The sunlight is beating down on my face as he opens his drawers for the seventh time. I take it as my cue to get up. My ears are ringing and every muscle in my body feels heavy, urging me to stay put instead of wandering about at this ungodly hour. It can’t be later than ten. It’s too comfortable in the perfectly firm mattress, a welcome contrast to the hard bed springs I’ve become accustomed to, but this isn’t my bed and I know my eyes are fluttering, ready to give me away. I draw my arms above my head and kick my feet free from the tangle of sheets.
“Oh, hey. Sorry, did I wake you?”
The throbbing in my head prevents an eye roll.
“No, not at all,” I lie. “Heading out?” I stretch lazily and catch all the scents I’ve accumulated on my body. This is where I act like I don’t remember him telling me he had to be up early in the morning exactly two minutes after he finished all over my back.
“Yes. Terrible, I know. I have a meeting with my CEO soon, but feel free to stay as long as you need to…”
He fiddles around with a shiteous blue tie, tying and untying it, all the while avoiding eye contact with me as he adjusts it in the mirror. I catch my own reflection, barely recognizing the banged up girl propped in front of the massive headboard; Mascara is flaking down onto my cheeks, the left side of my hair is caught up in a bramble of knots, my lips are stained red, smudging just a little. I groan at the thought of having to detangle my curls. New rule: No more friggin’ hair pulling.
For a split second I think about sliding back down into his million thread-count sheets and taking him up on his half-assed offer. He can afford to be a bit hospitable after getting his spunk in my hair, right? Besides, Mother’s probably chained her door shut and this guy isn’t giving off any murderous vibes. Normally, I’d take the fact that he apologized and wiped me down as a sign of chivalry, but taking a look around his room, he just seems like a neat freak. God forbid any stains mess up his black sheets. Whatever, screw it.
“That’s sweet, but I’ve gotta check out, too.” I’m already out of his bed and gathering my things, allowing him one last look at my naked body before we never see each other again.
I grab my phone off his black dresser and turn away from him so the sun hits my curves like a spotlight. Three missed calls from my mother glare through the broken screen. My battery is only at 12%, but I could spare a percent or three to listen to her voicemails bitching about my “lifestyle choices.” Or not. Pete, at least I think his name is Pete, has made his way across the room and grabs my hips from behind, pressing himself against me. My tired eyes strain out of instinct.
“Why don’t you stay for just a little longer?”
What a surprise.
“I thought you had a big meeting?” The fancy crystal clock on the nightstand blinks 9:14AM.
His breath is on my neck and his soft hands squeeze at my flesh, reaching to cup my breasts. As much as I want to go back to sleep, I cringe at the thought of slipping back into bed with this rhythmless jerk.
“They can wait. I just need to have you one more time, mmm.” He starts peeling his clothes off again.
“Yeah, I gotta go. Sorry,” I say, pulling my wrinkled dress over my head. So fucking typical.
“Well, how about tonight, then? I’m not done with you yet.”
“Sorry, working tonight.” This conversation is boring me to the point of annoyance. I grab the Chucks from my bag and put my beat up heels in their place while he plops down at the edge of the bed, sulking.
I excuse myself to his bathroom to wash my face with cold water and gargle with his mouthwash. It swishes around the traces of stale alcohol and tobacco, but I can still feel the bitterness lingering at the back of my throat. It had been one of those nights. A night where no one is keeping tabs on the baggies or the pill boxes. Powders and tablets tumble to the dance floor and six-inch heels grind them into a cocktail of oblivion. The plumes of God-knows-what cloud our faces and soon, we’re all getting fucked up on each other’s shit, syncing our bodies to the pounding bass of the music. For a moment, I question if I would even be here if it wasn’t for this toolbox dangling party favors in my face all night. I can hear him on the other side of the door, sighing and making shuffling noises, trying to move me along. Obviously not, Hazel. Guess I’ll take a peek inside his cabinets since we’re all in a rush here. There’s a neat row of pill bottles: Sildenafil, Zolpidiem, Sertraline. Jackpot. Alprazolam. I shake out half of the small orange zannies and add them to the old Altoid tin that holds a tangy nugget of purple haze and some left over oxys. Maybe I’ll give a couple to Nick when we meet up to compare stashes. It’s been ages since we came across any. Crap, I hope I have some money left on my Metrocard.
I walk straight to the front door that’s just two feet away from the bathroom, rather than take the extra five steps to give Peter, I think it might actually be John, a “proper” goodbye. Popping on some cheap sunglasses ruined from the clusterfuck of junk at the bottom of my tote, I yank at the handle. “‘Kay. I’m leaving. Thanks for letting me crash!” I yell as I walk out, letting the door slam behind me.
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that wished Peter/John would come charging after me calling out, “Wait, I have to see you again. You’re perfect. You’re beautiful. You’re everything,” but I’m not an idiot. Guys like him lurk around the local hotspots in their thousand-dollar suits, sipping their sixteen-dollar martinis, just biding their time for the right prey. They’ll send the bartenders crisp bills and vulgar comments until some underage girl slips through the cracks and is corralled into a dark corner, waiting for a knight-in-shining Prada to buy her a real drink. No, Peter/John won’t be coming. He’s probably already halfway undressed and laying in bed again. After all, it is a Saturday.
I’ve never been ignorant about my place in this world. Yeah, Mother has failed in so many ways, but at least she taught me early on that men only want you for what’s in between your legs. I’m sure she was probably telling me that to hurt me, but in a fucked up way, it was the most important thing she’s ever given me: I have some kind power in my life. I brush past the doorman who nods and winks at me as he rushes to prop open the heavy glass door. It’s too early to use my “friendly” smile, the one that flips the switch in your brain from, “That girl looks like a bitch” to “Wow, she’s beautiful.” Instead, I look down at my phone and read the six text messages Nick sent during the after hours party last night:
2:39AM—where the FUCK are you whore??
3:11AM—kinda sorta wanna go home with this guy but only because he’s got some snow
3:26AM—i hope you didn’t leave with that ducking weird italian creeper
3:31AM—are ypu ali ve? ??
4:15AM—holy shit. im gunna marry this guy. you better not be dead. text me when you’re done hosing down your vag bahahahah lub yewwww
I feel a smile spreading across my lips, a real one. The night had become a blur after I guzzled down my third vodka cranberry at the one-hour open bar; the best way to maximize the potential of a night out when you’re two years from twenty-one. I knew we’d get separated at some point. Fridays at The Jungle are always chaotic; plastic animal masks cover the faces of almost all the men, granting the non-models a free pass to rub themselves against wasted girls all too eager to take selfies with zebras and tigers. I type Nick a quick update before my phone flat lines.
9:34AM—hahahaha elephant guy? ditched Franchesco asap. he’s fucking annoying. left with the giraffe in the gray suit. 7in. avg lay. nice eyes. no snow. cpl of zannies. heading back to smoke and sleep. work at 6. fml.
My knee pops a couple of times and is starting to throb; a sign that I shouldn’t have gone all Honey on the dance floor last night. There’s a sharp pinch in my scar every time I have to dodge the strollers crowding the sidewalks manned by thirty-something-year-olds with fresh manicures and blowouts. I hate it up here. The Upper West Side is forever crawling with these uptight women who look pissed that they have to give their nannies the weekend off. Don’t worry ladies, your Marias and Consuelas will be back first thing Monday morning.
9:48. Ugh. Eight more hours until I have to fake happy and keep my tits out and jiggling so the hungover waitresses can reap all of the benefits. How did the fuck did Aimee do it? There’s no way I can walk into work looking like this, but the Dragon Lady will make my life a living hell if I walk in the door at this point. I scan the streets for a place to charge my shitty phone, but of course, they’re mostly lined with ridiculously expensive boutiques hoping to entice Mrs. Moneybags into buying some frilly blouse that could get me six monthly metrocards. Yeah, there’s no place for someone like me to linger around an electrical socket for a couple of hours.
I’m A Bitch suddenly starts blaring from my phone. Dragon Lady again. I hit ignore and head towards the green lamp post on the side of the street. Nicky won’t be up for another few hours, so I send a quick text to the one person whose door is always open.
9:52AM—Hey kiddo. need to kill some time. you around?
I start down the stairs into the subway, wincing as the pain shoots up my thigh. Massaging my leg with my free hand, I stare at the bubbles blinking on the screen.
9:53AM—sure. cum over.
The phone starts to shut off and I sprint the rest of the way down the stairs; The faster I move, the less it hurts. I swipe my Metrocard. Please have money. Beep. GO, $1.50 Remaining. Sweet. I push through the metal turnstiles with my legs and run up to the 3 train just as the doors begin to close. My eyes lock with the conductor’s whose smirk reads, “What are you gonna do about it.” Just as I’m about to flip him off and give up, a hand and foot are wedged in the door frame. The owner struggles for a moment in a battle against the electric doors, the sadistic conductor at the helm, cackling each time the filthy rubber edges make contact with the lone tennis shoe. Finally, the asshole lets up and I’m able to get on. My red-headed savior smiles awkwardly at me and quickly looks down at his thick paperback.
“Thank you.” I’m breathless and sweaty, but I don’t think he notices. I push my sunglasses to the top of my head, beads of moisture already accumulating on my nose.
“Oh, uh, no problem.” He ruffles the back of his shaggy hair. “Glad you could join us,” he says, laughing nervously. It’s kinda cute.
The electronic map overhead tells me that I’ve got seven stops before I reach the Financial District and my ears begin to burn as I feel the eyes from all over the train car studying the girl who’s made a big scene and stalled their commute. I ignore the audible sighs and the rustling of newspapers coming from the hard plastic seats and turn quickly to the boy next to me, still visible shaking just as much as I am.
“That’s a pretty big book,” I try to whisper. Hopefully my mouth doesn’t smell too bad.
“Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s a long one. But good. A long, good book.”
“Nice,” I say a little louder to cut through the noisy girls behind us. “What’s it about?” I take a step closer to him. Doesn’t wear any deodorant, that’s loud and clear. But I kinda dig it. Pheromones or whatever.
“It’s a fantasy series. You probably wouldn’t really like it. Lots of magic and dragons. That kinda stuff.”
Why does he look so embarrassed? I reach over and place my hand on his arm, a little bit dramatic, but hopefully reassuring.
“That sounds awesome.”
His face turns tomato and I can feel him trembling beneath my cold fingers. The book does sound pretty cool and I hope he gets that. The group of girls start making comments that sound like they’re directed toward us, but I try to ignore them.
“What’s it called?”
He tilts the wrinkled cover my way to show me the golden embossed letters. I reach into my bag for my phone, but remember that it’s already dead. Instead, I rake through the crumbs in search of a scrap of paper and a pen.
“You like that stuff?” he asks me, too distracted to hear the rattle of nonsense in my bag.
“Dude, I love that shit. Stephen King is my favorite author.”
“Wow. You don’t find many girls out there who like fantasy stuff.” His cheeks turn even darker.
“We exist. I’m Hazel.” I dust my hand off on the bottom of my dress and extend it.
The girls behind us snicker.
“Jack.” He takes it as the safety announcement blares from the speakers.
“Listen, my battery is shot. Can you just shoot me an email with the book title again? I’m not going to remember that.”
“Ye-yeah, no, yeah. I can do that.” He fumbles around for his phone but drops it onto the speckled rubber floor. I dip down and snatch it up for him, but pause to type in my information before giving it back.
“This is my stop, but I’ll definitely email you.” He steps down onto the platform and looks around, shaking his head, grinning.
“You better not forget!” I call out before the doors shut me in.
“Okay then, light-skin. I see you.”
“Leave that girl alone.”
“What? She’s the one that thinks she’s better than us.”
“Mad dumb. Go get your white boy, girl.”
The girls laugh and whisper to each other while I keep pretending I don’t hear them. If Aimee were here, she’d find a way to laugh with them, making a joke about liking all types of chocolate or something, but I wasn’t born with her natural charisma. She must’ve gotten that from her dad.
The train car empties quickly and I take the chance to nestle into one of the warm seats in the corner. Once I pull my sunglasses down again, I reach back into the depths of my tote and grab my sister’s journal. I feel a slight pang of guilt every time I read through it, but it’s not like I went looking for it on purpose. She left my dad’s place, what, four years ago? I run my fingers over the deep etching of her name on the cover. I let the notebook fall open on my lap and get sucked into her world for the next five stops.
April 11, 2009
I woke up this morning and for a few seconds I didn’t know where I was. It’s happened before, but it took longer than usual to gather my bearings. I think fucked up last night.
Sometimes, I’m just too nice to people. Yesterday I agreed to help my friend with her new jello shot business, like an idiot, because she was having a rough time getting girls to sell her overpriced sugar water and since Dave the Douche refused to pay my phone bill again, I said yes.
Obviously, the job itself wasn’t too terrible considering you don’t have to really do much but flirt with the grabby creeps, but some of the comments were getting to me. At least if I was an actual waitress, I could have someone there to watch my back, but whatever.
Anyway, it was around twelve at this bar she had me working in, Vinny’s, and I still had about thirty shots left over. Honestly, this business will probably flop in a few months, but at least she’s trying, right? Well, this guy saw how desperate I was getting and he offered to buy the whole tray…as long as I took them with him…bad idea. DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN.
I barely remember what happened after the fourth. I know I said ‘bye’ to the manager, Frank, but the next thing I know I’m in this rando’s apartment. From the little that I can remember, it was a really nice building. Floor-to-ceiling windows. Huge dining room—who even has dining rooms in the city?
Well, guess whose tongue was in my mouth this morning when I woke up? I kinda remember sex last night, but obviously not enough since I was in such shock. I mean, he wasn’t unattractive or anything, but he was definitely older than me. At that point, I just said fuck it and started to get into it, which he enjoyed of course. I guess it doesn’t sound like too shitty of a night, but it’s not like me to lose control like that. At least one good thing came out of that night. Frank offered me a job as a hostess at the bar. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get out of this toxic place.
April 19, 2009
Graduation is around the corner and after fifteen years under that lard ass bully’s rule, I’m finally going to make it out. Lately I’ve been feeling kind of guilty leaving Mother and Hazel, but I have to get my life in order before I can help them. Hopefully I’ll get into Hunter this fall, but I know I need to find a job to take care of my school expenses. Dave already warned me that the minute I step out of this place, I’m cut off, but I couldn’t care less at this point. That just means I’ll be able to break free from his control.
But honestly, this job hunting thing isn’t going the way I had hoped. There are ton of listings on Craigslist for weird crap like naked housecleaning (not that desperate!) but there are a lot of acting gigs, too. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get to be on set with Ryan Gosling and he’ll fall in love with me and buy me a brownstone in Park Slope hahaha. Or maybe I’ll be able to show someone my writing and get them interested. I’ve got this new idea for a story that hit me while I was waiting for the train the other day. It begins with a little girl in an insane asylum who has the ability to communicate with the “other side.” The longer she remains imprisoned, the more powerful she becomes until she is able to summon and physically control the spirits in the world. Eventually she discovers the ability to transport between dimensions and runs into a boy around her age who has the same power. In the unseen world, he has an army of demons that he is preparing to cross over and terrorize humanity. I don’t know. It’s just an idea, but I’ve got about ten pages done already, so maybe I’ll just keep rolling with it. Although I still have to finish that Elizabeth story from last year. It’s fun right now, but I’m not sure if I really want to show anyone. I think I’m just going to call up that guy from Vinny’s and see if he still has a spot for me.
Anyway, gotta run. Dragon Lady is banging on the door again.
April 24, 2009
It happened again on Sunday. This time because she burned the steak. Sundays are always the most dreaded day of the week for Hazel and I. It’s the day when the smell of fried eggs and potatoes invade our bedroom, drawing us out from between our sheets, always leaving behind an oily film on everything it touches. Fried eggs mean that Dave is up and cooking thousands of calories for breakfast. Fried eggs mean that he hasn’t woken up at dawn to head out to one of his many jobs. Fried eggs mean that he is home. All day. Mother hates it and in turn, so do we.
The whole house goes into overdrive with cleaning and washing things that you didn’t know could be washed. We sweep the stairs, do the laundry, iron our clothes for the week, as well as his, always remembering to keep that crease in the jeans perfect and even. The only good thing about Sundays is being able to blast the stereo, watching my little sister belt out a perfect imitation of Cher’s Believe and trying to keep up with her as she dances on the arms of the sofa and wriggles her thin limbs across the carpet. Someone will end up screaming at us from the bedroom upstairs and Hazel will turn the knob all the way up, for just a split second, nearly blowing out the speakers and feigning ignorance when one of them comes stomping down to reprimand us. We then change the CD for any Eminem song and mouth the profanities while scrubbing away. Sometimes, Sundays aren’t so bad.
But yesterday, she burned the steak.
When is she going to get it? When will she realize that she can’t try to make small talk as I drive her to the hospital because this time she won’t be able to “sleep it off.” I don’t answer her questions about school and she doesn’t push. The doctor gave her the same helpless look like all of the other ones. She may not be smart enough to leave that asshole, but she does know just the right moment to leave an office before the doctors begin asking too many questions. Fractured wrist and bruised tailbone. Plausible injuries from a fall down a flight of stairs.
I think he’ll end up killing her next time.
I close the decaying composition notebook and shove it back into my bag. This is my stop.