I can feel my heel as it slips between the hard metal of the storm drain, falling forward as my knee collides with rough groves of concrete. Of course. Of all the places I was supposed to be tonight, lying on the streets of New York City, skin imprinted from hardened tar, was not not one of them. I should be back at Rosemont. I should be dancing with my friends, bones knocking against one another, mimicking the melodies that echoed throughout the bar. But as the room filled to the brim, my friends grabbing the hands of nearby strangers, it was hard not to notice the way that everyone seemed to have someone to hold onto. Everyone but me. Harboring the ache of alterity, I opted to leave before eleven.
Mustering up the will to pick myself up, hot salt sneakily escapes from my eyes, hiding behind the bridge of my nose. I try to continue forward before feeling what was certainly wet blood begin to pool around my ankle. I stop, stumbling towards a nearby bench, untying the scarf around my neck, dressing my wounds with the fabric. I sit still for a moment, surveying the area for the nearest convenience store. Loneliness held me by the throat as I remain idle, merely a voyeur of the scene playing out in front of me. I cannot shake the feeling of perpetual otherness that sits like a paperweight atop the lining of my stomach. Across the street are a group of girls, limbs draped over one another’s shoulders, laughing as they fall out of a nearby bar, tripping over each other’s feet. Their presence acts as a stand-in for the half-moon, illuminating the deep indigo of the Brooklyn sky, all the light in the city huddled below the nylon of their shared umbrella.
I refrain myself from dreaming about what it must be like to have a love like that, focusing my attention on the weathered fabric of the “Brooklyn Bodega ” banner tucked into the furthermost street corner. I tighten the satin around my leg and make my way towards the door. The cashier greets me with a weak wave, not bothering to straighten his posture at the sound of the wind chimes hung at the head of the doorframe. I trip my way down the aisles, scanning the shelves for anything loosely reminiscent of gauze wrapping, settling on a box of bandages that I am sure had been previously opened. It’ll do.
Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of the group that has congregated against the cash-warp, along with the annoyed expression of the obviously exhausted man behind the counter reaching to collect a plethora of scratch offs. I scuff at the idea of a gamble and take my place in line.
“Tough night?” asks one of the girls, gesturing towards the stained fabric that adorns my knee.
She’s taller than me, her eyes are kind.
“Just the latest fashion statement,” I mutter in reply.
She giggles before reaching forward to grab the tickets, shuffling them like cards while she waits for the others to head out. Reaching for her hair, she uncovers a bobby pin from beneath her blonde curls, beginning to absentmindedly scratch the pigment from the surface of the tickets.
“Have a nice night!” says one of the boys at the front of the group.
My eyes inadvertently flash toward the girl who offers me a soft smile, reaching into the pocket of her yellow raincoat. She then slips the thin cardboard of her previously played scratch off between my fingers.
“I’m April, by the way.”
“Grace,” I voice in return.
I look down at the ticket in my hand. Five dollars. I can’t help but smile.