2008 Contest Shortlist

Dressed Like a Hooker and Stranded in the Bronx

The temptation of easy money proves expensive.

Having blown all my cheese on booze, I had no choice but to trust the rappers. They weren’t rappers exactly, they were “Talent Agents” for Slim Shady records and they were offering quick cash. I was desperate to get to Boston and maybe Montreal but who can do that on a deuce? The rappers spotted me on a train platform and explained to me The Scoop: I get polished and primped. They find modeling work in music videos. No nudity. No strings. $1500 for a three-day shoot.

Let me spell that out: Fifteen Hundred United States Dollars. Only in New York City.

Under any other circumstances, I would have issued a resounding FUCK OFF. Why would I ever lend legitimacy to my own objectification”in a rap video nonetheless? At the time, I was very concerned with The Authentic meaning I wanted to know the substance of everything, not just the surface and that’s insofar as self as well as others. It’s true that I have an exotic façade but I know better than to pretend that it matters. I was feeling sick and gutless about the whole affair, being a spectacle in artificiality, but damn, I needed funds so I went with the flow, can you blame me?

First things first, I met Samir at the Shady Records office on Lafayette where he arranged an interview that was actually an inspection. They took my measures, asked me some questions and sent me to a stylist. Then I was painted and ironed and photographed. I thought I looked like a clown. And by clown I mean whore. The look was complete when they decked me out in a tight skirt and cut blouse plus spiked sky-high high heels. It was just like Pretty Woman in reverse. Samir told me that dinner was in Brooklyn with the mucky mucks and other models, he’d take me there personally by train and he did.

We ate at a nice place on some higher-ups dime where I ordered Long Islands and Kamikazis to ease the banal conversation. The model on my left was obsessed with American Idol. Our waiter was an actor. Samir was getting drunk and friendly with the hands. I smiled through gritted teeth and thought fifteen hundred dollar thoughts.

Actually, dinner was okay because I could ask the models about the work. The company was named “Shady Records,” I mean…there had to be a catch, right? The blond one assured me, no catch. She was a student at NYU and did the work to pay the bills, it was legit and easy cheezy. “Usually they put you in furs so you’re covered up and down. You can get iced if you want it. And you just do a little two-step looking hot. It’s easy work, you got really lucky,” she said. I felt a little better about it all. I still didn’t trust the rappers, but hey, I got a free makeover, meal and buzz, so far so good. So what if I felt like a fake, things could be worse.

And just like that, things got worse.

It got late and my hostel had lockout, I told Samir to take me to the train. He said, “You’re not going to the train. You’re going home with me,” matter of fact to which I flipped. EXCUSE ME? First they dressed me like a whore and now I’m practicing for the part, what kind of no-strings deal is this? I didn’t wait around to find out, I just issued that belayed FUCK OFF with a stream of other expletives and ran out the restaurant into the pouring rain. My paint streaked and my heels squeaked as I outpaced Samir to the nearest subway and he lost me in the crowd.

I barely caught the train and made the drunken assumption that it was going straight to the city and would drop me off at my hostel block. Oh, booze. Instead, I passed out entirely and rode it to the end of line, deep in the Bronx. The Bronx, okay. Did I mention that I’m from a suburb? The only thing I knew about the Bronx was that I didn’t ever want to be there unless I was armed or suicidal or both.

It was 3am when I woke and realized my mistake. I did my best not to panic—I could just catch the next ride back to Manhattan, shanti. So I made the mad dash above ground to the reverse train looking strictly at my shoes the whole while. When I got there, I learned that the train was under construction and I’d have to walk three sketchy blocks to catch the nearest operative ride. It was then that I panicked. Three blocks above ground was a guarantee of rape and murder. The subway itself was crawling with shifty creatures, no way could I stay there. A group of men started howling at me and I decided to take my chances on the street. I said a fucking prayer and started the walk.

I immediately broke a sweat from fear. I’ve never set foot in a bad neighborhood by day and it was the dim lit dark of illegitimate night that I would traverse in what could have been a hooker costume. I just looked at the ground and walked hurried feigning anger. In the first block, I heard a gunshot and nearly wet myself. And then the sirens and all the shadows.

I told myself that if I got to the train alive, I’d never never never do anything reckless ever again, no more sleeping with strangers or hitchhiking or boondocking by moonlight but maybe I’d still bike camp but only with a safe man and if I just made it to the train alive, I’d try to hush my wanderlust and get a normal job from nine to five maybe I’d put my degree to use so I wouldn’t ever again spin up with shady rappers and wind up in the Bronx near death, I promise but I promise!

Just then, two men emerged from the shadows and made their way in my direction. They started walking on the outside and inside of the street so I would have to walk between them to get by. I thought, well, this is it. It’s been a nice life. I hope they find my body. And as I split the difference, one of them said,

“Give me yo’ pussy,” like it was a goddam wallet.

I just lost it then. I lost all my cool and started sprinting, I wasn’t half way to the train. I swear I moved faster than any other time in my natural born life and I was moving in blistered heels, I didn’t care. I saw the lights of a Popeye’s Chicken chain ahead and it could have been a cathedral how I wanted to drop to my knees upon entering and kiss the feet of the zit faced boy mopping the floor.

“Can I…can I just stay in here for a little while?” I asked and he said:

“This is New York. You can do whatever the fuck you want” – which is exactly what I feared but I said, thanks. And I sat there with some shitty cawfy counting the hours of sleep I’d logged in the past week. I think it was eight. Total. All of this debauchery. No wonder my mother had grey hairs.

When Popeye’s closed at 4:45am (why?) the day was still waking but I was forced back onto the street. I only went half a block when a car pulled near me and a voice said, get in. I said, yeah right, I’m not a hooker, I thought it was Halloween and he said, You obviously don’t belong here and it’s really unsafe. I’m a police officer, off-duty, here’s my badge. And just like that, Officer Ramirez escorted me to Manhattan like a night in shining armor. He lectured me the whole while about safety and caution:

New York is a fast city. The stakes are higher here. You gonna play games outside the lights and glitter you gonna see some ugly things, that’s a fact. You just lucky no harm came.

I thanked him profusely and promised to be good.

Now call me foolish, but the fact of the matter is that I never actually made it to the train that night although I did make it out alive, if you want to mince words, the promise was no more fun if I made it to the train and I didn’t. I took this to mean that I have at least ten more years license to be a pirate pilgrim or a poet and to sate wanderlust the only way it’s possibly sated: with the risk inherent in journey and freedom.

If you ask me, a little sweat in hell or the Bronx is a small price to pay.

Alexandria Muller