The Immortal Coil
“Take your shirt off,” were her first words as I entered the room, leaving behind any semblance of confidence I had at the threshold. There was something to be said about a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. This was already moving faster than my other encounters today and I couldn’t help feeling a bit nervous.
“Turn around for me.” Her voice made an almost passable attempt at being sweet, but I could sense there was little to no thrill left in her from doing this anymore.
I complied and glanced around the room, trying to remove myself from the intimacy of the situation. No matter how many times I was told to, stripping down in front of a complete stranger wasn’t getting any easier. I had to admit there was some excitement in the idea of grabbing someone’s attention with just my body, but in practice, I felt vulnerable. There’s nothing wrong with a little modesty, I guess, as long as it doesn’t hold you back from collecting a paycheck.
“You’re in great shape. Very cute, too. I like your look,” she said, as her eyes traced up and down every inch of me with increasing enthusiasm. “I’m loving the eyes. What are they, light blue?”
“Oh, um, they’re gray, actually.”
“Five foot ten, I see. We’re doing a shoot on Saturday for our fall line. I want to see you there. It will begin promptly at 8 AM, but make sure you arrive an hour early to get fitted. Don’t show up any earlier or you’ll be in the way.”
“How’d it go?” It took me a second to pick out the voice in the crowd. One of the male models I was sitting next to while waiting to be seen waved me over. “Did you get called back?”
“Yeah. I didn’t think I would, but I guess–”
“Hey, nice, so some of us were talking about going out tonight to celebrate. You should come.”
“You got called back too?”
“Not yet, but I will be once they see me.” He laughed and hit me on the arm. “So, you in?”
“Oh, uh, I actually have plans already. Thanks though.”
The subway ride to my apartment on the Upper East Side was turning out to be colorful as always. Among the tired businessmen returning home from the office, the frazzled parents shepherding their children, the hipsters, gangsters, and couples of every shape, size, and color, was a rambling homeless man. Of course, the only available seat was to my right. To look busy, I took out my phone, hoping to be left alone.
“They’re after me, they’re after all of us . . .” There was a sudden rancid smell of body odor next to me. This was going to be a painfully long ride.
“They’re going to get us. It isn’t safe anywhere. You can avoid me, but you can’t avoid them. I see them, I see them killing people in the alleys and in the park.” The stench of dog food and fresh vomit on his breath violated my sense of smell. “Never a body left behind. Not a drop of blood or a shoe, not anything left for a big fancy funeral. The police are in on it, too. The entire government is! Why do you think we never hear about it on the news?”
Against my better judgment, I looked at him. The expression on his face threw me off. He didn’t look nearly as deranged as he sounded. His eyes were filled with concern, not insanity.
“There are monsters out there on the streets. They look just like any one of you and you won’t know until it’s too late!” he shouted, before waddling out onto the platform.
“Don’t you pay him no mind,” said an older woman sitting on my other side. “There are all sorts of crazies that come out every now and again.”
I smiled politely and kept my head down for the remainder of the trip. As I left the train, I could see blood on the seat where the homeless man had been sitting. For a moment, I toyed with the idea that there was some truth to the man’s ranting. The 6 train dropped me off at East 77th Street, and I could hear the sound of police sirens in the distance as I made my way uptown. As I turned the corner, I saw a line of cop cars in front of my building. An ambulance was pulling away from the scene as I joined the crowd. I could see my neighbor, Shannon, standing on the sidewalk.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. The police evacuated the building and haven’t said anything since. They just finished loading a stretcher with someone on it into that ambulance that left.”
She was wringing her hands nervously and didn’t stop watching the scene as she talked.