Chapter 2: The Stand Up Kids
Infinity did not last long for Pesh. It does not last long for any of us, really. One moment we are walking down the street filled with random euphoria. In that moment it clicks: life actually is good. But the next moment we return to our usual dismal selves. We walk with no purpose, no spring in our step, merely meandering along, a predicament similar to the one Pesh faced.
To fight the sudden onset of depression, a jolting contrast to the giddiness he had just experienced, Pesh decided to rationalize. Planning always had a calming effect on him. The weather was too beautiful for late May, he decided. This meant that one had to maximize outdoor time while still seeing the Holiest of Holies: the Apple store. He proceeded to allot fifteen minutes to one location before making his way back to Central Park for fifteen minutes of fresh air and then continuing the pattern.
His newfound acquaintance, however, was not an enthusiast of this enlightened philosophy. In fact she thought him mildly schizophrenic. At first she was amused, naturally, and proceeded to follow him about as some kind of keeper. But his slow pace was too much for her. She grew impatient. Biting back snappish remarks took tremendous will power on her part. It was a truly remarkable accomplishment for she had not properly accomplished it in years.
Thus not caring in the slightest that the boy had walked over the bridge, she turned on her heels and strode toward Bergdorf's. She never did have qualms about abandoning others, reasoning that if they were destined to meet again, they would. The thought of the lush windows of Bergdorf Goodman made her quicken her pace; the store was far more aesthetically pleasing than the boy at any rate. Crossing the hectic street she entered the golden doors and was immediately engulfed in a veritable temple of consumerism. It was remarkably convenient that Hedonism was very chic at the moment.
Browsing through twenty thousand dollar dresses is quite sublimely exhilarating. However, as the girl noticed drily, the after effect is most tiring. Her stomach rumbled. Unfortunately, food would not do (it never did). She decided to get coffee—the main staple of her diet. The caffeine prevented her from crashing and burning. She exited Bergdorf Goodman and strode up towards the nearest coffee vendor.
Ah bliss, she thought as a luxurious sip of the steaming liquid slid effortlessly down her throat. Black with sugar. No milk. All memories of the day turning hazy as she slipped into a semi-relaxed mode. She scanned the crowd before her, lazily taking in the tourists and businessmen but not truly seeing anyone. A four o'clock shadow had overtaken the area surrounding Central Park and the girl decided to call it quits and venture home. Head down, she glided over the cobblestone steps. She walked in a reverie, completely oblivious to the person cutting in front of her. The collision resulted with the knocking of her half drunken coffee cup to the ground. A tidal wave of boiling rage engulfed her. She looked up, green eyes murderous, lip raised in a snarl.
"Hey! Oh shit! Was that your coffee?! Jesus, my bad. I'm so sorry." Great. It was the mumbling boy from the train. The boy she had conveniently forgotten she had left quite alone.
Ah well, it must be fate. Her face relaxed and she swallowed her curses. She inclined her head towards him. "Have fun?"
"Oh! Well, of course. How could you not? It's a pretty crazy place." He smiled, displaying gorgeous white teeth. Years of braces, the girl guessed. She shivered as a particular memory of indulging in corn while wearing braces came to mind.
"Yes, you were like a small child on Christmas, only a tad less bearable." She drily noted.
He grinned, chuckling, "Well I suppose that is one way of looking at it. That explanation certainly justifies the ditching."
"I would imagine so."
He bit his lip, hesitant to broach the subject. "So," he ventured, "I guess you have withdrawn your offer…about housing me?"
"No." The girl continued walking, and he followed her.
"Oh," he replied lamely.
They remained in silence until reaching The Village.
Ah, the fateful Village, thought Pesh as a small smile graced his lips. It really did resemble the image he had gleaned from many viewings of Across The Universe. Brick buildings, outdoor markets, bohemian shops, trees planted along the sidewalk. Far less crowded than Fifth Avenue, thankfully. Of course he still needed to heed speeding yellow taxis, but at least one could walk on the sidewalk without being shoved. Superb.
However the silence of the girl hung weighted in the air. Pesh opened his mouth a few times, only to close it before words spilled out. The silence was oppressive and he was desperate to break it.
"Do you have a name?" he blurted.
"No, they call me Number 34.067." was the sarcastic response. Pesh cast a sideways glance at her. Her face was a neutral mask. But after a few seconds he detected a hint of an upturned lip.
"You," he began, "are not as clever nor as funny as you think."
"It will shock you to find out how clever I truly am." the girl replied in a deadpanned voice.
"Stop beating around the bush. I can see through your bullshit." He chuckled. "Name?"
"You will not be receiving one."
He exhaled, shaking his head with a disbelieving air. "So you invite me to stay in your apartment and won't even tell me your name? You, my fair lady, possess the strangest sense of trust I have ever come across in my many moons of walking this earth."
"Frodo we're not in Middle Earth anymore. That kind of dialogue is no longer socially acceptable, FYI."
Pesh interjected. "Ah, the infamous acronym. Using abbrevs are we? I'm obv mad jeal of ur abbrevs."
But the girl continued as if no interruption had occurred. "One, I never said it was my apartment. In fact, you don't know if I am a crack dealer or if I live in a shelter. And two, a name is a gargantuan thing. It's special. A lot of tracking can be accomplished based on a name. They are permanent things, names are. Residents can always be changed."
"Well that certainly put a damper on our lovely conversation," Pesh stated.
They continued in silence.
"Arabelle." The girl broke the still.
"Your name?" Pesh questioned and saw her nod. "Pretty."
She strayed over toward an outdoor grocer and began inspecting the apples. Picking up a green sphere she tossed it in the air. Then she moved on to the green bananas. The store owner glanced at her and then followed the sidewalk up the street. Arabelle seized the moment and moved quickly, tucking a reddish-gold peach into the pocket of her coat. Pesh shot her a quizzical glance. She did not acknowledge him and proceeded down up the street.
Pesh caught up with her as she bit into the peach.
"What are you doing?" asked Pesh, incredulous.
"Obviously I am eating a peach. It's wonderfully experience, really. At first bite it's sinfully sweet, but the aftertaste is boldly. I recommend you try it," she said pointedly.
"How lovely." He said with no humor in his voice.
"Ah, are we going to get petty here?" She inquired, raising a blond brow.
He shrugged and bit his bottom lip. Her eyes locked with his.
She smirked, taunting. "Don't approve? Then don't follow." She wheeled around and walked down the street.
"Hey!" he called, catching up to her. "Wait. Look that's totally unfair. I'm not three." She smirked. Sounding exasperated, he responded, "God you're condescending."
She laughed, a bright clear sound butter that was utterly devoid of real mirth.
His brows furrowed. For the second time today he reflected on how it wasn't supposed to be like this. His dream had not transitioned well into reality. It was a definite slap in the face. Here he thought he was a non conformist breaking free of his metaphorical bonds…only to encounter someone who was more callous and cultural than he. It was irksome. He was used to being the most cutting edge person he knew. This girl in her flippant manner and vast knowledge of New York was proving to be very destructive to his self esteem. And that proves to be the tiresome fact about nonconformists—they don't realize that there are others like them. And when they meet said others they experience a personality crisis. If only they would just get over themselves…
"Here we are," announced Arabelle. She walked up to a red brick building and opened the black front door with a brass key. They walked into the cramped interior hallway distinguished only by the black and white checked linoleum on the floor. With Arabelle leading, they laboriously climbed the old wooden stairs to the third floor. Once they departed from the landing they were greeted by another shabby hallway featuring ancient black and white tiles and dingy white walls. At the opposite ends of the hallway were two gray doors. Arabelle walked over to the right one and unlocked it.
The door opened into a small, yet surprisingly bright, living room. Through a large window the sun hit a green couch of velvet material and an enormous bookcase. The room was accented by sheer purple curtains framing the window. Old movie posters framed by fading red velvet were mounted on the white walls. There were three small tables scattered about with a variety of magazines. Pesh, impressed, noted quite a few New Yorkers. He also noted with a sigh of thankfulness that it was surprisingly clean, if a bit cramped. There was not a television set in sight.
Arabelle walked under the archway that connected the main room to the equally cramped kitchen. Pesh had followed her in took in the drab, graying whiteness of it all. The walls were white, along with the old fashioned fridge. The table built into the wall, complete with two metal chairs, was a dingy white. So were the cabinets. Thankfully the sink and the microwave were both metal. He shook himself—what else had he expected?
Arabelle dropped her sack-like purse on the table. She walked out of the kitchen and back into the main room. Walking past the entrance door she motioned to a closed door. "This is my room. Through it you will find the bathroom. Wait here, I am going to change."
She emerged ten minutes later in a black coat and bright pink tights. The gray ankle boots had been exchanged for patent leather black flats. Pulling a black newsboy cap over her blond curls she retrieved her bag and walked towards the door.
"Er…where are you going?" Pesh inquired.
"I have to go to work. It's nearly six." Thinking for a moment, she walked back towards the kitchen and opened a cabinet. She returned to him and handed him a brass key.
"You will probably need this."
"You're giving me a key?"
As if she could read his mind, she replied "I'm not stupid to trust you. We both know that."
She opened the apartment door.
"Hey…where do you work?" asked Pesh.
'I'm a whore." She exited the room.