I wished for,

I'm certain it’s come true.

Iris Burchi, Artist. Venezuela. Photo by John P. Murphy. The Artist Workshop, Puerto Escondido. Mexico.

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