The door was heavy and I leaned into it with my shoulder to fight against the pressurized wind on the other side. I envisioned a spaceship where this was the escape hatch opening to another world. If you’ve ever been to my office, this analogy would make a great deal of sense.
Stepping through to the street I quickly turned on my iPod so as not to accidentally hear any other human voices. Those who walked without ambient sound were obviously crazy, or tourists. There was a nip in the air and I flipped my collar up, shielding the back of my neck and trying my best to assume an urban caricature of stylish brooding. I was James Dean with freckles.
The great thing about living in Manhattan is that the end of your work day is by no means the end of your work. You still have to get home. And to make it there you were tasked with navigating all sorts of obstacles, both natural and man-made, and each walk would be assuredly different than the one the previous evening. Each corner rounded held limitless possibilities and commuting turned quickly into a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel, with no option of flipping the pages backwards.
This particular night I was in a rush to get back to my apartment to do something I’d been looking forward to the entire day…sit on my couch and do nothing. This was my blissful Zen atmosphere devoid of thought and stress, yet filled with cheddar cheese Combos. Any proper Nirvana has cheddar cheese Combos.
True New Yorkers know that you never stand on the street corner itself while waiting for a streetlight to change. You step out a few feet into the street itself, staring down drivers and glaring at them as they pass. Why the fuck are you driving in MY street? I am crossing here and YOU are in my path motherfucker. Drive somewhere else… there are plenty of streets in this city for you to be an asshole on.
Most times you lock eyes with the person in the back of a taxi having the exact opposite inner monologue. Why the fuck are you walking in MY street? This fucking cabbie is ripping me off and I swear to God if he brakes at that yellow light because of your dumb ass I will lose my shit. Way to flip your collar up dick. Go back to Jersey.*
* The ‘Go back to Jersey’ comment is reserved for anyone, regardless of their actual location in Manhattan, who you feel must be lost on their way back to that God-awful state or closely resembling borough.
The light changes and the moment passes, each person swearing they were delayed unnecessarily and swearing revenge until the next incident causes them to displace their anger on someone else.
I glided across the intersection, making a diagonal path from the corner of 26th and 6th towards 28th Street, and my path unfolded before me like a video game. I was moving along to my own theme music as different characters appeared in front of me which required my dodging. Elderly man with cane, 10 pts. Baby stroller, 15 pts. Street vendor hawking merchandise, 20 pts. Etc, etc. At any moment I expected Donkey Kong to appear, toss a barrel at me and send me back to the start with a “wah wah wahhhhh” noise trailing behind.
In light of these obstacles I was making good time and turned right onto 28th Street with only a few Avenues standing between me and my next adventure on the subway. I’m a rather tall guy and I move with the dexterous limber fluidity of a taut jungle cat. However when I was a few steps down 28th Street I came upon a figure that I couldn’t overtake. And a woman no less! Surely this was some mistake and she could not keep this pace for longer than a few steps. One block later though and she was still ahead of me. Okay bitch, now it’s on.
I switched gears, shifting out of second into third and lengthening my stride to pass her on the inside and slingshot in front of her. There was a payphone on my left about 20 yards ahead. I’d cut hard left and use that to pincer her in, creating an inescapable invisible triangle that would cause her to slow down and ultimately allow me to move ahead of her into the lead. Of what race I was leading, I was unsure.
A few more steps and I lowered my head to make my move, almost running to reach my predetermined point on the sidewalk that I’d cut in. Out of my peripheral though I noticed that she wasn’t slowing, but rather gaining on me. What the fuck?? Who was this chick? She must be on steroids. What is this world coming to?
We reached the corner as the light was about to change and both jogged ahead to the other side. I thought I felt her elbow me and I reminded myself that she was a girl and I couldn’t slam her head into the concrete like I’d wanted. Unless it got a little bit darker out and no one was around.
Shoes on the far corner we resumed our cat and mouse game. By this point I had to look over and it was then that I noticed she was not only fast, but extremely cute. She also had a slight smile on her face. Most guys would take this as an opportunity to engage the female in some light flirtatious banter. I however wanted her and her bionic legs to learn a lesson. No one walks faster than me. No one.
We were almost at the subway and I had to make another move soon. I decided on a risky outside street maneuver. I’d wait until we were caught in a logjam of people and then dart behind her and into the street, cutting back to the right and emerging victorious in front of her. A group of Asian tourists approached and I saw my chance. Without delay, I stutter stepped and darted to my left.
Keeping my eyes on her I saw that she was caught in the throng of people and was faltering in her advance. I had her! This was it! That bitch was going to remember this moment. She was going to rue the day she embarked on this challenge. She was going to tell her children this story. She was going to…
The next thing I knew I was on the ground with a searing pain in my left leg, tangled in a powder blue Vespa that had been parked on the sidewalk. Looking up from the ground I saw her moving swiftly away into the night without even looking back. Had we even been racing?
And as I cursed loudly, one of the tourists snapped a photo, no doubt thinking to himself, “Go back to Jersey asshole”.