I was recently looking through my short pieces of fiction to see where I could fill the dead spots in a collection of stories I'm currently working on. While this piece, "New York Minute" didn't make the cut, I figured I'd make a space for it here on the blog. "New York Minute" is a slightly (very slightly) fictionalized re-telling of an incident that happened a few seasons back.
The afternoon was promising. It was one of those rare November days where you could smell the memory of summer in the wind bursts that placidly came and went. It was as if summer had taken an encore. Everyone and everything seemed to glow from within. We had stumbled upon one of those ever elusive, November, your coat is optional, get up and join all of the happy people in the street before it gets too cold, days.
I enjoy showing off my city, the real city, the splendor and grit that lays beyond the insanity that is Times Square. I relished visits from out of town guests. Hailing from Japan, my group was ecstatic. On their first full day in New York, they were drinking in the full Manhattan experience. Playing tour guide, I led our expedition through narrow crowded streets, over brown mystery puddles, in and out of quirky shops, pointing out my favorite restaurants and bars along the way.
Making a right turn onto Ludlow from Houston, we had a plan. We were on a mission to sample the sweet goodness in the display case at my favorite cupcake bakery.
Suddenly, two teenagers darted out of a skateboarding shop, breaking our stride. That was when I heard the sound, a sound I will never forget. My ears rang as a guttural hacking noise, familiar in a sickening way filled the space around us. I looked up just in time to see one of the teenage boys, one of the cutter-offers, hack an enormous phlegm ball over his left shoulder.
Did I mention there was wind? Did I mention the wind was blowing in my direction and that I stood directly behind the boy’s left shoulder? Did I mention that I was mid-sentence, still raving about the cupcakes we were on our way to try?
What happened next, happened so quickly, I barely had time to react. The phlegm particles, foamy white and sticky began to divide in the air as they flew in the direction of my face. I was powerless. My central nervous system entirely and systematically shut down as I felt the saliva and mucous of a stranger spray my lips and nose. There was nothing I could do to brace myself.
Tamika and Makiko stared helplessly, silently as I ran down the list of possible diseases that could result from having someone spit in your mouth. My lips were teeming. But there was nothing that I could do.
And in a move that surprised me, I took a deep breath through my nose, wiped my face with my scarf, and continued to direct my walking tour. I felt disgusting, I felt violated, but more definitively, I was resilient. Three paces later, I turned to my horrified friends, put on a charming smile and announced, “Welcome to New York!”