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“Move bitch!”—But before I could like even try my very best to get out of his way the middle school skateboarder had already kickflipped off the top of the steps, had already spun himself 360 degrees, had already taken off his ANARCHY 99 T-shirt and waved his purple Mohawk at a trio of giggling brats, and had already like seriously miscalculated his dramatic landing—his bony, acne-spotted shoulder slamming right into me and my nonfat latte. Ugh!—hissing and wiping a rainforest’s worth of Fair Trade coffee off my canvas tote bag. What a little shit! What a real bastard!
Still gnashing my teeth I stuffed away my bone-white headphones and hurried up the crowded steps and across Union Square, re-aiming my really long legs at the donut-shaped mob gathered outside the 14th Street subway station. I skipped, I leaped, and after hurdling over a pair of brooding chess players, I held my breath and crawled under the outer layer of crust punks and garlic-glazed armpits, crawled under the advertising alligators and the automated techies, under the potbellied tourists, the horny hipster dwarves—I crawled and crawled and held my breath until I made it to the scooped-out center of the quasi-human pastry, covering my delicate ears as an ambulance screeched and honked its way up constipated Broadway—red and blue lights bouncing off the billion-dollar bell towers, off the six o’clock traffic, the sirens wailing way up there where the pixelated celebrities and the fashion seraphim smile then wink, smile then wink, smile then wink at you and me . . . Finally able to breathe again I pushed my square-framed glasses up my sweaty but really cute button nose. I watched my favorite preacher sweep his really hairy arms from side to side, side to side as he furiously howled and spit at Manhattan from the top of his portable step stool. I licked my lips. I listened to the extra-large jean jacket and the camo cargo pants, to the vomit-brown beard swaying and swaying above the city like a doomsday pendulum of reprimanding pubes. Oh how I licked my lips. How I listened . . .
“—I’m telling you this planet is fucked and we’ve got to get off the fuck off before it’s too fucking late. We’ve got to save our immortal fucking souls!” my favorite preacher raging, raging with homeless glory—“So which one of you motherfuckers wants to come with me! Ey! I said which one of you motherfuckers wants to come with me! Ey! I said which one of you motherfuckers wants to fucking come!”
But aside from a spoonful of sarcastic cheers on the part of the horny hipster dwarves, the quasi-human pastry just shrugged and crumbled away, a few blogging flakes lingering around exactly long enough to triple-check their triple-charged smartphones before drifting across the Island Kingdom by train, by taxi, by urban teleportation—the daily spectacle over and wirelessly shared. Even way up there, above the rooftop bars and playboy penthouses, the bloated November sun was quietly losing interest in it all. With a yellowred fart it heaved the rest of the day beyond the Hudson, beyond the New Jersey high-rises, and I watched as the last semiprofessional gawker snapped a picture of my favorite NYC loony and then shuffled off across the almost-empty square with his aluminum tripod. On his way to go film two or three beefy blue bullies kick a faceless someone off the curb and into an unmarked van . . .
Something vibrated up against my ribcage. Frowning with suspicion I reached into my tote bag and scowled when I glanced at my flashing smartphone. Because apparently Precious wanted me to pick up a few red onions, a few plum tomatoes, a few slabs of Manchego cheese, a few pounds of prosciutto, a few rolls of toilet paper, and a few bottles of Merlot before I headed back home to Williamsburg. Ugh, great. Just great. Like why did I always have to do the groceries? Seriously. Why!
Chewing on my candy apple nails, a burst of doubt lighting up my extra-small core—like right below my bellybutton—I put away my smartphone and slowly, slowly turned toward my favorite preacher. Because I still didn’t know if I was like actually going to go through with this or not. Because I mean maybe I shouldn’t. Because I mean maybe he wasn’t the right one. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I—NO! Stop. I definitely wasn’t about to let all these doublecrossing weeds grow. Definitely not. Shaking my really cute head I quickly reminded myself that there definitely wasn’t anything to worry about because I had like definitely done my research and this was definitely the reason I’d been leaving the Comfort Station early for the past two or three weeks. To be like totally sure. I nodded. I nodded twice. Because this dirty hobo right here was like definitely my ticket to Hollywood. Definitely. I took a deep breath, carefully smoothed out all the workday wrinkles in my black-on-black gallery geisha outfit, and then, holding on tighter than tight to my canvas tote bag, I tippy-toed up behind the collapsible step stool, the smelly scarecrow now crouched and growling to himself while shoving loose change, blankets, gas masks, canned food, cardboard signs, pamphlets and bloody scalps and who knows what other prepping supplies into his neon-pink shopping bag.
“Excuse me, sir,” I whispered, my heart pounding up against my extra-small ribcage.
But the crouching goblin didn’t say a thing, didn’t even turn around. He just kept on growling and groaning into his neon-pink shopping bag.
I tried again. “Sir?” squeaking and raising my really friendly voice.
Ugh! A little annoyed now (I definitely didn’t have time for this sort of thing), I stretched out an impatient finger and gently, but firmly, poked-a-poked the kneeling preacher in his very rude shoulder blade—and like a spring-loaded trap the jean jacket swiveled into action and before I knew what was happening a greasy paw had me by the fingertip and an unplucked unibrow was growling and groaning up at little ol’ me!
I blinked, I winced, I stuttered—“Uh, I, sor-sorry, to bother, you, but I—but I was wondering if I could like buy you a cup of coffee or something?”
The gutter wolf snapped his greenbrown teeth at me, squeezed my really cute finger. I tried my very best to pull myself free but the greasy paw just squeezed and squeezed. Just squeezed and squeezed. Totally about to faint, totally about to yell fire, I rolled back my canary eyes and chirped—“I promise I won’t take too much of your time, sir. I know a place around here that only uses organic coffee grains. Plus they’re like really well reviewed and I’m sure you’ll definitely like their Italian roast. Oh and obviously you won’t have to pay for a thing. Not one thing.”
A sinister smile creasing his dingleberry beard, the unemployable yeti abruptly let go of my smushed fingertip and a delicious shiver tickle-tickled up and down my spine as the blood pulsed-pulsed back into place. Oh, my, God. This whole thing felt—amazing . . .
Smaller than small black speakers were oozing indie rock lullabies over the chitchatting coffee connoisseurs (Ugh as usual the Pretentious Cup was like way beyond packed), and even though I seriously loved the coffee in this place, I definitely wasn’t feeling their choice in crybaby noise today. Definitely not. So instead of just sitting and taking it I waved my really thin arms and tried my very best to swat the cliché songs away. I waved my right arm, I waved my left. But obviously the dissonant sap just kept on dripping and dripping down my innocent little ears. On repeat. Ugh! I sighed. I sighed and went back to picking at my nails. I picked at my candy apple nails and thought really hard about what would happen to the earth when the sun had like totally burned up its hydrogen core and half squeezed, half bloated itself up into a hungry red giant. I picked at my nails and waited for my new best friend to say or do something—anything!—which might make it like a little easier to ignore the obnoxiously fashionable couple sitting and sulking one table over. Because I definitely didn’t like they way they were titling and using their stylish, almost-buzzed haircuts to signal for help from the tattoo-sleeved barista behind the espresso bar. (It was like seriously annoying and seriously uncalled for!) Even though, to be like totally fair, the logo-lacking rags propped up across from me definitely did reek of Lyme disease and death. Plus it definitely was somewhat true that sometimes some people on the way to some bathroom were somehow tripping on someone’s black combat boots. People were tripping, people were judging, people were barfing on their trendy clothes and pointing at little ol’ me! Ugh! No fair! I blushed and clenched my precious little pride into a tighter than tight fist. Because even though I like kinda understood where everyone was coming from, I was like still about to stand up and punch each one of these snooty bastards in his or her snooty esophagus. On principle!
I stood up. I pulled my extra-small fist back but before I could get off my first righteous jab to the throat my dumpster-diving companion slammed his handmade mug down on the table and burped. Burped twice then growled—“Are you fucking ready to talk about the salvation of your immortal fucking soul! Ey! Are you fucking ready!”
I snorted and sat back down on the metal chair. “Uh, no. I don’t think so.”
“No?” The hobo’s witch doctor eyes narrowed, his unibrow sprouted another clump of ingrown hairs. “What the fuck do you wanna fucking talk about then?”
I cracked my tiny knuckles and jumped right into my sales pitch. “Okay, so here’s the deal. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but—wait, what did you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t fucking say.” The gutter wolf snapped his greenbrown teeth at me. “But it’s Giacomo. Giacomo fucking Jones.”
I licked my really cute lips. “Giacomo. Perfect. That’s really a perfectly perfect name.” I sipped on my soy cappuccino. “So here’s the thing, Giacomo. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I’m on the verge of becoming a really big deal. Like a massive deal.”
Giacomo’s cheese-knotted mustache gave a violent twitch.
“That’s right—massive. I’m going to be ridiculously famous. Ridiculously rich. And here’s the thing.” I leaned in. I leaned in all the way and whispered—“So could you.”
A revolting rivulet of Italian roasted slobber trickled and splattered all over my delicate fingers, the eavesdropping couple next to us letting out two or three astonished gasps.
“That’s right,” I nodded, trying my very best not to gag. “If you wanna, and I really don’t know why you wouldn’t wanna, you could like totally become ridiculously famous, ridiculously rich. Because I think you’re definitely just what we need—”
“Shut the fuck up!” Giacomo hammering a greasy paw into the table, coffee splashing all over me and the walls, black and white photographs plummeting to the linoleum floor, shattering in slow, slow, slow motion, the fashionable couple next to us flinching and yelling something or other about their “ruined” clothes, the tattoo-sleeved barista watching us from behind the bulky espresso machine, one hand frothing the milk, one finger tap-a-tapping his smartphone, getting ready to tap-a-tap 911 . . .
After calmly wiping the greasy goo off my glasses, I made sure to put on my very best suburban smile when I said, “What’s wrong? Don’t you like get what’s going on here? Don’t you like get that I’m asking if you wanna be in my movie? If you wanna be the superhero of my movie. Doesn’t that sound like really really fun?”
“Oh I fucking get it now,” Giacomo snapped, Giacomo coughed, “you’re another one of those fucking film students. How many times do I have to tell you motherfuckers that I’m not interested in being in a fucking documentary!”
“Uh, no. Definitely not.” I reached into my tote bag. “First off, I’m not a student. I graduated like two or three years ago. Second, I’m definitely not working on a documentary—I hate documentaries. And third, I’m here to find out if you’d like to be part of what’s sure to be my very successful romantic comedy.” I pulled out my ultrathin laptop. I sipped on my soy cappuccino and started to type. “Now I know what you’re thinking, and no, don’t worry, you definitely don’t need to know how to act. Just be yourself and I pinky promise you’ll like totally be fine. All I need is for you to answer a few easy questions and then we can move on to the fun stuff. Is that okay?”
Nothing. Like all I got for a really rude response was a graywhitepink dandruff wafer that slowly, slowly wafted up into the hazelnut cross breeze as my favorite preacher scratched two or three rat turds off his Gorgon dreadlocks. As my favorite preacher probably definitely scratched and chewed on the eternal question—yay or nay, or nay yay, or—but since I definitely didn’t have time for all that, I went ahead and asked anyway. “So like where are you from?”
“What the fuck? What the fuck do you care? What the fuck does it matter? Chicago.”
“Okay, that works . . . And what’s your ethnicity?”
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Giacomo pounding on the table, “This planet is going to shit and all you motherfuckers wanna talk about is more meaningless shit! The fuck’s wrong with you fucks!”
“Whoa, calm down. I’m just trying my very best to cover all my bases. I just need to know a little bit more about your cultural and socioeconomic background so that I can figure out the best way to get us both ridiculously rich, ridiculously—”
“Jesus fucking Christ! The fuck’s it matter if my pops drove a fucking garbage truck! The fuck’s it matter if my mom was born in Mexico! The fuck’s it matter if they’re all fucking dead! Don’t you motherfuckers care about the salvation of your immortal fucking souls!”
I looked up from my laptop screen. “Oh, so you’re mixed. I knew there was something special about you . . . But don’t worry, I definitely don’t discriminate. I’m Jewish by the way. In case you were wondering.”
“I don’t give a flying fuck!”
I smiled and gave my tiny wrist just enough of a counterclockwise flick to gather up all the brain-boosting espresso grains stuck to the swirling bottom. I took one last sip of my soy cappuccino, then said, “And what did you do before you decided to be homeless? Actually, no. Don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of that. Okay, last question. But this one is definitely a real deal breaker. You are in your twenties, right? Right?”
Giacomo’s demon-black tongue poked itself out through his cactus beard and slurped up a prickly coffee crystal. He swallowed, coughed, burped, spit, sneezed, adjusted his crotch, sneezed, and I felt really confident that under this second sphinxlike sneeze, I could like totally and actually hear an insecure but very serious Yes—a definite Yes!
“Great!” I said. “You know I was definitely a little worried there, what with your disgusting beard and all that. But I’m glad we got that all cleared up. You know I think that’s like all we need to get started and—”
“Stop! What the fuck’s in this for me!”
I brushed back my bangs and swatted another cliché indie rock song away. “Well, here’s the deal. I’m willing to offer you like thirty-three percent of all our ticket sales. I think that’s like totally fair. And trust me, there’s going to be tons and tons of ticket sales . . . Deal?”
Giacomo shook his extra-large jean jacket. “Coffee. Just buy me the fucking coffee.”
“Oh, okay,” nodding and closing my laptop. “I guess that’ll definitely work . . . Anyway, I have to get going now. These next two or three months are going to be like ridiculously busy. At the gallery we’re supposed to be like getting ready for this really important opening but we haven’t even installed any of the pieces yet. Ugh, I just know I’m going to be working overtime. Plus I’m definitely a little worried about finishing and submitting this movie before the deadline—I mean, our movie. But yea, okay, whatever. We’ll figure it out. Oh and I’m assuming you definitely don’t have Facebook or email or Twitter or anything like that. Ugh, you probably don’t even have a smartphone . . . Oh well, no biggie. I’ll find you.” I stood up and swung my canvas tote bag over my shoulder, “accidently” slamming it into the fashionable couple’s fashionable faces while I read Precious’s new text message. Apparently she wanted to know if I could like please-oh-please stop by the pharmacy and pick up her prescription refill? Ugh!
I pushed my glasses up my antsy but really cute button nose. “Alright, I’ll see you later. Bye.” I turned and started skipping away through the Pretentious Cup.
“Slow the fuck down! What’s your fucking name!”
Pivoting hard on my blue and yellow vintage sneakers I twirled and held out an upper-middle-class hand. “Oh yea, sorry about that,” smiling my very best suburban smile. “I’m Zoe. Zoe Dreamstein. It’s like totally nice to finally meet you, Giacomo. You know I think we’re definitely going to be a blockbuster team. Definitely.” Then I twirled back around and, after remembering to blow a kiss to the tattoo-sleeved barista behind the bulky espresso machine, left my favorite homeless preacher all alone inside the swankier than swanky coffeeshop . . .
Outside, charmingly bundled in sidewalk silhouettes, in toasty eagerness, multiethnic clusters of tipsy coworkers were laughing and swaying up and down 14th Street, laughing their way out of TWO FOR ONE happy endings, swaying their way into ALL YOU CAN STOMACH sushi slapstick, the autumn metropolis droning with chemical glee, with orange and black neurosis. Feeling good, real good, I reached into my tote bag, grabbed a mouthful of Starburst snacks, then put my bone-white headphones in and scrolled through my smartphone for the perfectly perfect fit to my winning mood while dodging two or three delivery boys swerving past me with pizza on their heads . . . Bingo. Hardcore techno beats now thump-a-thumping between my temples, my really long legs steering me through the quickening night, I chewed, I giggled, I jumped up and down and gave startled strangers high fives and bro-style chest bumps. Savoring the sugary sting on my cute little palms, the bruised tears on my rosy cheeks. Excited, so ridiculously excited! Because I like finally had my superhero. Because I like finally knew how my opening scene was going to play out and it was like just a matter of semantic time before I suddenly found myself ridiculously rich, ridiculously famous. I licked my thinner than thin lips. I sidestepped a panhandling preschooler and went back to working on my acceptance speech. “Oh boy oh boy. I’d definitely like to start off by thanking the Academy!”