Author's Note: My high school is putting on Thoroughly Modern Millie, and I play the New Modern who shows up at the end. When I was explaining the role to someone, she said, "So it basically leaves room for a sequel?" The answer is, yes. It shows how things have come full circle. It's an ironic and humorous note to end the play on. Anyway, I wondered about the new New Girl, and I had this idea for her … I don't want to write a whole sequel about her, but I thought it would be cool if she met Millie. Keep in mind, I haven't yet seen the entire play, so I don't know all about Millie's character, I just have a general idea of her personality; so let me know if you think it's accurate or not.
I come out of Grand Central Station and am simply awed by my first real look at New York City. All the things I've heard and read about – the skyscrapers, the lights, the crowds, the signs and billboards, the shouts of languages I can't identify – I realize they're the kind of things that words can't adequately describe. They need to be experienced firsthand.
After all, isn't that the reason I'm here?
I fall into the current of passersby, trying to take it all in. I walk by several first-story shops, and I wonder what I should buy first, once I save up some money. I pass a record store, and can faintly hear a new jazz tune – the newest heartbeat of the ever-changing city. That has a nice ring to it; I'll have to write that down when I get the chance.
With a boldness I didn't know I had, I go into the store and ask the salesman what music is playing on the victrola. (Such a strange, beautiful word – it sounds like a girl's name.) Then I buy a copy of the record, thinking, Why not? It's a tiny celebration of my arrival. This music will inspire me. And I'll always remember hearing this new age jazz song when I came to New York City.
It's not until I leave the store that I realize I won't be able to listen to the record, unless I buy myself a victrola. Oh, well.
I have so much to do. Find a place to stay; find a job; find friends; find myself; if I have time, and if I so desire, find love.
First things first. I go to the edge of the street and hold up one arm. "Taxi!" But the yellow car drives on, not so much as glancing my way.
"Rude," I mutter.
"Maybe so … or maybe it's the fact that that wasn't a taxi," someone says. I turn around, and almost gape at the person standing before me.
Her hair is cut in a bob. Her skirt is short, cut just below the knees. She holds her head high, and when she approaches me, she walks with a feminine grace straight out of Hollywood. This woman is the epitome of style and modernity.
"Just arrived?" she says conversationally.
"Ah – is it that obvious?"
"Let's see." She cups her chin in one hand, and rests her elbow in her other hand, studying me. I can't help feeling self-conscious as she takes notice of my outfit, my suitcase, and the items I have tucked under my arm. "Homemade dress designed to look chic; the latest fashion magazines; a hat bought at a county fair; a jazz record; and a wide-eyed look that says you've never seen such a big city before."
I try not to stare at her in confusion. I don't know what she's playing at, whether or not she's making fun of me. But I'm not going to let her know that.
I fold my arms and smile patiently. "Who are you and what do you want?" I say in a pleasant, businesslike tone.
"My name's Millie." Millie? I expected her to have a modern, sophisticated name, like Jacqueline or Annette.
The woman – Millie – is still talking. "I just want to give you a heads-up. 'Cause I was just like you when I came here from Kansas."
Kansas? I was thinking Hollywood, or maybe San Francisco or Chicago, or someplace exotic.
"I watched all the latest movies, noticed the way girls did their makeup, how people kiss, how to dance and walk. I even memorized the subway map. I was going to be thoroughly modern."
"You look as though you succeeded," I inform her.
Millie smiles. "Aw, it's sweet of you to say that. But things didn't go the way I'd planned. I wanted to get a job and marry my boss – never mind if I loved him or not. Well, I won't tell you my whole life story, but I will say, I learned that love is more important than money."
"I'm not here to marry my boss. I'm here to be a writer," I inform her, with a touch of defiance, holding my head up proudly.
Millie looks – not impressed, but – appreciative. "Miss Independent. I like it."
I can't help it; I feel a surge of pride, hearing these words from someone who seems to be everything I'm not, everything I want to be.
"What's your name, Snookums?"
Everyone back home called me Eva, but I answer, "Evangeline." That's the name I'll go by from now on. It means "good news." Mother chose it from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; I secretly like having a name inspired by a great writer, which is exactly what I want to be.
"If you need a job, I know a guy who employs stenographers."
"That's wonderful!" That job sounds perfect for me. I can improve my typing, and maybe once I earn some money I can buy a real typewriter, to use for my stories.
"Do you have some paper?"
"I always do," I reply smartly, taking my notebook out from under my arm. I turn to a blank page and hand it to her. Millie writes down a name and address. "Tell him Millie Dilmount recommended this job to you."
"Thank you so much!" I say, taking my notebook back. I wonder if that's the end of our conversation, but I don't want it to be. "So – do you have any advice for the newbie?"
Millie puts a finger to her chin, considering. "Know this: the city can be rough. I know – I was mugged the very same day I arrived here. But it also has a shine to it, if you can find it. So be smart. Know that you're naïve, and be open to learn." She pauses. "Also: if an eccentric Chinese woman offers you tea, don't drink it. Get as far away as you can."
Now I don't bother trying to hide my confusion. Millie smiles sweetly at me. "Welcome to New York."
I blink, and as the crowds shift, she disappears.
For a moment, I feel a strange sense of sadness. I look around, and realize I'm surrounded by people who don't know me, and don't care that a new person has come to their famed city.
But that woman, that complete stranger, saw through my façade, (saw herself in me,) and offered me kind words of advice.
I don't often have moments like this. "Epiphany" seems like too strong a word. It was just a chance encounter – but it may have shaped the future that lies before me. Who knows?
I sit down on a bench outside a restaurant and open my notebook. I take the pencil out from behind my ear and start scribbling, determined to get these thoughts down while they're fresh in my mind.
~ Jazz: "The heartbeat of the ever-changing city."
~ A metaphor: I am teetering on the border of who I am and who I can become. How to distinguish one from the other?
~ Character idea: "Modern" lady who isn't all she seems.
I've been in the city for less than an hour, and already I've learned two things.
One: Things aren't always what they appear.
Two: Even if things don't turn out the way they planned, they can still turn out good.
Author's Note: I don't know why I'm mentioning this, but while writing this oneshot I thought about other 20th century stories that take place in New York City, such as The Catcher in the Rye and Breakfast at Tiffany's. And aren't all three of these stories about searching and finding yourself? Maybe that's part of New York's appeal, you can get lost and/or get found.