Mrs. Clotworthy, so perfectly summed up by her name she needs no nickname. A true American blueblood, a pure-breed, free-range Upper East Side birth-right aristocrat.
And how perfect a name! Reminisicent of a character straight out of Dickens or Trollope, an instrable Ms. Haversham either coming or going from a recent attack of the nerves, listing towards senility like a tree slowly tipping in the forest. Well in to her 70’s, her upper-class handsomeness has somewhat faded. Her debutante days of (cocktail) partying too hard seem to have caught up with her, and we are left with a woman who has been a socialite a bit too long.
Yet she still is dedicated to her soirées and her cultural events. She comes and goes several times an evening; restaurants, performances, various secret societies of which she is on the planning committees of the orgiastic initiation rites.
While she may be threatening senility, she is never under-dressed: always a jacket, low pumps, hair washed, make-up and jewelry, yet there is something vaguely off about her whole ensemble. The lipstick is almost imperceptibly smudged, the skirt a little bit too loud and polyester, a subtle case of the pearls not matching the drapes. Something just not quite right, the foreshadowing hint of milk on the cusp of going sour.
Mrs. Clotworthy’s general comportment does not help this perception. She comes in hunched over, headcocked at a rakish angle, weaving slightly and always in a a rush. She has a habit of echoing herself: “thank you, thank you”, “Is the mail in? the mail?”, “oh it is, it is?” “ok, ok.”, “Bye. Bye.”
She only makes eye contact with a spot down and to the left of you. When spoken to she responds with a startled confusion, and never quite answers directly.
“Mrs. Clothworthy, I have your prescription if you’d like me to get it now”
“Yes, yes,” she says hestitantly, “I’m going to leave my sweater with you a moment.”
“Is the mail in?”
“Yes, Mrs. Clotworthy.”
“I will be going out later, later.”
Whereas most people in the building have small, yappy dogs as pets, Mrs. Clotworthy’s pet of choice is another woman, a silver-haird creature perhaps five years younger. Always loyally at her heels, the only evidence I have that the pet speaks is a glimpse of her whispering in Mrs. Clotworthy’s ear as the elevator doors closed. She is forever wearing a facial expression of stupified contentedness
The rare occasion that she leaves her pet at home, Mrs. Clotworthy makes eye contact. It is terrifying. It only happens as she waits for the elevator, turning her head absurdly far back towards you, she stares with an intensity stereotypically reserved for the insane. A facial tic accompanies her unrelenting gazes pulling back her lips rapidly and repeatedly into a bare-toothed snarl, rendering her face weirdly simian and rubbery, as if she is wearing one of those masks from the original Planet of the Apes.
Redeeming this strangeness is her redeemindly charming method of taxi-cab hailing (no mass transit for the Mrs.) Perpetually in a rush, she comes charging out of the elevator (silver puppy in tow). She almost immediately thrusts her right arm stiffly in the air, palm down and flat, fingers together, the perfect fascist salute. In this position she traverses the lobby, the sidewalk, and without hesitation stomps into the street, an intimidating and perfectly effective way to “heil, taxi”.
I leave you with the pun.