Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh, Well (Moth-Related)

I had grand plans of going to tomorrow's Moth StorySlam in Manhattan. The theme is "Lost," and that reminded me of one of my most interesting stories.

So, today I sat down and typed it up. It was an incredibly easy story for me -- flowing like river water -- and I knew I'd be able to commit it to memory in a snap.

Unfortunately, when I told Dave of my grand plans, he reminded me that tomorrow night he'll be busy fighting against our old landlord, Kensington Imperial, in small claims court. We're hoping to be compensated for moving and realty fees after the nightmare we went through with Douchebag Upstairs Neighbor (among other things).

So, yeah, that takes priority. But since I think this is a fairly interesting story, I'm posting it here for you all. It's not necessarily related to motherhood, unless you think about what it must have been like for my poor mama. (Oh please oh please oh please, Stella, have more sense than I did.)

I do plan on going to the November 30th Moth StorySlam, though, as the theme is "Cars" and I've already written a great piece about my old ex-boyfriend, best-friend, eventually de-closeted gay buddy, Jamie. I really hope they pick my name out so I can tell it!

For now, enjoy! Oh, and DON'T try this at home!

*****

Lost by Randi Skaggs

"Are you lost?"

It was a question I was used to hearing. I was a fresh-faced, lily-white girl from Kentucky living in the sketchiest part of Newark, New Jersey. I looked like I didn't belong.

But I was used to hearing the question with either faint sarcasm or genuine concern. The way this man asked it, I knew it was meant to be threatening.

"No, thank you, I live here. I'm just waiting here until it's time to catch my bus."

To get home from the city, I had to take a train to a bus. The bus that took me to my apartment boarded in front of a homeless shelter where drug addicts gathered to call me an assortment of names reminding me of my race, my gender, my weight, my newbie status in the big, bad city. I had decided that, although the train station could be deserted at night, it was a safer bet than crazy-land.

This night, I discovered that I bet wrong.

It was close to midnight, and I had just come back after a night of unpaid, gorilla feminist theater in the East Village. All I wanted was to go home, eat a little mac and cheese, watch a little TV, and crash on my full-sized mattress which was the only furniture I owned. I frankly didn't have time for this guy.

But he had time for me.

He plopped down next to me on the bench, and I could smell the scent of cheap alcohol, cigarettes, and body odor. He stared at me so intently that I knew he would not be deterred by my pretending to read the latest issue of Time Out New York.

"I need some money." It wasn't a request.

"Um, let's see." I dug out $.58 from my purse and handed it to him. I might as well have slapped him the face.

"What the fuck can I do with this?" His disgust didn't stop him from putting it in his pocket.

"It's all I have. I'm sorry."

"Do you have an ATM card? There's an ATM right over there." He gestured toward the dark oblivion past my sketchy bus stop.

"Um, I don't feel comfortable going with you to the ATM. And I really don't have enough money to give you denominations of 20."

Denominations of 20? How stereotypically nerdy did I sound?

"Oh, I bet you do. I think we should go find out exactly how much money you have right now."

My heart began to pound. This was the situation my mom swore would happen to me, the reason why she begged me to come home every night when she phoned. There was absolutely nobody else on this platform, and this guy was huge. I could scream, sure, but I'd be yet another voice pleading for help in the stark, Newark air. I was trapped.

Making matters worse, the guy leaned in close to me and whispered, "you wouldn't be the first person I killed." My life flashed before my eyes -- my short, ill-spent, overly-academic, still-a-virgin-at-age-23 life, and I knew I had to do something.

I searched through my bag, looking for any weapon at all, but all I could find were my apartment keys and my playwright's notebook. I considered trying to gouge his eyes out with the keys, or maybe bore him to tears with my ideas for my one-woman show, but I feared that I'd just piss him off further.

It was then I realized I had no other choice.

I began to pour my heart out to him, as if he were my best girlfriend and not my potential murderer. I told him how I moved to New York City from a small town in Kentucky with $1,000 in my pocket that was gone in less than two weeks. I told him how I worked for a tyrant of a boss at a French-speaking theater, making $250/week. I told him how my family had no money to help me out, that I put myself through college with scholarships and hard work, that I came to New York because of a dream to be something, and this is why I lived alone in Newark, New Jersey. I told him how lonely I was, that maybe this was all a mistake, that maybe I could never cut it in the big city. I told him how scared I was, that I didn't want to die before I'd actually accomplished any of my dreams. I told him, yes I did, how fucked up my family life was, and that I couldn't bare the thought of both giving up on my dream and having to back there again. I told him that even if he did force me to drain my account, he'd find that I only had a little over $7 to my name, which is why I ate ramen for lunch that day. I told him that I thought God had a purpose for me here, but I was beginning to question it, seeing how fucking difficult everything was.

When I looked up, expecting to be raped or punched or shot in the face, I saw that the guy was crying. Big, wet, slobbery tears running down his face. It made him smell even more alcoholic.

"God bless you, honey," he said, handing me back my $.58. "Don't give up on your dream, OK?"

I started to cry, too, out of relief, disbelief, profound melancholy from the complicated life I'd been living, a thought that maybe this was all fate, kismet, serendipity. He gave me a stinky, sweaty hug and walked off into the night.

I ran to my bus stop, relieved to find the crowd of drug-laced, rowdy folks, and boarded the bus home. The next day, I purchased a canister of mace and started a cab fund for the nights I arrived home after 8pm.

And while I didn't give up on my dream, I did give up on Newark.

3 comments:

David Serchuk said...

Great story from a hell of a storyteller and a damn fine writer!

Holly said...

Wow. Somehow I missed this post. What a story! That's fit for publication.

admin said...

That's one helluva story!!