intertwined lives of three New York City families.
|(This is missing the second half of the stoy because I have a free account. I will post the second half soon.)
S i d e w a l k s of N e w Y o r k
The steel doors opened into a disgusting smell of coffee and urine: the Number 4 Train. He hated mass transit and longed for the simple convenience of a cab ride. Ever since the goddamn cabbies decided to go on strike, he had no alternative; no pleasant, silent rides. All the morning subway ride afforded him was the filth on his polished Wingtip shoes.
As the subway doors slammed shut, John Winchill turned to see his brother scurry down the stairwell and through a turnstile just in time to pound on the safety-glass window. He studied his brother’s countenance for a second. They had oddly similar features, although John was a bit shorter, more athletic. He shot his brother a small smile as the train pulled away, leaving the teenager alone on the platform. John turned back to observe the pitiful inhabitants of the subway. A raggedly dressed boy sat beside an equally disheveled sleeping man. The latter’s head tilted back, his hanging mouth open. Probably drunk. He watched spittle dribble down the man’s face, through his dirty beard and onto his paint-stained coat. His thoughts were interrupted as another man tripped over his own feet and onto the drooling man and his son. A little younger than John, the man half-heartedly apologized, walking away with a subdued smile on his face. Clumsy moron. John pulled his coat tighter as a hooded black man brushed past him. After he checked his pockets thoroughly, John continued staring down at the accumulation of dirt on the subway floor. Fortunately, the train was pulling into his station. As the doors opened onto 86th Street, he noticed a teenage kid, hooded in a pale grey sweatshirt writing feverishly in a spiral notebook. John slowly stooped down and asked with a patronizing sneer, “What the hell could you be writing about in this shithole?” As he walked out, his only reply was the soft report of the closing doors and the screech of metal on the rail.
After Will bounded down the stairs, he slammed his fist on the thick subway window, wishing it could break through the condescending smirk on the other side. As the train moved uptown from the station, he cursed softly to himself. Late for class again. While he waited for the next subway, Will leaned casually against a green pillar, resting his head sleepily against the cold steel. Standing about 6’4, sixteen years old and slightly undernourished, he had the look of a sleep-deprived teenager. While they may have looked alike, he thought himself a product of his brother’s faults. Will was quiet, cautious, but bitingly witty, with a quirky sense of humor that often unnerved those who met him in passing. His grey-blue eyes, in stark contrast to the jet-black hair that dangled in front of them, bore a look of acute perception, as if nothing swept up in their gaze went unnoticed.
His head still nodding forward, he stepped back as he felt the pale glow of the 5 Train’s headlights wash over him. After he stepped over the threshold, Will inhaled the enigmatic, metallic smell of the subway and leaned against the opposite windows. Contrary to his brother’s sentiments, he relished the morning subway rides, refusing to take a cab even before the strike. He enjoyed observing the other commuters. He emanated the air of someone strolling in Central Park: eyes wandering, breathing deeply; completely absorbing his surroundings His eyes passed slowly over a couple a few years older than himself, huddled close. The girl’s chestnut hair fell softly on the boy’s shoulder. The boy leaned forward and removed a blue Yankees cap, revealing a thin scar along his brow that cleft the eyebrow in two. Will began to stare, transfixed. They had similar features. Were they brother and sister? He reflected sadly for a moment, longing for a similar connection. As the girl blinked her striking green eyes sleepily, she moved her head onto her companion’s chest, suddenly catching Will’s gaze. His reverie shattered, he quickly shifted his eyes elsewhere. He focused instead on two middle-aged women carrying on in Spanish, about a robo in Harlem where ladrón was shot to death.
Dwelling in his Park Avenue high-rise on weekends, vacationing in the Hamptons during the summer, he often forgot he was part of a community. The city swarmed with inhabitants, weaving in subways through tunnels underground or trudging through crowded sidewalks. A network of boroughs sewn together by asphalt and rail. New York is a city of touch. People brush and collide. Will was riveted by these collisions, people caught up in the turmoil of their daily routine. Someone once said that the city of Manhattan was without a soul—he couldn’t believe that. Sometimes, a person would stop to help an old woman out of the subway. Maybe offer a homeless man something more than just the loose change in his pocket. Will would ride the subway all evening, searching for these moments, riding from Brooklyn Bridge to Woodlawn—back and forth, waiting for that moment to feel captivated by something that he couldn’t quite explain. Will watched it all, hoping to find a beauty that wasn’t fully lost beneath the streetlights. As he stared into the darkness of the tunnel, neon sparks flew from the rail against the window, and as if brilliant doves released from opaque cages, were gone just as quickly.
John climbed the steps to the street. The sun hit his silver Oakley NanoWire frames and refracted off the polarized lenses onto the sidewalk. Fidgeting with the shoulders of his Burberry tweed overcoat, he spied Carl Bateman trotting briskly towards him. Bateman, a Columbia law student, had a tall, muscular build. He put up an impressive front thinly obscuring a completely spineless personality. He had picked up John’s girlfriend at some nightclub named Envy a few months ago.
“How’s Grace? Still eager to please everyone in Delta Psi?”
“Fuck you, Winchill,” he cut him off. “You’re just bitter you have to stoop to NYU chicks to get laid these days.
“It’s alright,” John replied, smiling maniacally. “You can have her. I’m finished with her anyway.”
Bateman looked indignant. “You’re just pissed that she left and is spreading your suspect reputation.”
“Left? You mean you stabbed me in the back?” he replied, raising his eyebrows.
“Hey, I didn’t take anything that wasn’t begging to come to me,” Bateman countered, his voice becoming exceedingly mocking. “I merely comforted a fellow classmate after one of your late night beatings.”
“C’mon, the bruising, the crying, what am I an idiot?”
“Alright...but she deserved it,” John smirked, “whining bitch.”
“What are you doing around here anyway? So coked up this early that you forgot Columbia’s uptown?”
“Yeah, I know. But I was walking with my father. Now I’m gonna call for a car to pick me up on Park.”
“Ahh, where is your father?” asked John, glancing around. “We haven’t spoken in awhile. Not since he found me that internship at Pierce & Pierce.”
“Not sure. He said he had to return some videotapes,” he blandly responded. Bateman was obviously growing tired with the conversation.
Spying a homeless man, crouched inside a shelter of boxes, Bateman grinned and motioned to the man. “Hey Winchill, wanna help this guy out?”
“I’m always looking to do some charity work…” he laughed.
Bateman strode over to the pile and nudged a box out of the way with his foot. He spoke empathetically, “Hey buddy, you cold?” The bum didn’t hear him, his face buried in a dirty rag serving as a pillow. “Hey buddy, I said, are you cold?” He repeated, this time kicking the box holding up the bum’s head. The man, startled, slowly sat up and whimpered something unintelligible through a dark, filthy beard. Carl pulled a fifty-dollar bill from his wallet, and he immediately understood. His brown eyes widened with hope, but this look quickly turned to confusion as Bateman tightly rolled the bill up into his hand.
“Excuse me, do you have a light?” he asked Winchill.
“Sure,” John responded. He lifted his gold-plated cigarette lighter to the bill. Carl mockingly took two fake drags while the man looked on.
Taking the bill from Carl, John sneered, “Hey, I think our friend wants a smoke,” He leaned close enough to the man’s face to smell the stench of his unwashed hair. John whispered, “Maybe this’ll keep you warm for awhile,” and threw the smoldering fifty in the man’s face.
John flashed a smile as the man’s ashen face hardened with a bitter, expectant resignation. He watched John strut away towards Park Avenue, snickering with Carl—their laughter in rhythm with the midtown traffic.
John picked at his Caesar salad, lamenting to nobody about the serious downturn in quality over the past month. He vaguely remembered a waiter telling him that Marco, the head chef at Cru, had been sick. Sipping quietly on a Long Island Iced Tea, he tilted his head back into the sun streaming down into the small section that Cru occupied on the sidewalk. It was an unseasonably warm week. It felt more like April than the end of February. John inhaled deeply and coughed chokingly at the heavy smell of exhaust from a taxi idling a few steps away. He liked to spend his lunchtime watching the window shoppers, making snide comments to himself, or occasionally to Carl, if he was in the mood to join him. Perfectly situated on 5th Avenue, the restaurant afforded him a great view of Tiffany’s, Chanel, Sephora, and a few other stores. He swept his eyes across the scene, amused at parcel-laden women who wandered out of the stores. He laid his focus to rest on the women who paused just outside the stores, their forlorn reflections staring mistily back at him off the windowpanes.
As John turned to complain to the waitress about his meal’s inadequacies, someone caught his eye. He followed her chestnut hair down her curves, past a navy tank top, which was just long enough to meet the pair of low cut Capris—far too short for her long, tanned legs. He sized her up immediately. There was something familiar about her, as if he had passed her in a crowd and hadn’t thought to look twice. But this girl was plain, not sporting any highly priced apparel. Window shopper, he said to himself—perfect. She carried all the signs: no purse, simple wardrobe. From this distance, he thought he could even read her expression, a look of longing inadequacy, as she stared into the window. Yet, to his surprise, she opened the dual white doors and disappeared inside.
Seeing his opportunity, John quickly dropped a fifty on the table and nearly knocked over his waitress leaving the restaurant.
He looked at her with contempt. “That Ceasar salad was terrible. I eat here regularly, and I’m really beginning to think I shouldn’t bother walking six blocks to get here. Tell Marco I’m very disappointed and he can count on me complaining to the owner.”
The waitress smiled. “I’m very sorry, sir. We’ll try harder next time.”
John rolled his eyes and shoved past her towards Bloomingdales.
Her forced smile curled into a frown as she watched him disappear inside, muttering under her breath, “Who the hell is Marco?”
Pushing his way past a group of teenage girls clustered outside of Bloomingdales entrance, John paused before opening the doors to straighten his hair and his starched maroon Brooks Brothers button down. He checked his appearance in the window and stepped inside.
The store had a very tasteful appearance, all the mannequins clothed in elegant gowns or stylish winter wear. White was undoubtedly the theme of this store. Everything from the wallpaper to the display tables was a shade of white. Lit by fluorescent bulbs from the tiled ceiling above, the room shone brightly. Yet the absence of color gave the room a slight air of vulnerability. The most highly prized, and highly priced, items stood at the forefront, where the girl he spied from Cru stood. He paused briefly, watching her from across the room, and made a circular path around a few displays to walk behind her. Pacing slowly behind, he studied her, watching as she walked from display to display. She knelt down to pick up a pair of shoes. Seeing as they weren’t the right size, she placed them neatly back on the display. John pretended to be eyeing an Oxford shirt, waiting for a few moments before walking over to the shoe display. He leant down and examined the price tag on her discarded shoes. Cheap, he thought with a satisfactory smile. When he looked up, the girl had picked up a folded grey blouse and draped it across her chest, studying herself in a mirror. Shaking her head she discarded the top back in its pile, failing to notice as it fell off the display onto the eggshell tiled floor. As John continued to follow, she caught his reflection in the mirror. Seeing him pick up the blouse and place it gently back on the display, she moved on, looking around the room for more items. She stopped, her eyes coming to rest on a crimson Nicole Miller evening gown with an almost distant look. Her emerald green eyes were wide as she longingly caressed the bottom of the fabric with her hand. John caught this gesture and smiled sharply, his eyes narrowing. He strolled nonchalantly up behind her until he was only a step away.
“That’s quite a dress,” he said softly, leaning behind her, as if he was trying to whisper in her ear.
She barely looked up. “Mmm, just looking,” she mumbled as her eyes drifting back to the dress.
John thought for a moment and decided to take a different tack. “Yeah, me too,” he replied playfully.
She lifted her head sharply. Her raised, black eyebrows were thin, almost drawn. As her mouth opened in a smile, she revealed a row of straight, white teeth. Her lightly tanned skin, accentuated her subtle Latin features. Brazilian? Ecuadorian maybe? She saw John smiling back at her and laughed. “I’m sorry, I thought you were a salesman. Yes, it’s a nice dress. Now how can I help you?” she asked, in a coy, sales-like tone.
“Well, I’d like very much to see you in that dress,” he paused to let his forward comment sink in, “across the table from me tonight at Bruno Jamais.”
Her bright green eyes stared with a look of utter surprise back at John. He noticed a small, flattered smile on her lips. Although it was gone instantly, it conveyed enough subtle interest for John.
She looked down and replied, “Yeah, uhh, I generally don’t go on random dates with men I don’t know.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” he replied as she began to move away. He stepped in front of her. “What do you have to lose? Except that set of clothes.” He paused on the sexual reference. “Because that beautiful dress would look so much better than that tank top,” he added quickly. “Come on, I’m making you an offer you can’t refuse.”
She laughed, “It is a beautiful dress, and that is a lovely dinner offer, but I think I’m going to try on some clothes a bit more in my range.”
With that, she walked resolutely over to the changing room. She turned at the threshold to look back, but he had disappeared.
John had walked over to the cashier, annoyed and refusing to accept this rejection. He stared over the counter and shrugged his shoulders. “Dumb bitch thought I was kidding,” he mumbled to nobody in particular.
“I’m sorry sir, what did you say?” asked the cashier pleasantly.
“I said, ‘How are you doing this lovely afternoon?’” he replied with a nauseatingly pleasant smile.
Fifteen minutes later, the girl emerged from the dressing room with a light blue blouse and a relatively cheap pair of shoes in her arms. She wandered around the store a little while longer, looking at two pairs of high heels and an expensive looking white jacket. When she was finished browsing she walked up to the cashier and purchased the plain shoes. Passing the crimson dress on her way out, she smiled and moved to open the door.
“Miss,” a nearby attendant said. “Excuse me, Miss, you forgot your purchase.”
“What purchase?” she asked.
“Your purchase…the gentleman said you wanted to pick it up on your way out?”
Her eyes widened and she smiled as she took the bag and stepped outside. “Did he? Well thank you for reminding me.”
She partially opened the bag on the street, already knowing what was in it. She saw her coveted red dress with a note attached to the hanger. The note read, in the vein of a sales coupon:
“One free candlelit dinner at the Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club. Expires tonight, February 28 at 9:00 PM. Reservation under Winchill. Please dress accordingly.”
She rolled her eyes, zipped the bag back up, and walked towards the M4 as light breeze nagged at her hair.
The Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club stood, on 81st Street, its exterior unmistakable. Past the twin stone columns, its wrought iron gates twisted and spiraled majestically above the street. John ambled into the restaurant around 8:45, clad in a black dinner jacket with a white, pressed Oxford shirt. His brilliantly red tie matched the pair of cardinal cufflinks at his wrists. He informed the hostess of his reservation, who led him into the main dining room, which differed sharply in comparison to the restaurant’s exterior. The plain white tablecloths and simply set candlelit tables were contrasted by the modern and comfortable seating. A collection of chic interweaving couches and standing chairs gave the room an oddly eclectic feel. After he was seated, John fixed his hair and tie, staring into the large mirror that stretched from the floor to the ceiling on one of the side walls.
He spent about ten minutes examining the equally contemporary artwork placed around the restaurant until the hostess returned. “Sir, Miss Allentro has arrived and is waiting for you in the front.”
“In the front?”
“And why the hell is she still waiting ‘in the front’ and not across from me?”
“She said she would wait for you, sir.”
He frowned thinly and stood up to make his way to the front.
She stood outside the gates, obviously cold in the thin dress he had bought earlier in the day. He smiled with satisfaction that he had perfectly judged her curves to fit tightly into the dress. Her flowing brown hair fluttered gently in the breeze as she studied the Roman columns outside the restaurant.
“Hello Miss Allentro,” John said, feigning a playful attitude. “I thought you didn’t go on dates with strange men.”
“Well, Mr. Winchill, I was so moved by your gift this afternoon, I decided, what the hell. After what you paid for it, I figured I could grant you at least the courtesy of a dinner.”
“Well, I’m glad you accepted. Since we’ve both been impersonally introduced, how bout first names?”
“John,” he paused. “Now, I’ve got a nice bottle of amontillado on the table and the chef’s inside ready to prepare us the finest meal in the city, so would you like to accompany me inside, or should I just get you a bag?”
“Sir, your Sole Meuniere with haricots verts and shallots,” the waiter announced, presenting the entrées and interrupting their conversation. “Madame, your Filet Mignon with caramelized shallot sauce, oyster mushrooms, and pommes purees.”
John nodded in response, gesturing to the table as the waiter removed the hors d’oeuvre. Miranda took a generous sip of her wine and mouthed, “Thank you,” to the waiter.
“You know, I’ve always had respect for waiters,” she said to John, who appeared wholly uninterested. “They have to deal with everyone’s personal bullshit: people’s moods, their attitudes, everything for a few extra dollars of tip money.”
John’s expression became skeptical. “What job doesn’t involve dealing with people? At least waiters only have to deal with each customer for a short amount of time. Come on, how hard is it to take an order, take it to the kitchen, and bring the food? It’s not rocket science.”
“I dunno, I just think it’s hard to wait on people like that,” she said, taking another gulp of red wine.
“I suppose,” he replied nonchalantly.
“So, you were saying, you work at this firm, Price & Price…” she said, attempting to continue where John left off.
“Pierce & Pierce,” he stressed, battling a tone of annoyance, “but that’s not important. What about you?” he said, utilizing the sudden distraction the waiter had provided in their conversation. “I’ve told you about me, how I spend most of my free time—”
“Like following pretty young ladies and taking them to fancy restaurants,” she teased. Her face started to appear a bit flushed.
“Yes, to say the least. No, but really, tell me,” he said, trying to appear overly interested. “For example: Miranda. Not exactly the name I was expecting. I would have thought a name like Maria suited you better.”
She set her glass back on the table. Broad smudges of lipstick lay smudged around its crystalline rim.
She smiled gaily and looked up from her steak. “Well,” she said with a comical emphasis, “if you must know, it’s Brazilian. I’m named for the town where my mother was born: Miranda in Mato Grosso do Sul Province. It lies on a river of the same name.”
“Well,” John said, picking up the bottle of pinot noir that sat in the center of the table. “Does your father also hail from Brazil? Allentro doesn’t seem exactly Brazilian either.” Noticing that the bottle was fairly light, he motioned to the waiter for another bottle. She laughed loudly as John slowly trickled some wine into his half-filled glass.
“At least that one, you’ve got right. My father is American, although our name’s Italian. He met her in a dance hall downtown,” she smiled distantly, oblivious as John poured the remainder of the bottle into her glass, already three quarters full. “It was all very romantic,” she continued. She took another liberal sip from her glass.
“Well here’s to the result,” John said, grinning broadly. “Italy and Brazil’s finest, and the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
Miranda blushed heavily and beamed, taking another sip from her glass. “Why thank you.”
“The night is young,” John continued in a gregarious fashion. “We have all of it to learn about each other. Why spend it eating when we can go out and see where it leads?”
“And where, might I ask, would it lead?” Miranda responded in a completely disarming voice.
“That,” John paused, taking the newly opened bottle from the waiter, “only time can tell.”
Miranda smiled in return as he refilled her glass. Her lipstick disappeared from the brim as the crimson liquid reached the top.
The chandelier inside the Winchills’ high-rise apartment cast light in an even, crystalline pattern around the dining room. Will looked aimlessly at it as he slowly felt the pencil drop from his right hand. His eyelids began to droop until only a loud chorus of car horns from the street many stories below roused him from his lethargy. Rubbing his eyes furiously, he refocused on his Calculus homework. 12:30, this is no good; I really have to start getting home earlier. He spent most of his afternoon relaxing on the shuttle from Grand Central to and from Times Square. At one point, he watched two tourists debate endlessly with each other about how many stops they had to take before getting off. He laughed amusedly under his breath when he spied a commuter who was looking on incredulously at the exchange. The rest of the evening was spent riding back uptown on the 4, where he saw another subway regular: a preacher who loved to reach out to the 7:00 crowd. Staring again at the chandelier, Will laid his head back and thought about the regulars. No cops moving anything along, nobody really bothering anybody. Nobody really had to listen to what anyone said on the train. For a few, it was just a couple of minutes of freedom between stops.
His head snapped back up as he heard a high-pitched laugh from the elevator. What now? The apartment door banged open and John strode in heavily, Will could see he was already pretty drunk. He heard a feminine voice behind John say, “Wow, nice apartment. Which way’s your room?”
“Hey, Will! Whatsap?! I wouldathought you were out on the subway stalking somebodyorsomething,” John said, his words beginning to slur together.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Will replied.
As he walked slowly towards the door, he felt a flicker of recognition as he caught a good look of John’s companion. She had brown hair and was clothed in a crimson dress, but the eyes were what gave it away.
“Uptown four train?” he asked forwardly.
“Huh?” she replied. She wasn’t showing as badly as John was, but her extremely wide eyes gave off the impression that she was well past sober. She leaned heavily on John, her arm wrapped around his waist.
“You take the number four train in the morning? Early morning, uptown, around 8:20ish?” he asked again. This time it sounded more like a statement than a question.
“Yeah, wait,” she responded, this time more enthusiastically. “You’re on my train sometimes aren’t you. You’re the guy who’s always looking around at everyone. I joked to my brother that you always look like you’re sizing people up.”
Will laughed nervously, “Yeah, well, I’ve got a good memory for these things…”
John was clearly impatient at being off the center of attention. “Will, this is Miranda. Mandy…Will. But I see you two have already met!” he interjected, laughing uproariously at his own terrible joke. “Now Will, if you’ll excuse us.”
She began to move towards John’s room, but seeing Will’s gaze, she caught herself. “Ahh, not so fast Johnny. It won’t be that easy. I haven’t shared enough bottles of wine with you for that.” She paused drunkenly in thought. “I know when I’ve got to be getting home.” With that, she turned to John, whom she kissed hard on the mouth and said, “Call me later.” She look to Will and said, “I’ll be seeing you sooner.”
Miranda walked unevenly out of the apartment and John closed the door behind her, his face immediately hardening. His inebriated smile curled into a brooding, sober scowl. He turned to Will, who was still clearly confused about the connection.
“For that,” he said, disgustedly wiping the lipstick off his mouth and walking past his brother, “she can hail her own fucking cab.”
Will trudged lazily down the 85th Street stairway and into the brightly lit entranceway of Trinity Catholic School. His eyes wandered around the immaculately polished marble surrounding him. A dark mahogany panel hung to his right, emblazoned with dozens of bronze plaques—the only remnant of valedictorians from years past. He stared blankly for a moment at the large bulletin board by the door which read, “March 15th – The Feast of Saint Longinus,” and then continued towards the door. The sunlight streamed from a bright blue sky in through foyer’s outer door, creating the appearance of a warm spring day. Will opened the door and this image evaporated as he felt an icy March breeze blow through him. Still not a bad day for a walk in the Park, the sun was out. It was a 9/11 sky.
He took a left after he made his way to 5th Ave., slowly strolling across the street, approaching the 84th Street pathway into Central Park. He watched idly as the rush hour traffic rushed by him under a pachysandra-crested tunnel and into the Park. His slow pace—lost, ignored. His existence eclipsed by the city’s pulse. The ambient sounds of the traffic were as natural as the wind’s dull rustle through the pachysandra. Not imposing, but mingling with the quiet, as if the artificial clamor was only temporary, just passing through. Will walked by the tunnel, marveling at the fusion between earth and asphalt. Some part of him needed each. He listened as the sounds of the traffic roared through the wintry silence.
“Excuse me,” a condescending voice interrupted his thoughts. “You’re in my way. I’m in a hurry!”
Will sidestepped as a middle-aged woman obnoxiously shoved past him. When he resumed his leisurely pace, he saw that she wore a flashy golden outfit, obviously expensive. He chuckled to himself when he noticed that at her feet walked a miniature poodle of the same color.
His walk brought him past the abandoned basketball courts and onto the pavement skirting the Great Lawn. Will sat down on a wrought iron bench and leaned his head back, taking in a soft breeze. The natural silence was again broken by an annoying yelp. This time, it came from down the path. The poodle woman ran into a petty thief who snatched her purse. Will watched, amused, as the thief stumbled haphazardly near him and then continued sprinting past. The woman, who was now breathing as if she had an asthma condition, gathered enough strength to approach Will.
“You…you could have stopped him. He fell right there in front of you. That was my brand new Chanel tote. How can you…why didn’t you stop him?”
“He seemed to be in a hurry,” Will echoed. “I didn’t want to get in his way.”
The woman frowned and strode away wordlessly. Will observed her brisk walk and upturned face—not even the loss of her precious designer bag could pierce that disgusting air of entitlement.
“She was right, you know,” said a voice behind him casually. “Why didn’t you at least try to stop him? You could have if you wanted to,” the girl said, as she sat down beside Will on the bench. She had flowing auburn hair and fair skin, wrapped tightly in a gray winter scarf. Her warm hazel eyes narrowed, poised for another question. “Coward?” she asked playfully.
“Worse,” he replied, “apathetic. What if I told you that she had six other ‘brand new’ handbags to replace it? Take it any way you like, but I guarantee you that woman can afford to lose one purse.”
“Well,” she countered, “what if I told you that she was just a sweet old lady, walking a friend’s dog who received that purse as a gift?”
“Trust me. There was nothing sweet about that old lady.”
“Fine,” she admitted, “but isn’t it an ignorant assumption to assume that the wealthy don’t value their possessions?”
“Yeah but it’s not the case with that one. Take my word for it. It takes one to know one.”
“Why would you say that?”
He thought for a moment. “What’s your name?” he asked abruptly.
“Hi, Sam. I’m Will. I go to Trinity over on 85th”
“Hmm,” she murmured, glancing down for a moment.
“What’s that look?” he asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that, I know a few people from that school and they’re—”
“Pretentious, self-involved assholes?” he finished for her.
“Yeah, more or less,” she laughed. “So how do I know you’re not one of them?” she countered.
“Well, actually you’d be right, after all, I am rich,” he said bluntly.
“Excuse me?” she said, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah, you know. Wealthy, well-off, loaded.”
“Right, I get it…Why are you telling me this?” her voice becoming increasingly skeptical.
“Well, knowledge of money changes some people. They judge you because of it. Sometimes I kinda just want people to know, so they won’t change how they act, how they think of me.”
Her face started to warm up again, and she began to speak, but he cut her off.
“Plus, I figured that if I can get you to come to dinner with me, you’d figure it out soon enough.”
Will strode into his apartment building at 10:00 after his third date with Samantha. He rang the bell beside the handsomely crafted oak doors and paused to study the swirling mahogany, his hand grazing over the smooth texture. The door swung inward as the doorman allowed Will entrance into the immaculately kept lobby. The building’s tenants liked security. Twin busts of marble flanked the hallway. Hermes and Aphrodite. Security. In reality and appearance. They wanted everyone else to know they didn’t belong. These statues provided as much security as the 23rd precinct.
As he stepped across the threshold, the grayish haze of streetlight peeled back, yielding to the brightly lit entrance. The doorman trotted slowly back to his desk and smiled weakly at Will. He exchanged pleasantries and buzzed him up. Will ambled slowly into the elevator. As the doors closed he looked back at the doorman again: head in his hands, watching the darkness press up against the window.
Will stepped from the elevator and bent down to pick up the mail. among credit card statements there was also an expensive-looking envelope, with the date March 26th stamped on the front. “Postmarked for yesterday, huh. Must be from nearby,” he mumbled to himself. He ripped open the envelope and read:
“Maureen Conway cordially invites you to her seventeenth birthday celebration at 7:00 on April 20th. Location: The exclusive Tribeca Rooftop Club, 2 Debrosses Street. You may bring one guest.”
“Huh,” Will said to himself, unsurprised. “Maureen’s having a ridiculously extravagant party, who would’ve thought?” He looked again where the invitation specified he could bring one guest. “Maybe I’ll bring Sam,” he said, his thoughts turning to the girl he met in the park a few weeks ago. It could have been a lifetime ago. He moved to open his front door, which he had been too preoccupied to realize was already open.
“John? You there?” he asked, pushing the door wide open. “I thought you were going out tonight.”
His only response was the tinkling of the chandelier in the hallway.
He entered the high-rise duplex and walked past the classical Roman columns supporting the stairs.
“Yo John! Where are you?”
He nudged the swinging kitchen door open and his face fell.
“Fuck,” he said aloud to himself. His voice was a mixture of frustration and disappointment.
John lay slumped over the kitchen table. His face rested on a small mound of white powder. Tightly rolled fifties lay strewn across the table. He ran over to quickly check his brother’s pulse, but he stopped. He watched John’s breath lightly scattering the coke across the table. Will lifted the limp body up and carried him down the hallway into the first floor living room. He didn’t stir. Throwing John down on the couch, he shut the lights off and returned to the kitchen to grab a beer from the refrigerator. Will walked heavily back into the living room and slumped into a cushioned chair. He sighed and rested his head against the back of the chair, watching the darkness from within.
Cold crawled under his clothes and through his skin, sending shivers down his arms. The morning came accompanied by the clamor of traffic from the streets below. John opened his eyes slowly and groaned, his head pounding. He sat up on the couch and noticed that all the living room windows were open. It’s fucking cold in here. He walked over to the windows and wearily shut each one. He was still half-asleep, slowly ambling through the hallway and pushing the door into the kitchen.
“Why the hell did you leave every window in the goddamn house open?”
“Because you needed to sober up,” he responded without looking up.
“Well—” John began as Will cut him off.
“Because you were slumped over a table covered in coke,” he continued, lifting his head. His face was twisted in resentment, his voice rising as he spoke. “Because I didn’t know whether to take my drug addict brother to the fucking hospital to see if he had OD’d. Are those good enough answers for you, or do you need some more?”
John ignored this outburst unapologetically. “Where’s the rest of my stuff?”
“I dunno. You must have snorted it all,” he lied.
“Don’t play with me, Will. Carl and I paid a lot for that shit.”
“Paid a lot of what? You’re still dipping into Mom and Dad’s accounts.”
“Oh, like you pay for shit. All the time, I watch you walk in here with iPods and new clothes. Don’t act like you’re a goddamn saint.”
“You see me ‘all the time.’ When is this? When you’re not in a drugged out daze?”
“Whatever. Alright, then how did you know it was coke if it wasn’t on the table?”
“Because by the way your coat was covered with powder, it looked like you were trying to drink it.”
John circled around the table, standing behind Will. He leaned in close and smiled viciously. “You take a little for yourself? C’mon, you experiment with a little line? I bet it felt good, that first rush.”
“Get the fuck away from me,” Will seethed in disgust.
“Fine, you don’t want to tell me where you stashed it. I’ve still got these babies.” He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a small aspirin bottle filled with red pills, closely resembling Aspirin. “It’s called Mercedes. Brand new. Less messy than coke anyway. This guy Bateman knows at Seven got it cheap.”
“Se7en Sins? I can’t believe you keep going to that club. They can’t even come up with an original name, they had to steal the spelling from the movie.”
“Who gives a shit about the name? The inside’s what counts.”
Will frowned thinly. “That’s funny coming from you.”
“Fuck it. Enjoy the little stash you swept off the table. That’s Carl’s stuff anyway, I usually don’t touch that shit,” said John, obviously lying. “I’m off to see who I can pick up this afternoon.”
“I won’t be around, I’ve got a date. But whatever happened to that Latin chick? Miranda? Was that it?”
“The one I met a few weeks ago, who’s always on the subway.”
“Oh, her, yeah. I don’t care, what’s she going to do?” His tone changed quickly, “She’s not even really Spanish, she was born here and she’s only half.”
“You seem strangely insecure about it. What? Admitting that you’re seeing a Hispanic chick is too much for you?”
“Insecure my ass,” he said, walking towards the door. “Just sit around here for a few hours and see what I bring back. Then we’ll see who’s insecure.”
“You might want to grab a tissue first,” Will said calmly to John’s back. “Your nose is bleeding.”
It was two o’clock on a Saturday morning as Will watched the cold air spray the heat of his breath up the subway’s exterior window. The doors parted and he stepped from the Union Square platform onto the 4 Train. While Samantha made a fair argument that taking the subway from her house at one in the morning was suicide rather than mass transit, he just couldn’t miss observing the two o’clock crowd. His gray Yankees cap was pulled down over his pale blue eyes. It matched the pullover that loosely fit his thin frame. Bruce Springsteen sung softy from the headphone dangling off his ear. At 42nd Street, he stared at a group of people in their mid-twenties sporting hair colors that approached the full spectrum. The Grand Central stop also boasted two skinheads and a ruddy-faced businessman whose haggard look and beaten gaze suggested: bender.
Will’s stop brought nothing out of the ordinary, and he predictably decided to stay on the subway to search for more interesting sights. 125th came and went with no excitement, until the subway pulled into 161st Street – Yankee Stadium. He glanced out the window at the platform. The flickering lights illuminated the trash on the platform. Metrocards lay strewn about and an empty souvenir bag danced aimlessly over the concrete. Will looked around his car. A few bleary-eyed men and women sat around the car. Will looked down through the other cars and saw only one passenger sitting in the adjacent car: a black man looking to be in his mid-fifties, clothed in a brown overcoat. The door opened and two Hispanic teenagers walked on. A little late for the Stadium crowd. A taller man, his head hooded by his black sweatshirt, pushed past them and stood by the door leading to the adjacent car. As the two walked toward Will, a wary apprehension began to grow. He shrunk back into his seat, staring at the floor but listening intently to their conversation. The shorter one motioned towards Will and mumbled something to his counterpart, who shook his head and led the other towards the door to the next car.
Will leaned forward and sighed, probably just some kids looking for a handout. He watched as they stood next to the man in the black sweatshirt, talking as the sounds of the train reverberated over their voices. After reaching what seemed to be an agreement, they shoved past the hooded man, pushing him against the car window as they through to the next car. Black sweatshirt dusted himself off, slowly and deliberately. The man paused for a few moments, and then moved behind them into the next car, sitting down in the first seat. Will watched curiously through the window as the kids walked towards brown overcoat. But before he could see what they were doing, black sweatshirt stood and blocked his view. Turning back to his car, Will sat back, lamenting his decision to stay on the train at this hour. He reached to turn up the volume on the iPod, muting the ambient noise of the moving train. He bobbed his head back and forth slowly, in rhythm with the music. Will faintly smiled at a small boy sitting adjacent from him and wondered what the child was doing up so late. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of light and heard a loud crack as the subway passed over an uneven rail. He stood up, glimpsing a commotion in the next car. He suddenly froze in shock as he heard another loud crack that passed through the car’s window. A bullet struck the handrail an inch from his head. His instincts drove him to the floor. People were yelling behind him, rolling under the benches to protect themselves. But curiosity gripped him. He crept to the car’s door on his knees, his feet dragging noiselessly behind him. Will tensed his legs into a crouched position and peered through the scratched window. The pistol’s next report ripped through Will’s car as its bullet tore through the taller boy’s kneecap. The hooded man, now facing Will, whipped the shorter boy with the butt of the pistol across his face, knocking him to the ground as well. The force of the blow was severe and sickening. Blood poured uncontrollably from the boy’s eye socket and the whip from the pistol had twisted his nose to an odd angle. Will watched with a macabre fascination as the man mouthed something at his crippled victims, the thick subway window muting his speech. Behind the glass, Will begged for him to keep talking. He knew what silence would bring. But the man uttered a final word, and stepped back. He lifted his gun deliberately, purposefully, squeezing a single round through each of their temples. The man turned sideways and stared at Will. He lifted his black sweatshirt and shoved the gun back into his waistband. When the train pulled into 167th the man crossed himself and strode out, with a look of livid satisfaction. The two dead kids lay at brown overcoat’s feet, his face ashen and sickly. The man’s catatonic state broke as he started to vomit on the seat next to him. Will twisted away and slumped back against the door. The other passengers began to stagger upright, checking themselves for injuries. Will stared off down the car, replaying the scene in his head, panting heavily—as if he could expel the horror with each heaving breath.
(Second Half to come. I only have a free membership so they would not allow me to post the rest of part one!"