Alec Baldwin tried to beat me up, then rape me. He chased me as I ran down the stairs and onto 60th Street, waving my arms, trying to hail a cab to take me away. A black sedan pulled up in front of me, blinding me with its headlights.
I looked back at the building, the doorway empty. A faint laugh trickled from the fire escape: Alec Baldwin staring me down. His gaze glued me to the sidewalk.
"So tell me, loser, who's gonna kiss you goodbye?" he grinned. "Nobody. That's who."
I tore myself away and was about to lunge into the sedan when I stood eye to eye with Alec Baldwin, his face casting a glow from the neon billboard on the car's roof. The black sedan had turned into a yellow cab. He looked gentle and concerned, but I knew it was a ruse. Between the fluorescent letters that spelled "I'm a New Yorker who cares," I caught a different slogan, written with fire: "I dare to screw you over."
I took a place in the back seat.
"Hell's Kitchen," I said.
The driver merged onto an empty avenue without saying a word. I glanced down at my wristwatch: 2:am. My shirt was soaked in sweat. I shivered underneath my raincoat.
Five days before Halloween. This is when Gotham City comes to life. The carved up pumpkins, the skulls and bones hanging from obscured windows of old brownstones… those are not decorations. Something glistens in the fake cobwebs shrouding the facades: the unadorned face of real New York, reawakened every year like some terrible earth mother.
The Empire State building drenched the sky in orange. I could taste the stagnant blood hidden in alleyways and under bridges. I pressed my hands against the window: cold, indifferent, a barrier between the living and the dead.
The streetlights sweat their dreams. Every cone of light tasted of a dream the city had once swallowed, never to give up. It would never give me up.
The cab rushed by, slicing the images and words to pieces as if cutting film.
I looked back and saw the shredded limbs we left in our trail, heads sleeping on the asphalt, blood seeping through cement. Tears began to stain the rear window. The cab driver turned on the wiper blade and I could make out a figure bending over the corpses. "A New Yorker who cares," I thought, but the shape disappeared when we turned onto 53rd Street.
The rain got heavier. The sewer spewed black water, liquid nightmares. They seemed to beat their fists against the roof, demanding to be heard, claiming back their right to walk among the living.
The driver stopped before a red light. The door next to me swung open: a young woman in a black raincoat, holding a newspaper over her head.
"Please, please, please, please, pleeeeease can I share with you? I'm in a pickle. Here." She held out some crumpled twenties. Her nails were painted a deep red.
I coughed. Bloody spit covered my hand.
"You don't look so good. Here's some tissue." She squeezed onto the back seat, forcing me to move over, and handed me an unopened pack of Kleenex before closing the door.
The driver took a right onto 3rd Ave and began to head uptown.
The woman fumbled in her purse. She turned her head and looked straight into my eyes. "Do you know there are at least five rats per capita in this city? Makes you think, doesn't it? Maybe we're the ones who came uninvited." She took a green pack of cigarettes from her purse and put it in her raincoat pocket.
A sudden gust of dark water sprayed the car door. A liquid hand ran its fingers down across my window.
"Where are we going?" I asked her.
"Don't you know?"
"There was a dream."
"I know." She handed me her lipstick. "Hold on to this."
I opened my eyes and found myself on the A train going uptown. The car was crowded. Faces were a blur. I fumbled through my purse, looking for my lipstick.
The only one I could see clearly was the man sitting in front of me: unshaven, his hair tangled like he just got out of bed. He shivered underneath his black raincoat.
"Are we going?" he asked me.
I looked down at the floor: grey spots of chewing gum all over. I felt nauseous. My lips were dry. I dipped my hand in my pocket and pulled out a crumpled tissue. It had a dry stain of blood.
The man stood up and came to sit beside me. "Here." He took my hand and placed a metal-encased lipstick in my palm. "I held on to it."
I took my make-up case from my purse and opened up the mirror.
"You look ill." The man said.
I applied the lipstick. It matched my nail polish.
A red light glared at me outside the window. I pressed my hand against the glass. It trembled, coolly, indifferently: only a thin screen separating me from the hot bowels of the city. I could feel the heat pour into me. My shirt was drenched in sweat.
The rails screamed as the train sped through the tunnel, like nails scratching against metal, tearing it open, carving out a twisted grin.
Cold shivers ran along my spine and pushed against my stomach.
The orange track lights burned like torches. Shrill sounds reverberated from the walls. Gotham spewed out sparks from fuming lips of steel.
It sang. It sang its acrid hymn. It screeched an aria that cut through its own skin. It waxed. It sharpened.
The clang of metal against metal seemed to clamber up my windpipe.
The train moved faster, going deeper, slicing the city's belly like a scalpel.
Its voice, its voice rose from this open wound: howling, raging, spitting out the boiling blood. It spat out shrieks that flashed like blades.
I sang! I sang! I coughed. I gurgled. Bloody spit staining my shoes.
The man sank to the floor. My lipstick rolled out of his open palm and stopped before someone's black loafer. No one looked up. I bent over him and kissed him on the lips.
The city had swallowed us both.
Simon Rogghe is a poet, fiction writer and translator of French surrealism and contemporary fiction. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in 3:AM Magazine, Tree Killer Ink, Fiction 365 and other publications. He is currently earning his Ph.D. in French literature at UC Berkeley, specializing in poetry.