The woman paces back and forth impatiently, ear pressed to her cell phone. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Four. "You have reached the voice mailbox of 917 " She presses the End button, sighs, and shoves the phone back into her pocket. She crosses her arms tightly at her chest and continues pacing up and down the sidewalk. A nearby taxicab blares its horn. "Oh, shut the hell up," she mutters. The orange and green neon lights of the Rays Pizza on the corner cast an eerie glow on her face. She continues muttering to herself. She has been waiting on this streetcorner for almost two hours.
Ba-ba-bring! Ba-ba-bring! The cellphone begins to sing in her pocket, and suddenly she looks like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. She pulls out the phone and presses the green Talk button. "Hello?"
"Hello? Where are you?"
"Im on the corner of one-oh-third and Broadway, like you said," she says. "And where are you?"
"Just comin up the street."
"Did he tell you what I look like?"
"Ive got short brown hair, and Im wearing an I Love New York T-shirt and a blue sweater."
"Cool. See you in a minute."
The man approaches the corner of 103rd and Broadway. He smells the fresh, hot pizza and begins to feel hungry. He decides to get a slice, as soon as this is done.
He spots the woman. She looks very small and alone. He saunters up to her. "Hey."
"Hey," she says. She holds out her hand, a hundred-dollar bill in her palm. They shake hands and she passes him the bill. Simultaneously, he reaches a hand into her sweater pocket and deposits two baggies filled with white powder.
"Good to meet you," she says.
"Likewise." They are smiling strangely at each other. There is a long pause.
"Well, guess Ill be seeing you," he says.
"Yeah. Thanks a lot," she says.
They turn in opposite directions and walk away.
The woman walks quickly up Broadway, enjoying the adrenaline rush that comes after scoring some drugs. She picks up her cell phone again and makes a call. "Hey baby," she purrs. "I did it. I got it. Yeah, Im comin right over. Gimme an hour or so. Im just going to get the subway now." She puts the phone away again and continues up Broadway.
She passes a bar. She stops, and stands there for a few moments, contemplating. Then she walks in and makes a beeline for the bathroom. Just one line, she thinks. Just to try it out.
Inside the bathroom, she reaches into her pocket, pulls out the baggies, and takes her first good look at them.
An alarm goes off in her head. The stuff in the baggies is loose, fine powder. Good cocaine comes in soft, clumpy rocks. She should need to crush it up.
Maybe it just got crushed in his pocket, she thinks, ignoring the sinking feeling in her gut. She pours some of the powder onto the toilet tank, rolls up a crisp ten-dollar bill, and sniffs up the white stuff. She waits a few seconds for the drug to take effect, but nothing happens.
She cannot ignore the sinking feeling anymore. She dips her index finger into the baggie, then licks the finger.
She screams in rage. "F--king baking soda!"
The man finishes his pizza, tosses the paper plate in the trash, and walks out of Rays. He saunters down the street with a big smile on his face, fingering the crisp Ben Franklin in his pocket. He ducks into the Foot Locker next door. Finally he will be able to buy the sneakers he has been eyeing for two months. He has tried them on three times already. Today is the day he can actually buy them.
Immediately he spots the store sample on the wall, right where it was the last time. He picks the shoe off the wall, admiring its clean whiteness, its brilliant red and black trim, its new-sneaker smell. He tells the salesman, "Size 10."
The salesman returns with the box containing the sneakers. The man feels a burst of satisfaction in his stomach. He smiles to himself, thinking of the silly bitch on the streetcorner. He takes the sneakers from the salesman and walks up to the register.
"Hey, dont you want to try them on?" the salesman calls after him, but the man waves him off with one hand.
"I already did," he calls back.
The cashier rings up the sneakers. "Ninety-eight dollars and seventy-three cents is your total."
The man takes the bill from his pocket and presents it triumphantly to the cashier.
The cashier holds Ben Franklin up to the light. He frowns, then pulls open the drawer under the register, and takes out a big black pen. A special pen. He makes a mark on the bill. The mark should be light yellow. But the mark is dark brown. The cashier frowns again.
A sinking feeling creeps into the mans gut. "Is something wrong?" he asks, his voice heavy with apprehension.
"Im not taking this bill," the cashier says. "Its