Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thornclyffe - Part 7


After changing her clothes in the hospital bathroom, Lila walked to the sink to splash cold water on her face. As she patted her face dry she looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her makeup was still mostly intact excepting for the tear streaks. Her lipstick was oddly perfect.


The peek-a-boo hairstyle was in place. The dress was black and glamorous with a swooping neckline and a slit that nearly reached her hip. It was daring, but it was the perfect choice for the evening. A throw back to the 1940s, updated with modern sensibilities. She was looking at herself in the mirror as she applied her lipstick—Mahogany red—when Cordelia’s bedroom door opened. Lila gasped as the mirror reflected Cordelia as she emerged from her room transformed like a butterfly from its cocoon.

She turned immediately. It wasn’t Cordelia exiting that bedroom. It was Marilyn. She had so perfectly captured the essence of the Playboy centerfold turned movie star that it was eerily chilly in the room as if her ghost was present. 

“Well, what do you think?” asked Cordelia, every bit the girl hoping for a positive response to a new hairstyle.

Lila couldn’t even answer her. She was drinking her in completely. The red dress with its sweetheart neckline hugged her body, her exposed shoulders soft and white. Her voluptuous breasts and hips accentuated in all the right places. Cordelia had used a slightly lighter makeup to go with her platinum blond hair. Her already large eyes leapt from her face as the false lashes made them appear even bigger. Her lipstick was Crimson. It was lighter than Lila’s, but matched her dress as if they’d been sold together as a combo. She had a delicate diamond necklace around her neck. It was slightly longer than a choker. If they had been awarding a prize for best costume, Lila couldn’t imagine anyone else at the party holding a candle to Cordelia.

“Oh my God, Cordelia. You look amazing,” Lila exclaimed. “It’s like Marilyn is actually here.”

Cordelia smiled the biggest smile Lila had seen brighten her face in weeks. 
“Thank you,” said Cordelia. “I’ve been practicing the makeup for most of the week. Just trying to get it right.”

“You succeeded,” Lila responded as she walked over to her and they embraced. 

“Now let me look at you.” Cordelia stepped back and took in the sleek beauty of the auburn haired Veronica Lake that stood before her. “You’re beautiful, Lila. Every ounce the glamour girl.” Cordelia smiled an almost sisterly smile at her friend.

They were truly happy. This night was already shaping up to be a memorable one.

Ryan came into the room and stopped cold. He stood shaking his head as he looked at the two girls talking. They hadn’t noticed his arrival. He cleared his throat and they turned to look at him. They were standing on a slight angle with their shoulders barely touching. Both smiled, then stood waiting with apprehension for whether he approved or not.

“Beautiful,” was all he could say. “You both look stunning.” 

Both girls laughed and looked at each other, their apprehension dissolving into faces with looks that said, “Of course we do.”

“Cordelia, I never would have thought you could have pulled off Marilyn so well. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that with your dark hair I wasn’t sure you could pull off platinum blond. I was wrong. You look truly, breathtakingly sensational.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ladd,” she responded breathlessly, using the last name of his persona for the evening, with a purse of the lips connected to the rolling inward movement of shoulders that sent all eyes to her cleavage. She was Marilyn.

“Looks like somebody’s done her research.” Ryan laughed.

“I must confess, I watched some movies and interviews,” Cordelia responded.

“Wow, I did nothing more than look at some photos,” said Lila.
The ladies grabbed their bags and invitations. The three of them left the hotel room. The fates were on their side because the elevator door opened as soon as they pushed the button. Three floors down and they would arrive at the Stork Club.

The grand ballroom of The Clementine Hotel had been transformed into a replica of the Stork Club, one of the most popular nightspots in the world during its heyday. It had had several different locations in New York City before landing in its final one on East 53rd Street. The owner was Sherman Billingsley. His daughter, Shermane, once described the place as “the epitome of American glamour, sophistication and elegance.” It was an icon of the 20th century and reigned supreme from the 1920s to the 1960s when its doors finally closed for good.

There were only a few people attending the society ball that evening who would have been old enough to actually enjoy an evening at the real Stork Club. That didn’t matter. The Internet provided all the information one could seek for research purposes in knowing what it was like to have a Stork Club membership card. 

The invitations were replica’s of those membership cards. They had to be presented at the door in order to gain entry. A golden chain blocked the entrance and was guarded by a tuxedo-clad man judiciously checking the list to keep out the riff raff.

Cordelia and Lila presented their invitations to the gentleman and waited as he checked off their names. Cordelia Boston, check. Lila Hayward, check. Ryan being the gentleman waited for the ladies then retrieved his own invitation from the inside pocket of his dinner jacket. Ryan Lake, check. The golden chain was unlatched and the doors to the Stork Club were opened before them.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thornclyffe - Part 6


"Honey, what happened?" Lila's mom asked." Jenny called me and said you were here. I nearly jumped out of my skin before she could tell me that you weren't the one in the hospital." She stroked her daughter's hair. "Why didn't you call me, Lila?"

Lila got up from her chair and walked to the window. If she smoked, this would be the moment where she lit a cigarette and took and deep calming drag. She didn't smoke though so her deep breath was filled with oxygen instead of nicotine. She stood staring out the window a moment longer, holding her crossed arms at the elbows. She turned toward her mom and started to cry again.

"Oh Mom, it was awful," she said as tears ran down her face. Mrs. Hayward got up and went to her daughter. She lifted up her chin and looked her in the eyes.

"I'm here, Lila." She pulled her into an embrace. "You're safe.” She stroked Lila’s hair. “Talk to me, honey." She ended the embrace but held onto Lila's shoulders.

"Cordelia fell out the window at The Clementine tonight."

"Oh my God." Her mother reacted, as you would expect one to react after hearing that kind of information: with shock.

"She lost her balance wearing a pair of too-high heels and the glass gave way." Lila repeated the same story to her mother that she'd told the police officer on the scene at the hotel. "The glass broke.” She sobbed. “How does that happen?” She stood taking shallow, tear-induced breaths. “No one expects that."

"And Ryan?" Mrs. Hayward asked. "What happened to Ryan?”

"He had a seizure."

Lila offered no further details or information to her mother. She walked over to the chair where the jeans and t-shirt her mother had brought her lay.

"It's funny. Until these clothes were here in front of me I didn't really think about wanting to change. Now I just want to get out of this dress." She picked up the clothes and started toward the door.


"Yeah, honey.”

"Thank you.”

Whether it was for the clothes or for being there, Mrs. Hayward didn't know. She watched Lila walk out the door.


October. Brown University was out on fall break. That was good news for Lila, Ryan, and Cordelia. That weekend just happened to be the weekend of the annual society ball held at The Clementine Hotel. 

Every year the ball was held to raise money for some charity or another and to give the residents an opportunity to liven up their day-to-day lives with a little bit of glamour. This year’s theme was Café Society. 

Café Society: a throwback to a time when the beautiful people—the bright young things—gathered in fashionable cafés and restaurants in New York, Paris, London and Vienna. It started at the end of Prohibition with a marriage to photojournalism. Drinks and photos. Being photographed in the right place. It was a time when celebrities and those of wealth and aristocracy mingled together; attended each other’s dinner parties and balls. Like attracts like and these sets knew how to enjoy each other.

This society ball demanded the most glamorous of costumes. Only the very best would do. More money than anyone wished to discuss was spent on acquiring the right costume for the annual event.

Lila and Cordelia had been so excited to receive their invitations. Ever since their trip to New York City their relationship seemed to be back on track. Cordelia even seemed more at ease going out with Lila and Ryan. Sometimes it was even her suggestion. When they saw the party’s theme, ideas of who to dress as started running through their brains faster than they could write them down on paper.
Lila chose the glamorous Veronica Lake as her disguise for the evening. Veronica may have been a blond, but Lila new from experience that with a blow out she could manage Veronica’s signature peek-a-boo hairstyle beautifully even if hers was auburn. As a bonus, Veronica’s last name was Lake; a name Lila herself hoped would be her own one day.

Ryan took on the guise of Alan Ladd, an actor who had paired well with Veronica Lake in the 1940’s. Specifically he chose Alan as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby of 1949. 

Cordelia, with her curves, couldn’t think of a better icon than Marilyn Monroe. Even though Cordelia was a brunette, she wouldn’t even consider the dark-haired beauty of Norma Jean. She went straight to the classiest wig boutique she could find and purchased a classic, platinum Marilyn Monroe wig. She specifically chose the image of Marilyn in a red dress worn in the film Niagara. A publicity photo from that film was what Andy Warhol used as the basis for his famous silkscreen image of Marilyn. Cordelia had always loved that piece of art.

They booked a suite for themselves at The Clementine Hotel for the evening. This way they wouldn’t have to worry about wrinkled dresses or driving drunk. They would be able to stay at the ball as long as they wanted and drink as much as they dared and merely push the elevator button when they were ready to leave.

Lila was surprised that the sharing of a suite had been Cordelia’s idea. She really did seem to be much more at ease with their friendship. It was such a welcomed change that Lila found herself smiling and genuinely happy.

The morning of the ball was crisp with cinnamon and nutmeg in the air. The leaves burned red and orange. Wheat and hay stalks tied together, complimented by pumpkins, dotted the yards. The autumn sun seemed to change the color of the water from the green blue of summer to blue with a hint of burnt sienna as the fall leaves were reflected in its glassy surface. The sailboats were still anchored in the harbor. It was Lila’s favorite time of year. She loved walking down the sidewalk of Main Street and hearing the dead leaves crunch under her feet. Even the dead leaves opened the memory door with their familiar smell and sound. She knew there wasn’t much time left for them to spend in Thornclyffe. This might even be their last society ball for a while. They were all graduating in May and would probably move away. She hoped to become engaged to Ryan and marry him shortly thereafter. She wasn’t sure where Cordelia was going to go, but she could imagine all of them in New York City. Christies was, of course, based there so that’s where Ryan needed to be. There were plenty of opportunities in New York City for Lila to be a photographer or model. Was there a better market for Cordelia to break into journalism? No. They would probably all three end up in New York City.

This was a time of freedom. They were still in school and that was the most major of their responsibilities. They were adults, but real adulthood had yet to take over their lives. This was going to be the best society ball they had ever attended. Better even than the dances their senior year at Allendale Prep. 

Lila was sitting in the lobby of The Clementine Hotel waiting for Cordelia and Ryan to arrive. She had arrived earlier than the two them in order to just have a moment to absorb the beauty of the lobby. Ever since she’d been old enough to know what it was to have afternoon tea, she had observed and enjoyed the occasional teatime in the lobby of The Clementine Hotel. It was different from going to Windsor. It wasn’t as stuffy as you might think, but it was high tea served in beautiful china cups with matching saucers. She had so often enjoyed sitting alone and sipping tea in front of the grand fireplace in the lobby. It was so ornately decorated with cherubic faces that she often stared at them, their faces frozen in a smile or giggle, and tried to figure out what they were thinking. The fireplace was never better than when it blazed with colors that matched the leaves of autumn and provided warmth that made you unbutton your oversized cashmere sweater. This was one of those days. She couldn’t let the opportunity pass her by without seizing the moment for herself and indulging in it to its fullest.

She saw Cordelia enter through the main doors and walk to the Concierge desk. She watched as the Concierge pointed in her direction. She took a sip of her tea and then placed the dainty, flower-painted cup and saucer on the table beside her chair.

“How long have you been here?” Cordelia asked as she bent down and kissed Lila on the cheek.

“About an hour I think,” Lila responded. “I love sitting here and enjoying a cup of tea.”

“If I had known I would have joined you.”

Lila just smiled in response to Cordelia’s statement. Telling her that she had wanted to spend the hour by herself seemed unnecessarily cruel. If she was honest it seemed like something Cordelia would do just to watch the reaction. That wasn’t Lila. She didn’t want to hurt Cordelia’s feelings. She just wanted to enjoy herself, uninterrupted, and she knew that would have been impossible if Cordelia had joined her. Better to just smile and leave it at that.

“Should we check in?” asked Cordelia.

“I already did,” said Lila. “Our suite is on the third floor—Suite 307—if you want to take you bags upstairs. I’m going to wait for Ryan.”

A hint of the old Cordelia was visible in the smile she gave Lila. Ryan walked through the revolving door at that moment. He saw Lila and Cordelia and waved at them as he walked in their direction. Cordelia seemed to be beaming more than usual as he approached. Lila thought maybe she was just being paranoid. Things had been good. Why should she suddenly not be trusting Cordelia? She had to let those thoughts go. 

Ryan hugged Cordelia first then kissed Lila.

“Are we checked in?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lila responded. “Suite 307.”

“Shall we?” he indicated with his outstretched arm that the two ladies should precede him to the elevator.

Lila and Cordelia looked at each other with girlish smiles, giggled behind coquettish shoulders, then made their way to the elevator. The chivalry of a long forgotten time was already in full effect for the evening.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gaining Respect (A Conversation with Dad)

I am Michael Rohrer. I am a Rohrer. The only son of Gary Rohrer; a man for whom I didn’t know so much respect was possible.


Use your words. Choose them wisely. Actions may speak louder than words, but how often do we hear, “Do what I say, not what I do?” Words are used to communicate and our ability to communicate is a gift that we should all cherish. I have never been more proud of that gift than I was on Friday. That was the day that I took another courageous step towards having the relationship with my dad that I have craved my entire life.

On October 26, 2009, I came out to my dad. I wrote a blog about it so I won’t rehash those details here. What I hoped I would gain from that moment was a better relationship with him.

Our relationship has never been easy. It’s delicate at best. He’s a hunter and a fisherman; I’m in the creative arts. That’s enough said right there to know that we have nothing in common. That didn’t stop my desire for wanting a better relationship with him – to move beyond the pleasantries of birthday or father’s day conversations. Coming out to him did help to weaken the wall that had calcified between us. In some areas is probably started to crumble, but it was still there.

So here I am nearly two years later still craving. I have since realized that the craving is a need for confirmation of acceptance. Basically, I needed to tell my dad that I felt like I was an embarrassment to him and that I feared he wasn’t proud to have me as his son. That day came on Friday.

It didn’t take long after he answered the phone for me to launch head first into the reason for my call. I told him that I had been uncomfortable in his presence growing up. I told him that at family gatherings I hung out with the women in the kitchen because I couldn’t bear being in the room with the men; the talk of hunting and lures and deer stands and killing, etc. was not my cup of tea. Honestly, I didn’t know how to talk about it and I was scared to death that my secret was going to be discovered. Of course that secret was that I was gay. I have no secret to be discovered anymore. That’s what helped make this conversation possible. I told him that I had been afraid of him. A child should not be afraid of a parent. Parents are there to protect and love their children. I was so afraid of my sexual feelings and his feelings towards me as his child that I lived in a place of fear. Fear sucks!

He listened to me. He heard me. I in turn listened and heard him. We got a great many things off our chest.


My dad took a second to make sure that things he was about to say fell in line with us bearing our souls and emptying the weight of our hearts. I acknowledged that as the truth and encouraged him to speak.

That is when my dad boldly asked me questions about my life that: a.) I couldn’t believe he would want to know the answers to and: b.) He wasn’t mortified to actually ask. I was so proud of him for asking me that I was bursting. I was smiling from ear to ear. I laughed. I was shocked, surprised and happy that he’d brought them up. I was honest with him. I told him I had indeed had sex with a woman before, but it wasn’t what I desired. I told him I had indeed had sex with a man (more than one actually) and that I‘d even had a relationship with a man. It was brutally honest. Not the gory details, but honest nonetheless.

Here is a man that cares so much about what other people think about him that I’ve carried the guilt of being an embarrassment to him because I’m gay for years. My being gay is not a reflection on him. He did nothing wrong. I am who I am. That didn’t stop him from saying he wished that he hadn’t been a punk kid who was still running around with his friends when I was born. He was 19-years old. He had just graduated from high school. Okay so he wasn’t there for me. That would not have changed the outcome of my life. I was gay then and I’m gay now. I can’t and won’t blame him for being a 19-year old father. Mistakes happened. The pregnancy may have been a mistake, but I am not a mistake. I am exactly who I was born to be.

I used to love to play in my mom’s shoes as a child. He said he has often wondered if he had taken that shoe out of my hand and replaced it with a bb gun would things have been different? I assured him they wouldn’t have been different. I am gay and no amount of his taking me hunting or replacing my favorite pair of my mom’s shoes (that I loved) with a bb gun was going to change that. I’ve heard multiple times in my life how my grandmother didn’t want me playing in the dirt. I told him that no amount of playing in the dirt would have changed the feelings that I felt as soon as I was old enough to understand what I was feeling.

Here’s what I learned. My dad carries around the regret and pain of his absence from my early childhood. He carries around guilt that he caused me to be gay. I don’t know what it’s like to live with that kind of sadness and regret. I don’t know how to convey to him that he needs to let that go. He’s nearly 60-years old. He’s had 40 years to ingrain that regret into his head and heart. My wish for him is that he realizes he did nothing wrong.

I’ve never stopped to see his side of things. How selfish is that? What helped me see it is that just as much as I don’t want to talk of hunting, he doesn’t want to talk of acting or musicals. It was an Aha! moment in true Oprah fashion. I had only been seeing my side of things. I thought that since I was his child he should care about the things I did in my life. However, I didn’t care about the things he did in his life. How could I ask so much of him without giving anything in return? I actually got that. It’s okay that we have nothing in common. It’s okay. I heard him and for the first time I understood.

Education is a two way street. Teachers stand before us and give the information, but we as the student have to listen and absorb. My father and I each played the role of teacher and student during that phone call.


Dad told me that the day I called him to tell him I was gay there was something he didn’t tell me. He said he had taken it upon himself to lift my name up to God – to say my name in prayer everyday asking God to help me. When I heard that I was astonished. I let him finish and then gave him my thoughts. I had been struggling for weeks to find the words to tell him I was gay. That particular day, I was in the shower composing words for an email to him when suddenly I had to get out and dry off and call him. I picked up my phone and found his name in the address book. I was shaking. I looked at his name and held the phone to my chest right over my heart. I took a deep breath and pressed “send.” He answered. The rest is history.

I told him God works in mysterious ways. We don’t know why he does what he does. Dad didn’t get what he was expecting from that phone call, but I now know that my urge to tell him was so strong because I was being lifted up. God knows what you need. God knew that we needed to break down our barriers and that I needed to be honest with him.

My dad is a good man. He’s an honest man. He’s proud and he’s caring. I found more respect for him on Friday than I knew possible. He does not agree with homosexuality. He lives his life by God’s word. I understand that. I just know, and hope I conveyed to him, that my life was never a choice. It’s all I’ve ever felt. I am created by God.

I never want to bring shame on him. I won’t hide who I am though. Those years are in the past. We’re older and wiser now. I have to be my authentic self.

The years of placing blame are in the past. The only person to blame is staring back from the mirror. If we don’t do the things that we want to do in our lives it’s our own fault. Friday was a major step, and a victory, for two men long stalled on the road of life.

We’re never too old to learn. My father is nearly 60-years old and I’m 40. We had a breakthrough, years in the making, and it will change our lives forever.

He may not understand why I’m gay, and he may not agree with it, but he respects me as a person and loves me as a son. That’s a pretty big man.

Before we hung up the phone he said, “Hey, we’ve just had a conversation.” I laughed and answered in the affirmative. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. We had segued from past mistakes and hurts to an honest conversation that both of us were interested in. That’s progress.