The red dress reaches far below her ankles, long enough to make her trip and fall. The sweat trickling down her back feels strange, almost as if it is not her own. The golden embroidery, which looks beautiful to the viewer, is pinching on her wet skin. Tightening its grip. Gold jewelry hangs from every inch that is not covered by the dress: her forehead, her ears, her arms, her hands, her fingers. She picks up her pace; her attire is peculiar to the dark streets of New York.
The cloth on her head, covered with the same embroidery as the dress, slowly begins to loosen and fall. She grabs it in her hands and continues to walk on. It’s so dark, she thinks, why am I so late? Why am I dressed like this? She continues to wonder about the events that occurred on the previous day. Her mind is empty. There is nothing to recall.
The sidewalk is strange, but she feels as though she is going in the right direction. She always followed her instincts.
“Hi, miss. My name is Steven,” a Hispanic guy walks up to her left. She looks straight ahead. Her pace quickens. She ignores the man as though he is nonexistent. She does not dare look him in the face. Her heart begins to pick up speed. Her legs follow suite. Faster. Faster.
“Miss, can I help you in any way?” the man continues in the hopes of having her talk. She continues to ignore him and turns a corner on a large avenue. There must be people there. The sidewalk is completely empty. The only sounds that are audible are those of the cars–going too fast for their own sake.
After passing by a few stores, she cuts in front of the man. He is saying things that she can no longer hear. She tries to run across the street. Her feet are sore as though she has been wearing heels all day. For the first time, however, she notices that she has been walking barefoot. She takes a few steps towards the street, expecting to run across and leave the man behind. Her heart continues to pound in her chest. Faster. Faster.
Without looking at the light, she jumps onto the street. Ready. She takes a step forward. Her foot lands on the dress. She falls forward. Out of instinct, her hands go out in front of her to protect her from the impact. She turns around on the floor of the street. The Hispanic man is towering over her. Too close. She quickly places her fists by her ears and bends her legs towards her stomach to form a ball; protection. He leans over her. Her foot shoots out and hits him between the legs. A loud yell fills the empty night, but is quickly drowned out by the noise of the passing cars. She retracts her leg, afraid that she might become contaminated by touching him. He doubles over in pain and falls on her. She kicks him off and gets up.
The bottom half of her dress ripped in the incident. Her legs: bare. Embarrassment fills her. She takes the cloth that was on her head and makes a skirt for herself. The Hispanic man is still lying on the floor, in pain. She steps over him and continues walking.
“Don’t go!” he yells. She ignores him and continues to walk.
“1119,” She reads from the top of a door, “1121, 1123.”
She enters the large wooden door under number 1123, expecting it to be familiar.
“3D, 3D, 3D,” she whispers, searching for the right button.
Finally, she presses the right button. The inner door begins to vibrate. She pushes it open and enters the building. The warm tiles beneath her soles welcome her. She rushes to the stairs, climbing them to the third floor. Something told her not to use the elevator. She did not understand what.
On the third floor, she pulls the door open to enter the dimly lit hallway. The maroon carpet on the floor always gave her headaches, but she grew up with it throughout her childhood and teen years. She grew accustomed to it. She retraces the steps that have now become so familiar to her that could do while sleeping, and reaches the door labeled “3D.” Every time she saw it, she expected it to be different, but it was the same as it always was: tinted brown to look like wood. She rings the doorbell. An eye looks out at her. The door is unlocked.
“Yes?” an elderly woman asks her.
“Uhhh, are my parents here?” she asks. The elderly woman stares back at her with blank eyes.
“I’m sorry, darling, but I think you have the wrong apartment,” she smiles kindly and closes the door on her face.
“What?” she asks the air. Why isn’t anyone here? Where are they? Did they move? But I was only away at school!
She walks back to the door labeled “Exit,” descends the stairs and walks out of the building into the cold, dark night.
She walks alongside the deserted sidewalk until she comes across an open coffee shop. She always wanted to go in, but never did because of her lack of taste for coffee or tea. She enters it and finds an aging man standing behind the counter.
“Hi!” he exclaims, looking her over again and rethinking his exuberant welcome. She smiles and walks over to the counter to see what they have, craving sugar all of a sudden.
“Can I get a glazed donut and hot chocolate please?” she asks, almost as if she was trained to say those exact words.
“Is that to stay or to go?”
“To stay,” she responds, as he places the donut on a napkin and onto the glass counter.
“I have to get the cocoa from the back,” he responds quickly, turning to enter the door that leads to another room. The only connection between the the two is a single square window.
She picks up the donut and begins to eat it. She looks down and sees that she does not have any money. Afraid that the man will return, she quickly grabs a napkin and heads towards the door, donut in hand. She opens it and quickly goes out. She hears the door close behind her and finds she cannot walk any further. She turns and realizes that her skirt has caught on to the door.
“Hey!” he yells, looking through the little window in the back door, “she’s running away. Hurry!” he screams into the phone he had been talking into.
Despite the vast distance between them, she feels threatened and quickly begins to remove her skirt from the door. She sees him hang up the phone and open the door. He was talking about me! She runs down the street not knowing what is going to happen or where she is going to go. The only thing she ever relied to give her comfort was now taken over by complete strangers: her home. There is no where else she can go. She continues to run.
The cold cement beneath her feet pierces her soles. Her heart is racing. Faster. Faster. She looks back. The man is standing at the door of his cafe yelling. The words are inaudible. She turns and keeps running until she sees a subway station. She runs down the steps and enters a warmer atmosphere. She looks around. No one is there except the drowsy man sitting behind the glass pane to help some lost tourist or to sell metro-cards. She walks to the turnstiles. Slowly, she bends down and crawls on all fours to the other side. Relieved that she did not hear a word from the drowsy man, she gets up and begins to walk towards the platform.
“Ma’am,” says a deep voice directly behind her.
Her heart stops. She turns and sees that a police officer had descended the stairs behind her.
“Oh, please let me explain. I didn’t have enough money and I need to get home, it’s really late an-”
“Ma’am, I am placing you under arrest for jumping a turnstile,” he says.
“What?! You can’t do that. I didn’t commit a crime. At most you can give me a ticket,” she responds, surprised at her own words. Her voice is coarse.
The officer steps over the turnstile and unclips the handcuffs from his belt.
“Well, this is a special case,” he responds smoothly. He places his hand on her shoulder and turns her around with one jerk of his arm. He cuffs her hands. She lets him.
“I can’t believe this,” she mumbles.
“You have a right to remain silent, everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law,” he states. She remains silent.
As the police officer walks her up the stairs, she notices that the first few rays of sunlight are emerging from the East. The image of the yellow and orange colors colliding against each other and pushing away the darkness stuns her.
“Watch your head,” the deep voice says to her. She turns around and finds that she is entering the police car. Without the time to bend low enough, she hints her forehead on the cold metal.
“Crap! I told you to watch your head!” the officer yells.
She turns around. The officer’s face is a blur. She sees the name tag that reads “Steven.” She doesn’t have time to think. Her hands go out to grab a hold of something, anything. She loses consciousness and falls to the ground.