Summer in New York is a gay man who lives in a Hell’s Kitchen high-rise. The kind with a rooftop gym where state-of-the-art ellipticals stare into the polluted air of the midtown glare from well-endowed windows. “Here's the tea: This building is PERFECT for me, cause working out is my favorite hobby,” he babbles to Bobby, as they breeze through the white marble lobby.
Summer in New York is a gay man with a spray tan, tossing back tequila with limes, getting merry on the ferry to The Pines. Naked muscles glimmer in the shimmer of the sunshine. “You know it isn’t a CRIME to have a good time?” he purrs to Peter who works in the theatre and has been in a mood ever since he got emotionally screwed by a hot sociopath named Jude.
Summer in New York is a gay man who never kisses and tells but smells like champagne and cocaine; poppers and paleo bread; tank tops and Titos on the rocks; the Kheil’s body lotion that sits pretty in every Equinox in the city. “After the steam room, let’s get litty,” he chuckles to Charlie, a bottom with a Harley.
Fall in New York is a lesbian. A lesbian who lives in a brownstone in Brooklyn with lots of space. “Get this, Stace, I even have a Fireplace!” she sing-songs to Stacey, a wonder brat always wearing something lacey.
Fall in New York is a lesbian with a fridge full of frozen sperm and wheatgerm. “I got a raise at the law firm. I’m now the head of my team,” she beams at Maxine, a leatherdyke on a motorbike with unwavering self-esteem.
Fall in New York is a lesbian in a breakup crying ‘cause she found her ex-lover’s old makeup. “I used to be rich. But my ex — that gold-digging BITCH — sucked me dry. Now’s she with some Wall Street guy,” she sighs to Char, as they chew on cigars outside of the lesbian bar.
Fall in New York is a lesbian with freshly trimmed nails pressed into the pockets of her black leather jacket. Sometimes she likes to pack it. Makes her girl moan, thinks hot sex should make a racket. “Can you hack it?”
Fall in New York is a lesbian with a beaten-up Beanie hanging over her head full of dread knows the doom of winter looms ahead. Scattered thoughts of shattered hearts, beautiful women, and work. Lips stretched into a smirk. She tells more than she kisses and smells of hair gel and purell; firewood and falafel; chapstick and keyboard clicks; vibrators and "catch you laters." Knocking down skaters, furiously clutching her ex-girlfriend’s locket, wild eyes flying out of their sockets as she rockets through the November rain to steal a kiss from Jane
‘cause love —
will render a lesbian in the fall insane.
Violet’s heartbeat was slow and heavy. Like the combat boots of a prison guard slamming against the cinderblock of a penitentiary.
She felt fucked up. Too high. On what? She wasn’t quite sure. On shaking Bambi legs, she stood directly in front of the bolted door of her studio apartment. It was pitch dark minus one naked bulb beaming an obscene, ugly wash of yellow from the cracked ceiling.
Violet couldn’t quite figure out how she got there. Was she coming or was she going? Where had she been? Who had she seen? She felt out of context in her own life. Like an actor plucked out of a scene and dropped into a whole new movie.
She fumbled inside of her beat-up Balenciaga. Where the fuck are my keys? she wondered as her fingers fished through a sea of pill bottles and gold bracelets; loose Marlboros and shiny lip glosses; pocket knives and perfume samples.
Her head felt like it weighed a million pounds. She rested it against the door. She suddenly felt a familiar hand lightly tug her hair. Breath tickled the back of her neck. It smelled like pink cotton candy and was dense and warm. Like Florida in August.
It was Girl breath.
It was Knife’s breath.
“Knife!” Violet smiled into the door. “What movie are we in? What kind of crazy drugs did I take? But really — Knife — tell me?” She cackled like a lunatic. “How the fuck did we get here? I don’t even remember climbing the stairs!” Her eyes hazily took in the black paint that spelled out her apartment number: 6B. The numbers and letters began rotating in a perfect circle.
She closed her eyes and spun in the dark.
Knife said nothing. Just blew balmy breath across Violet’s shoulder blades, which were exposed in her flimsy white leotard. The pace of Knife’s breath sped faster and faster, hotter and hotter, as it worked its way down her spine. By the time it snaked its way around her waist, Violet’s flesh was on fire.
“Kiss me so I know you’re real,” Violet mumbled. She kept her eyes squeezed closed as she twisted her body to face Knife.
Knife’s hands pushed hard against Violet’s tiny shoulders. SMACK. Her body fell hard against the door. Her tailbone scraped against the rusty-gold doorknob. Chips of peeling paint punctured her skin. It hurt. But she liked it. Why did she like it?
Knife’s lips slapped against hers.
It was a breathless kiss.
A tempestuous kiss.
A kiss that’s more like a fuck.
The kind of kiss you have in the crossfires of a heated argument with a toxic lover when emotions are fireworks exploding into the sky and you can’t tell what’s more incendiary: Your Anger or Your Desire. Violet’s lids fluttered open. The eyes staring back at her were as cold as a dead body.
They weren’t Knife’s eyes.
They were Ray’s eyes.
“I missed you.” Ray grinned into Violet’s skin. Under the harsh fluorescent light, Violet’s skin glowed bright and pale. Vampire Skin.
“What are you doing here?” Violet shivered.
“You called,” Ray scratched her head. She’d dyed her silver-blonde hair blue-black. Her eyes were two glittering moonstones.
“I called you?” Violet’s legs turned liquid. “When?” she asked, sinking into the floor.
Ray’s smile stretched as wide as a Jack-O-Lantern as she pulled Violet to her feet. “You’re fucked up, baby.” She studied Violet’s face. “Even for you.” She traced her fingers along Violet’s collarbones, which dramatically protruded like a statement necklace.
“You got skinnier,” Ray whispered. She pinned Violet’s arms against the door and pressed a designer denim leg between Violet’s bare legs. Violet was wearing a short, ratty tennis skirt covered in mysterious charcoal-colored stains. She didn’t understand the stains. She didn’t recognize the skirt. Whose skirt was she wearing? Her legs were covered in goosebumps. Why wasn’t she wearing tights? Where was the ice-blue faux fur she’d been religiously wearing since Halloween?
“I like this skirt, is it new?” Ray asked, her hands slowly tugging at the frayed hems.
Violet was wordless. Ray chuckled. She ran her hands down Violet’s Adderall abs.
“WAIT. WAIT!” a voice boomed. “YOU ARE IN THE WRONG SCENE!” Violet turned her head to find Sharon, her guardian angel, opening the window of the fire escape. CLANK. Her thick block heels pounded against the floor.
“GET OUT OF THIS SCENE. YOU’RE IN THE WRONG SCENE.” Sharon’s signature fragrance, “Clinique Happy” (a strong citrus with sweet floral notes) wafted through the hall.
Ray rolled her eyes and shoved her knee harder into Violet. A pulse beat between her thighs.
“This is who Violet is. She’s a masochistic pill head. Let her self-destruct in peace, Sharon,” snickered a man. Violet looked to her left. Oh no. Her inner-saboteur was slumped against the wall, a cheap pleather jacket draped over his lazy shoulders. He was an oily fuckboy named Shane. Shane pulled a fat spliff out of the pocket of his filthy corduroys. “I know weed isn’t your thing, otherwise I’d offer.” He winked, lighting the spliff with fat hairy hands. Like all fuckboys named Shane, he lived in Williamsburg. With his teen girlfriend. Daddy paid their rent. Her daddy, of course, not his. Shane, like Violet, didn't have a daddy. He had a deadbeat.
Violet felt Sharon’s eyes descend on her. COME WITH ME, they pleaded, TO WHERE IT’S WARM AND SAFE. THERE’S STILL TIME TO BREAK THE CYCLE.
Time stood still. Violet’s vision blackened and then split into two clear paths. One was bright and twinkling with strung fairy lights and pale pink roses. The other was a freezing cold hallway with a lone ugly yellow bulb flickering from a crumbling ceiling.
She could follow Sharon into the light. Or stay here, in the dark, with Ray.
“I don’t have time for stupid girls anymore,” Sharon husked, sparking up a Capri 100 with pink Bic lighter, buttoning her navy peacoat, the edges of her stacked bob curling in disgust. She glared at Violet before twisting on her two-inch heels and padding down the hallway. “At least get a fucking jacket. It’s goddamn November,” she added before slamming a steel door with a bright red EXIT sign lurking above it.
Violet could hear the faint click, click, click of Sharon’s shoes as they clacked down the stairs of her building.
Ray yanked Violet’s leotard down. “The best thing about a broken person?” Her nose smashed against Violet’s nose. “No one else wants them.” She bit Violet’s lip before shoving her tongue between her teeth.
“I’m in the wrong scene!” Violet screamed into Ray’s mouth.
Violet felt someone — someone who wasn’t Ray — shaking her. What monster was going to show up next? “I’m in the wrong scene,” she repeated, quietly this time.
I must confront the demon, Violet thought. Violet softly opened her eyes. Knife’s body hovered over her. Her shiny eyes looked like sunbeams.
“I was just in the hallway —” Violet scanned the room. She wasn’t in the hallway of her building. She wasn’t wearing a leotard and a dirty tennis skirt.
She was in her twin bed, butterfly-print sheets draped over her. She was wearing her favorite Courtney Love inspired slip. Knife was next to her in a faded Iron Maiden shirt and plaid boxers, biting her nails.
“You were having a bad dream,” she brushed her platinum hair out of her eyes and touched Violet’s face. “You were screaming your head off.”
“Holyshit.” Violet curled into Knife.
Knife smelled like Fall in New York. Like the first day of school. Like leaves falling on Lexington Avenue. Like a vintage smoking jacket slung over a barstool.
“Are you okay?” Knife asked.
The vision of Ray slamming her body against the door flashed through her brain. “I’m fine.”
But Violet wasn’t fine. She’d liked the pain of being tossed against the wall like a basketball. And that scared the shit out of her.
She took a deep breath and thought about telling Knife the truth.
The truth was that there was a craving for pain pulsing through her veins. A reckless demon that threatened to tear her from all the things that made her feel happy and safe: Gabriella. Her promising career as a writer. Her warm bed. Knife with her sparkly eyes and big heart.
The truth was the monsters from her childhood weren’t just living beneath her bed, they were snorting lines under there. And she was the one who’d offered them the coke.
The truth was that she no longer considered herself depressed. She was something far worse than depressed. She was numb. Vacant. An eviction notice taped to the door of an empty house.
The truth was she knew she could die. And for the first time in her life, death didn’t sound all that bad.
But instead of telling Knife the truth, she stretched her lips into a bubblegum smile and leaped out of bed. She reached for her pillbox. It was a Barbie pink plastic covered in tiny black Chanel stickers. She’d bought it on Canal street at sixteen. It was her version of a sentimental childhood blanket. The shit I’ve been through with this thing. She popped the top open and dug out a sky-blue Adderall with her creamy white acrylic nail. She admired the way the blue looked against the white. It reminded her of the sky. She threw the pill in her mouth and sucked it down with saliva.
Knife peered into her phone. “Shit!” She jumped to her feet. “We are going to be late for Gabriella’s party at Dolly’s.” She looked at Violet whose hazel eyes were gleaming blood orange.
The vibrant black pupils expanding inside Violet’s Halloween eyes told Knife everything she needed to know. The stimulants were working their way through her bloodstream.
Violet transformed from cute kitten to sex vixen in an instant. Her big cartoon eyes were now big bedroom eyes. Knife could stand there eye-fucking with Violet for the rest of her life and never get bored. “Want an Adderall to speed shit up? We need to get ready fast. Gab is going to kill us.” Violet shook the pillbox so the pills jingled like a maraca. Knife had yet to swallow or snort any iteration of speed since she’d told Violet she loved her that strange day in Cherry Grove. She didn’t need drugs anymore. She had Violet.
Violet giggled and continued to play pill maracas.
Adderall isn’t coke. Coke is your problem, Knife reminded herself.
“Yes.” She took in Violet with her big dumb smile and lit-up eyes giggling like a teen girl passing notes in class. “Fuck yes.”
Before she knew it, Violet was prying Knife’s pillowy lips open with her perfectly manicured nails. Violet placed a sugar-coated pill against Knife’s tongue. The pill glided down her throat, effortlessly, luxuriously. Like a sun-burned American tourist floating down a lazy river in an all-inclusive resort.
Knife leaned down and kissed Violet. Slowly. Softly.
The tenderness was too much for Violet. She pulled away.
Knife felt it. She always felt it. But she never pointed it out.
Because she understood.