Lisa Lipkind Leibow
and Amy Souza

Amy Souza

Gouache on paper
Inspiration piece

By Lisa Lipkind Leibow


You have a friend named Shoshanna who has a twisted mane of black curls and a button nose decorated with a galaxy of freckles. The freckle constellations mesmerize you, drawing you into her conversation. You hang on every word, deciphering the mythology to explain her universe. As a child, she punctuated the freckles with a toothless grin. After you share how much you love the beauty spots, she experiments with makeup and powder to conceal them. She punches you in the arm – playful-like – when you gift-as-a-joke an oversized powder puff to help her with the camouflage. You think she looks better without heavy foundation, but you shower praise.

“Stunning! Flawless complexion!”

To you, everything about Shoshanna represents excitement. She grew up moving from place to place, an Air Force brat. She explored the world: Japan, Germany, Italy, stateside in Minot, North Dakota and Langley, Virginia. She wanted to live in a small town, play on the high school lacrosse team, go to prom, and hang out with her friends, downing lattes at Starbucks. Instead, her family relocated three times in four years during high school.

She wanted to attend the Institute of Culinary Education, but her parents pushed her into applying to her father’s alma mater, University of Virginia, so she’d have more options for study than “rustlin’ up vittles.” He mocked her goals. In spite of him, now, she works in the kitchen at La Maison de Robuchon. Most nights, she works at the osso bucco station, plating luscious veal stew paired with truffled polenta and roasted broccoli raab.

During time off, she creates an upscale version of Waffle Haus chocolate dipped waffles. Fancy fried dough shaped like sunflowers, peonies, and chrysanthemums. She sprinkles the bouquet with bourbon-chocolate sauce and vanilla-infused powdered sugar – to die for. When Robuchon agrees to add the dessert to his menu, she urges him to name them Snow Blossoms in honor of your winters with her at the mountain on the lake. You’re glad she still feels connected to you and the fond memories. Robuchon rejects the name, instead listing them as Les Petite Fleurs.

Ever since Shoshanna’s dessert item showed up on the menu, and her responsibilities grew to include not only osso bucco, but training staff for the waffle station, the guys in the kitchen heightened their aggressive insistence. They beg her to shag, asking her to yield like the parade of round-heeled girls who had worked in Robuchon’s kitchen over the years.

Shoshanna shoves her luscious curls under a steel-blue mesh skull cap and stops powdering her nose. When you see her without makeup, you savor the reunion with her star-like freckles, but miss the mass of hair. With her head covered in blue mesh, you imagine she’s halfway through a Blue Man Group makeup session. She says she’s trying to look as butch as possible to protect herself from the kitchen Casanovas. You believe she’s trying, but Shoshanna could never look plain. Her eyes smile as they did the day you became fast friends on the mountain – makeup, hair, or no. She’s everything you’re not.

Shoshanna is long and lean; you’re short and curvy. She enjoys rock climbing; you yoga. She spends every Sunday morning riding her bicycle on trails along the river; you sleep in and do a crossword. She keeps a juicer on the counter and vodka in the freezer. You snack on microwave popcorn and coke zero. She carries her angst like a mysterious magnet; you always search for redeeming qualities in others – an eternal optimist. She’s restless and feels trapped even though she’s travelled the world over; you’ve barely been outside of your home town, yet you’re content and liberated. Shoshanna tells everyone you’re lucky because you’ve lived in the same place for your entire life. Shoshanna is the perfect balance of intense surprise-of-the-unexpected and calculated loyalty. The first time you met her you were waiting in the lift line at Pheasant Run Ski Area. She flipped on the half-pipe, skidded into line on her snowboard, and consumed you in an avalanche of powder. As she zoomed in, her lips overflowed with cries.

“Whoa! Yikes! Can’t stop!” The next thing you knew, she was sprawled on top of twelve-year-old you. “Sorry, I guess I’m out of control.”

You untangled your skis from her snowboard. She helped you brush the snow off. Your heart lightened at the thought of losing control. You always stayed in line, carving organized turns down the mountain, snowplowing to decelerate before coming to a complete stop. You rode with her the rest of the day.

Every year after that, Shoshanna’s and your family met, for a winter ski week at the mountain and all summer long on the lake. Each winter break and summer vacation, Shoshanna helped you let go a little more. With her, you raced around, flirted with boys, and embraced the vacation-home you. You slalomed down steep slopes, tackled mogul-studded black diamond trails, and goofed around boarding backwards. Julys and Augusts, you two slathered your skin with baby oil, fried in the sun, and ate double dips at the Latest Scoop. Decembers, you enjoyed sugar waffles and hot chocolate in the ski lodge. In high school, you kept her secret when she got her navel pierced. The summer between senior year and college, you supported her by pretending to believe her when she told you she was sneaking out to help a friend go to Planned Parenthood. You pretended, even after you noticed breast milk wetting her bikini top at the lake in the days that followed.

At least once each summer, the two of you found some mischief or another. Shoshanna attracted invitations to parties with college lacrosse and baseball teams visiting for tournaments. You liked the parties, but felt relieved to see Shoshanna turn down a joint. To this day, you don’t know why, but you listened to Nancy Reagan’s advice, when she urged, “Just Say No to Drugs.” On the other hand, Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It,” bombarded you. The two messages battled for supremacy in your brain. Stick-bodied Nancy Reagan with a head too big for her tiny figure sat on one shoulder, while Michael Jordan sat on the other, like angel, devil shoulder-guys, they whispered in your ears. The joint came closer.

“No,” you said.

Chalk one up for Nancy. You were strong enough to hold your ground. Shoshanna inhaled. The contact high from hanging out in this circle of friends invigorated you. Proximity to rebellion felt dangerous. Shoshanna’s eyes glazed like the Krispy Kreme doughnuts her father the Colonel, bought for Saturday breakfasts.

A few times each summer, Shoshanna borrowed money from you to buy cupcakes, watermelon, and vodka – her favorite party foods – to stock the speedboat for the Friday night cruising parties. You and Shoshanna toured the lake and wound up on the sandy shore of a secluded inlet. You lit campfires and toasted marshmallows. Uncomplaining, you held the jet puff over the flames, toasting it to a golden brown. Shoshanna ignited the end of her stick until all that remained was blackened soot-covered sweetness.

These summer nights filled with spiked melon and flaming desserts represent your carefree chapter. You savor the memory of Shoshanna’s nightingale laugh, of joining the chorus of giggles, and of watching her black mane tighten to kinky ringlets in the humid air. Wonderful! You love Shoshanna and her curly hair.

The guys at La Maison de Robuchon lust after that head of hair, too. The skull cap fails to stop their taunting and abuse. The harassment weighs on her heavily; the songbird-like laugh disappears for weeks as she wrestles with the stress of it. She waits for you at home. When you see she’s holding scissors, all of the blood sinks to your toes. It leaves your brain feeling like a freeze-dried apple. You take the shears from her and follow her to a chair in the kitchen. The handle chills your fingers. The desperation chills your heart as Shoshanna wraps a red towel around her shoulders, sits with her back to you, and waits. You focus on the hair; each curl intertwines with the next like abstract macramé.

“Are you sure?” you ask.

Shoshanna says, “Chop it off. It’s not worth it anymore. It’s the only thing keeping me from focusing on the job. Maybe those bastards will cut me a break if I’m a bald freak!”

You want her to quit. No job is worth losing her identity. You consider walking away – refusing. But she’s your best friend. The ponytail feels like a velvet rope in your fist as you chop off.

“Now finish it.” Shoshanna’s voice is a hiss through clenched teeth as she hands you the electric shaver on the table.
For the first time in all of the years of you’ve known her, you lose your buzz by buzzing.

### The End ###

Souza_portrait.jpg (641 KB)

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