I Call Myself Pentimento

 No one sees me

No one really looks

I’m dressed up, dolled up

to look 21 when I’m only 14.

Primped and pimped

That’s me.

Made to look enticing and exciting.

Someone other than I truly am.

Someone I surely am not!

Don’t know where in the world I am.

Some famous race track town.

My pimp, ‘Mr. K.’ – he wants

us girls to call him that –

is happier than I’ve seen him in weeks.

‘Lots of Money to be made here,

little girls, so let’s get to work.’

His ‘let’s’ means ‘us little girls’

Mr. K doesn’t like it when ‘us girls’

talk to each other but

the one next to me in his van

looks so terrified I say,

‘Hey, my name is Pentimento’

She says, ‘That’s no name I never, ever heard of.’

I say, ‘I named myself. It’s a high-society-sounding

name. Unusual. Men remember it and

ask for me and that makes Mr. K happy

and that’s what keeps us safe and alive.’

I walk alone into the hotel lobby

making myself invisible to

some prying eyes and noticed

by other eyes. I stay in the shadows

hiding behind what’s already there but

visible to those looking for someone like me.

that’s why I call myself Pentimento.

It means something like hiding in plain sight

or artist’s regret  or some such…..

Well, I don’t know what regrets

that artist fellow had about the hour

he spent with me last year.

Mostly he talked about art and

how in some old paintings

you can see where the artist changed his mind and

painted over something.

‘Over time,’ he said, ‘the old figure starts to bleed through:

a dog where a little boy now stands, a balloon where

a cloud now floats overhead.’

And I thought heck, that’s me!

My old self is covered over by

this make-up and these god-awful clothes.

But my real, true self is still in here

peeking out and obvious to

someone who is really looking,

who  wants to see Me.     Lucy.

I’m too young-looking even with

this get-up on to go into

the hotel bar so I stand around the

edges of the lobby avoiding the desk clerk and

normal-looking patrons.

I see Mr. K outside holding that new girl

in a vise-grip and yelling without raising his voice one iota.

He shoves her into the hotel’s rotating door.

I’m so intent on watching them I don’t

hear the man come up behind me until

he strokes my shoulder

with his diamond-ringed hand.

‘Hey sugar, what’s your name?’

I turn and plaster my sweetest,

little girl sexy smile  on my face.

‘Pentimento.’

‘That’s quite the name. What’s it mean?’

‘It means let’s go upstairs and have a good time.’

While we wait until we can get on

an empty elevator car

I put my hand out and say

‘This’ll be $100 right now and more later

if you know what I mean.’

He puts something in my hand

as he backs out the closing elevator door.

It’s 2 $100 bills and a business card.

I  read the card 2x  as I slide down to the elevator floor.

Finally, finally after 4 long,

lonely, tortured years

someone sees me

ME, Lucy.

I no longer have to be Pentimento.

 

The card says:

If you are in trouble dial this number ***

We are ‘Eyes Wide Open’

We see You and are here to help You.

We care about You.

Call us.