Cassie Episode VI (Stop Googling Your Personality)

“If you embarrass me I’ll just pretend like I don’t know you,” Cassie said, idling red eyes between me and a cigarette.

Dressed in all black like a bad omen, tastefully undressed in shoulders, arms, knees, and other non erogenous zones. Non-conformist and un-plus with a tattoo of Anubis coloring her forearm, eye-liner running at just the right angle to look more punk than it was depressing. I loved to watch her leave as much as I loved to follow, admiring the fun and dire looks she threw back at me as I took a mental inventory.

Another sixty bucks might mean a workweek full of tuna fish and sardines until the next direct deposit saved me. Rents a bitch but more than anything those bar tabs will kill ya. Bottom shelf shots are every New York booze hounds salvation, but even those start adding up when you’ve been at it long after twelve. I should have gone home a while ago, on moral grounds and debit card balance considerations, but I find it so hard to act your wage when I’m in the face of good company.

“I mean it.”

Cassie stood neutral but on the sidelines of chaos, and made it so easy to forget that I should give a fuck about tomorrow. Like that manic pixie girl they make all those movies about, but way more toxic. On the train ride there she stared at a couple passionately trying to swallow each others tongues. And when the six foot big spoon asked if there was a problem, she laughed and casually asked if there was enough room for us to join the show. They sucked their teeth and left at the next station, long testosterone glares I half heartedly reciprocated. And when I asked Cassie if she had such a problem with PDA to be so embarrassing, she shrugged and told me Not-At-All. I-Just-Thought-That-Would-Be-Funny.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said, shuffling my internal playlist of wisecrack and dumbass to best match what I thought would be her rhythm. “But one quick question: how do your friends feel about Syria?”

I thought Cassie was burning inside as bright as I was, full of that quiet crazy staring at strangers and waiting to socially erupt. I thought she was as fed up as I was with faux pas pleasantries and nominal living, ready to yell at pigeons in the park and be an island of revolution. Choosing yourself over this paper thin etiquette and simulated version of honesty. True above all else, and refusing to let our madness be private.

“I’m serious,” She said, stopping with a hand firmly pressing into my chest. “Do not embarrass me,” she repeated, red eyes idling between me and the half finished cigarette nearly burning the wool of my jacket.

Thin and bright red letters dimmed against the darkness like an alarm clock ahead of us, neon shadows casting the words ‘The O D E O N’ looming on a marquee. Caught up on the wrong side of reality, the feint fragrance of shay butter and too much hairspray. The click of our shoes against the sidewalk filled the aching creaks of our empty headspace, but now there was only an odd and busy silence as New York revolved around our feet. She was so serious and I didn’t know what to say.

I had half a mind to bring up the problematic train ride that got us there, but her cute face and my aversion to conflict got the better of me. I trust no ones judgement, and my own much less. But when you’re morally bankrupt and already in enough debt to be thrifty on the last sixty dollars you have left in your bank account, it’s easy to overlook hypocrisy for a few free drinks with a pretty girl.

“I’ll be good,” I said. She nodded, and we made our way.

Into Odeon and the rest of the night with her friends, I wondered what would be the cost of that little or small a lie.

The Kids Are Not Alt Right (They’re Just Fucking Fascist)

Fed up of the circadian rhythm, I rebelled against my own innate patterns of routine. I would brace myself against the wheel or be crushed by the weight of its bloated inactivity. Home and safe, overworked and underpaid. Or half a bean in my bindle and walking on hungry socks. Either way, something would have to give.

Darting towards my undone I grabbed what I considered to be fundamentals-

Lighter, phone, Kools cigarettes and a bottle opener. Doubling back towards the kitchen sink cabinet, where I kept hidden a half pint of Jack Daniels, tucked behind two bottles of Advil and a handful of 5 Hour Energy drinks. A corner pocket of my apartment I only visited at 4AM, or when the hearts clock strikes a zero hour. Pregame mistakes and hangover essentials which may have well read “In Case Of Emergency- Break Glass (before yourself.)” 

Already I could taste the gunmetal of whiskey and poor decisions eating away at the edges of my insides, regret looming around the bend of another night I should have spent doing something else. A long list of life responsibilities and errands taking shape within my mind, obligations nagging me the cons of spending a night out in sharp and boldened bullet points I’d feel the exit wounds of come morning. 

I braced myself and took the shot, groaning loudly before I grabbed my coat and went limping out the door. 

I realized the dangers of going alone, but God forbid I went sober. 

Cassie, Episode V (The Hangover Strikes Back)

We roamed the streets, howling at the moon with our eyes wet in hunger. Biting at each others heels in soft compliments disguised as insults, because neither of us ever truly outgrew the playground.

“Nice buzzcut, asshole.” Cassie snarled.

“I like your Ugg boots, where’d you get them? High school?” I hissed.

We were free of responsibility and chose to use that time unwisely. To be wild, untamable and young(ish)- daring strangers to approach us by baring our teeth in what they mistook as smiles and seeming friendly. Barking at cars and traffic that honked at us on lanes that said, B-U-S O-N-L-Y painted white in symbols we could no longer understand. A man tried to explain:

“Get on the sidewalk assholes! That’s the bus lane!”

“Says-Fucking-Who!” We howled back.

Scampering down West 4th Street with tails high as our moods, taking turns on a brown paper bag that was full of what makes the moon shine and absolutely nobodies business (especially if you were a cop.) A toxic duo of brash and lonely only looking for a home or good time; rabid and shameless, one with ourselves and the anti-thesis of decency.

Cassie and I two sloshed peas in a pod. We didn’t think we were greater than people, but we were better than them for knowing that. Than thinking we were anything more than animals packed into a steel cage we call a city. As if there were any more reasonable way to live than with this wild abandon of decorum, to stop the facade of a cowards living we dress up as social etiquette. No leash, mortgage, bar or cute stranger could tie us down for long. We were free and beautiful, recruiting strays and mutts in downtown Manhattan for The Army of the Dog.

“Can we leave?” I asked Cassie when I caught her in a smoke break. “I can’t stand this yuppie bullshit they keep playing.”

“Hey, it’s your breakdown. Only right you get to choose the soundtrack ” She yelped, and we pawed our way up Macdougal.

It’s what I liked most about her that night and ever since. With Cassie I’d wouldn’t need a good reason for anything or have to think so hard. She never asked for a cause or explanation, and there was a certain comfort in that. A relief of not having to validate more than the surface. 

“I know a place,” She said. “You’ll like it. I know the owner, we can stay late.”

“Sounds suspect. If you’re going to harvest my organs can I at least call my mom first?”

“I already did. don’t worry. She said it was fine and gave me permission.”

A smile spread across my face, completely involuntarily. Because in under an hour Cassie had somehow cracked the code to my affections. I was beginning to like her more than an off-chance encounter, and already I could feel my brain making memories where I didn’t need it to. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery, in my dark and immodest opinion, and is the default language of love for anyone suffering from the fatigue of compassion. Kindness in the world is necessary, of course, but usually forced. A due process that can feigned, deceptive or hollow. To be mean in a nice way requires a cold but tender honesty, a step too far or close and the intentions become too obvious.

Somehow Cassie threaded that line quite perfectly and turn me softer towards her. I would rather open my heart to whoever called my dick small over some sweetheart asking how my weekend was any day.

“That makes me want to take you out some time,” I said laughing, and a little bit too sincere.

“Somewhere nice?” She asked, smiling a wine soaked and bloody tooth grin.

“Like a Kennedy,” I shot back. She punched my arm, and we pattered down to the stairs to the 1 train.

Cassie, Episode III (aka Baby It’s Cold Outside- So I Hope You Called An Uber)

Most people are barely people and I’ve met everyone twice. Personalities copy and pasted from recycled memes you can find on Reddit, who pretend to exhibit behaviors they borrow from social disorders on Wikipedia. Give a hungry man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, but give him the internet, and he’ll probably spend it anonymously calling other fish faggots right before his 10AM Sociology class.

“Gotta light?” She asked me outside, with peach mixed moscato on her breath and the feint scent of burning incense lingering in her hair.

She had a way with people- even in my heightened state of over compassion I could tell as much. There was a manner she looked your way that was so notable, that felt like suddenly hearing your name in public, but with eyes. Disarming and little captivating; how being noticed always is. And yes, it helped that she was beautiful. An all-American vee’d chin with an uncle named Chip, that mythical half they must be talking about when they mention two point five kids and a picket fence.

“Brighter than you know,” I replied, and struck a fire for her.

“You’re funny,” She said grinning, smoke and hair billowing from her nose. “You look unmade, and a little dangerous. But I can’t believe you smoke this menthol crap.”

She played it loose and hated slow songs, always kept a 20 hidden in her bra because mama didn’t raise a sucker, and she’d herded her own fair share of douchebags. Ink resembling May 2nd with a year I can’t remember occasionally trailing from out her sleeves.

“If I’m going to slowly kill myself, I’m going to do it right.” I said.

Her name was Cassie, not with a y, and it was short for Cassandra but don’t you fuckin’ dare ever call her that.  Stacked to a low 5’4″ on her tippy toes- beautiful skin tinted in a blushed red, lips curved like a sunset or rose tinted Cupid’s bow. She had it going on, beautiful, but basic at best, eye shadow of a modern fashionista, but not the kind daft enough enough to romanticize vogue models or an eating disorder.

“I can’t handle it, I’ve got a VSD.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s like a hole in your heart,”

“I’m so sorry,” I replied. “What was his name?”

She was not a miserable person, nowhere near delicate- only threaded, maybe. Overexposed like an electric wire in the rain. A victim to the elements and boys who swear they’re different. With a hot heart for the coldest matters and a gentleness that feels more earned than inherent, she cried when she missed her train for work just like any body else. That bitter and hardened exterior only a New York experience can make.

“Who you here with?” She asked, squinting at something other than the smoke in her face.

But I’ve been wrong before.