Rachel Christina McConnell

Featured Fiction Writer – Fall 2021

Transaction History

I’m a squatter in this haunted apartment. A few days ago, my roommate Bianca absconded to London with the few pieces of jewelry I hadn’t filched from her and the rent money I’d forked over when she promised to renew the lease for our little claustrophobic studio in the East Village. She left a dusty armoire, the skeletal frame of her bed, a mattress stained with wine and menstrual blood, a black faux mink coat from Goodwill that hangs in her closet like a sweaty dead rodent, and some vegan burritos in the freezer. 

The night before she ran off, I had what I thought was a vivid vodka-induced dream of a shadow stumbling past the lumpy futon where I was sleeping. I watched him part the beaded curtain of her doorway and bend her over the edge of her bed, springs creaking and moaning. I smothered my ears with my pillow. It was disgusting and arousing at the same time. I lay on my belly, rubbing my pudenda against the mattress. 

The next morning, Bianca teeter-tottered through the bamboo beads, still drunk, her dark tangled nest of hair dyed so black it was blue. Black Cat, shade number thirteen by Rebel Mane. She’d slept in her makeup. Panda eyes. She was pissed off that my alarm had disrupted her beauty sleep.

“Wake up, fuck stain,” she said, nudging my shoulder with her cold and dirty bare foot. “Don’t you have some place to be, working girl?” 

My full-time position as a bank teller made Bianca gag. Honest work, I thought. Corporate prostitution, she called it. Suicide by nine to five. Make art or die. And so on. I loved this punk rock mentality of hers. I groaned and rolled away from her. Tried to cover my face with the duvet. 

“Come on, corporate cunt,” she said. 

I squinted my eyes and saw six of her hovering over me. A kaleidoscope of Biancas that merged into one and came into focus after I blinked a few times.

“I dreamed a man broke into our apartment,” I mumbled.  

“Oh please,” she said, eyes rolling. “He came home with us from the bar, you twat. Don’t you remember?”

My brain crawled back to the punk rock show the night before at The Bowery Electric, taking shot after shot of one hundred proof vodka chased with pomegranate juice. A tidal wave of intoxication. I step back into the broken memory, and I am there now. 

On the stage is a yellow-haired woman with bronze skin, slapping her bony hula hooping hips with a tambourine, her privates covered in gold sequins, body swaying to the screams of an electric guitar, the clashing of cymbals, the beating of drums. I watch the notes crash in the air and descend like bombs, noise exploding in my ears while in the audience before me, heads of long hair bang together. Bianca beside me, then Bianca drifting away in the flood of people, disappearing in the dim blue light, vegan black leather, silver zippers and all. I should have handcuffed her to me. She’s always wandering, flirting with anything that breathes. I weave through bodies, crushed against strangers. How disgusting to find her at the bar with a man-sized mosquito latched onto her neck, sucking. Her latest john has long black hair down to his shoulders. She always attracts the effeminate men. His English is strange, broken. A businessman, perhaps Italian. Wearing a three piece navy blue suit. He buys me a drink at her bidding but I do not exist to him. Both of them seem all the more alien to me as my vision blurs. 

I’m wrecked. A joint passes around, burning fingertips. Brief glimpses of rain, a drizzle of diamonds. Dark streets all look the same. A black hole filled with stars opens up before me, and I step through this rip into outer space. Black out, black in. 

The taste of fermented fruit and rubbing alcohol was still rotting on my tongue. I could feel my heartbeat thumping everywhere, from my brain to my clit. There was a crick in my neck from strange sleep. I felt like death. Then I saw the shadow, creeping past me.

“And that’s the last thing I remember,” I told her. 

She filled in the blanks. 

“You were getting under my fucking skin,” she said. 

So she invited Shadow to join us. She rambled on about his fat wallet, the size of his cock, his origami skills. He folded the hundred dollar bills he gave her into the shapes of koi fish and cranes. 

“I met him on Seeking Arrangement,” she said. “It’s a dating site for hooking up sugar babies with sugar daddies. Don’t laugh. You should try it. Better than being a corporate cunt. You have to keep your nips hard, though. Some of them are boys with braces pretending to be men.” 

Bianca referred to erect nipples the way other people regurgitate clichés about listening to your gut or trusting your intuition. Her body had its own unique way of protecting her from bad mojo. Those perfect nips were her psychic antennae. I was staring at them as she leaned against the fridge and rehydrated herself with coconut water. A hand on her hip, looking soignée in next to nothing. I could hear the shadow snoring in her bed. Meeting strange men online and taking them home sounded dangerous to me.

“Be careful,” I said. 

“I am careful,” she countered, narrowing her eyes. “What’s dangerous is the way my head is splitting. When I’m rich, I’ll just pay someone to hook me up to an IV when I have alcohol poisoning.” 

She concocted a hangover cure for me so I could make it to work on time, fixed me what she called golden coconut milk—a white froth heated in a saucepan, mixed with turmeric and raw honey. She wanted to get rid of me. 

“It rejuvenates the brain,” she said.

It made me vomit in the kitchen sink, which made me feel better. Once I stopped puking, she wiped my face, rinsed the stomach acid from my hair. She combed the wet strands, pinned them back into a sloppy chignon. I didn’t have time to shower, to scrape off skin. The rabid foam of mint toothpaste in my mouth almost made me puke again, gagging while I brushed the rotten alcohol taste off the yellowed bumps of my tongue. With trembling hands and a compact mirror I clumped mascara in my lashes, smeared foundation on my pale sick face, and stained my lips the color of blood. She called this ritual applying war paint. I blotted my lips and she wiped away a lipstick smudge with her thumb. None of this could be mistaken for affection. 

“He asked me to come to London with him.”

“Sounds smashing,” I said.

“I told him no.”

Her words were dreamy, sluggish, and fork-tongued. Those perfect lips curled into a crooked smile. One of her breasts spilled out of her black silk kimono, still flushed with sex and alcohol, the exposed nipple soft, round, and warm to the touch of my eyes. Her long black fingernails tapped the counter like the legs of a spider. 

“You’re going to be late,” she said. 

That’s when I knew she was about to fuck me over. 

Bianca disappeared while I was on the clock, hungover and shuffling money. I’m great at handling cash that doesn’t belong to me, keeping all the dead presidents facing the same direction. I use a little pink disc of Sortkwik, a fingertip moisturizer with the slogan: the easy, clean way to get a better grip. I exchange British Pounds, Euros, and rainbows of Canadian notes that smell like maple syrup. 

I scroll through the transaction histories of the Upper East Side clientele, women with perfect tattooed makeup, wearing mink scarves, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts. Some of them carry little growling ankle biters in their purses. Anna, the twenty-eight-year-old Scandinavian with the alluring accent, bee stung Botox lips, and Gucci bag complete with an ugly brown-eyed Pomeranian, brings in cash deposits of over three thousand dollars every other day in ones and fives. 

“Waitressing tips,” she says. 

Her profile lists her occupation as dancer. She loves the peach-mango Dum-Dums. I scroll through her transaction history to see cab fares and lingerie purchases. She has almost eighty thousand dollars in her savings account. 

“Hush, Isabella,” she says to the snarling Pomeranian in her purse. “You’re causing trouble. I hope the nice lady likes dogs.”

I don’t. 

Mr. Splendorio, an entrepreneur with over five million in his checking account, always compliments me on Bianca’s jewelry and lipstick. 

“What color are you wearing today?” he asks me. 

“It’s called Orange Danger,” I tell him. 

“It really flatters your skin tone,” he says. 

Every day, after this interaction, he withdraws five thousand dollars in hundreds and asks to see his balance, to make sure it’s still over the five million marker, then flashes me a complacent toothy grin. 

“Looking good as always, Southern Comfort,” he tells me. “You know, I’m from the south as well.” 


“Yeah, the South Bronx,” he says. He unwraps a butterscotch Dum-Dum, the white stick hanging out of his mouth like a toothpick. 

Myrtle, the old hag, is a neurotic bitch. She huffs and puffs while waiting for me to cash her checks. Tells me I’m dumb as a dodo and it never takes this long with other tellers. 

“Don’t you roll your eyes at me,” she screams. 

Sometimes I think the thick wall of bombastic glass is there to protect her from me, instead of the other way around. I’m not bitter, because working girls have brains.

Yet for working girls, there is never enough. I cough up my rent and have eighty dollars left to live on until the next payday. When I’m broke, I fantasize about having everything all at once. With the arrival of that mid-month paycheck, I binge on food and booze until I burst open like a blister.

I come home from work, uncork a bottle of wine, part the beaded curtain of Bianca’s abandoned sanctuary and flip the mattress over like a pancake so I’m lying on the clean side, not tossing and turning in her stains. I create what I imagine to be the imprint of her body, press my face into the pillow smeared with her eyeliner. The mattress still smells like her perfume: a flowering frangipani tree wet with rain, sharp blades of palmarosa, and bright blinding blooms of ylang-ylang. 

Lights out. Glittering streetlamps and car headlights filter through the metal grating of the fire escape, projecting shadow puppets on the ceiling. The shadows swell and shrink as cars pass. Morph into breasts and hips and swirling smoke and I fall asleep watching the black and white movie playing across the walls. During a wet dream, the shadow comes into the room and takes me for Bianca. I try to scream, try to fight sleep paralysis, until the ripples of an orgasm wake me. 

Red wine gives me nightmares, so I straddle Bianca’s fire escape, legs dangling over the abyss, puckering my lips and kissing the butt of a cigarette, wondering how many bones will break if I fall. The lease, which I am not on, is up in five days and I have nowhere to go. I’ve blown what little bit of money I have left from my paycheck on booze, a box of Rebel Mane hair dye shade number thirteen, and a carton of smokes.

I had moved from one miserable sublet to the next before I found Bianca’s futon on Craigslist. Eight hundred dollars a month. Hip studio apartment in the East Village. Great for pagans, artists, and bums. Rooftop access during the summer for sun poisoning and alcohol bathing. Laundry room in the basement. Beaded curtain for privacy. NO CATS allowed. 

I emailed her and arranged a viewing. I turned off Avenue A and walked down East Thirteenth Street, beneath the crisscrossing of green scaffolding, past the terrible Thai restaurant where I would soon become a regular, entered the vestibule, and pressed Bianca’s number on the intercom. As I stood outside the interior door of the building, waiting for her to buzz me in, I felt as though I was visiting a countess. Once I entered, I could never leave. Being a Pisces, I was prone to these sorts of warped fantasies. 

I climbed four flights of stairs, wheezing because of my smoker’s lungs, and was not disappointed. The door opened and I saw Bianca for the first time, her sunburned skin peeling off like spider webs. 

“It’s good exercise, right?” she said, watching me struggle to catch my breath. “No elevator in this building.” 

She looked like a kindergarten whore. Doll bangs. Disheveled cave woman hair. Pouting red lips. Shark teeth earrings dangled from her ear lobes. She wore a black scoop neck tee spangled with metallic stars and sprinkled with a few stray white cat hairs. There was no bra underneath, and her nipples were erect. Her bony hips and spindly legs were covered in a second skin of faux black leather leggings, tight around her camel toe crotch. She reminded me of the kind of little girl I hated in school because she always got all the valentines. On the playground, all the boys looked up her skirt to see if she wasn’t wearing any panties. Bianca was the kind of woman I hated because I wanted to be her.

“I usually have a vampiric complexion,” she told me. “I just got back from St. Thomas. Business trip with a client. You don’t own a cat, do you?”

“No,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “Owning a cat is like being in an abusive relationship. I love you even though you attack me. My last roommate had one. That little shit once walked around the apartment with one of my bloody tampons in its mouth. It fell out of the window, fell four fucking floors, and didn’t die. Cats are demons.” 

Bianca opened the door wide enough for me to enter. The air was smoky, thick with tobacco and Sex on the Beach incense sticks. Inside, candles flickered like stars. A poster taped to the wall caught my eye. It was a picture of a dark-skinned goddess straddling a dead man and devouring his penis with her vagina. Multiple arms stretched from her body like an octopus. Her hands held knives and severed heads. A necklace of human skulls fell over her bare breasts. She stuck her pointy red tongue out at me. 

I followed Bianca, the floor creaking with the pressure of her bare feet. She gave me a brief tour. I was bewitched by her, and the apartment, though small and claustrophobic, was beautiful. Hardwood floors, exposed burnt sienna bricks, a fake fireplace. There were charcoal drawings on the wall of a naked woman, and I soon learned that Bianca worked a couple of hours a week as a nude model for the School of Visual Arts. 

“This is my shrine,” she said, caressing the beaded curtain that shrouded the entrance to her bedroom. “Do not enter.”

I knew that the moment I was alone in her apartment, I would defile her sacred space, wrap myself in her bed sheets and inhale the scent of her perfume. I would sift through her jewelry box and finger the gemstones that had been blessed by the warmth of her skin. 

There was a pillar of books on the coffee table, literary erotica she treated with such disregard that she had placed a candle on top of the pile. A vanilla scented votive burned and dripped over Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin. Dried wax frosted the cover.  

“I don’t have cable or a boob tube,” she said. “Tee Vee is the god of the brain dead. Read or die.” 

She ended the walkthrough by kicking the lumpy futon and saying, “This, pussycat, is where you will be sleeping. Will you take it?” 

I said yes.

“Wicked,” she said. “First month’s rent and security. Sixteen hundred. Cash only.”

On my laptop, I scour the internet for ways to make easy money. A healthy young woman’s eggs are more expensive than caviar. I could score at least eight kangaroos for blessing a barren woman with my microscopic pearls. Too bad I’ve hardboiled my ovaries in carcinogens smoking two packs a day. At least it keeps me thin. 

Bianca once told me she was nearing the age of Christ’s crucifixion and she had nothing left to sell but herself. Like her, I’m ready to bottle my milk before it expires. I’m packaging my wings and breasts, my legs and thighs. I’m grinding my intestines into hamburger meat and wrapping it in cellophane. 

I hide behind my computer screen spooning the last of Bianca’s freezer-burned Tahitian vanilla bean gelato and drinking cheap Pinot Grigio out of a plastic cup. Starting with a screenname, I craft my persona, looking at objects around her room and in my purse for inspiration. If only I could be clever enough to create some variation of her alias, callipygian_fellatrix69. Then I remember Mr. Splendorio’s nickname for me: Southern Comfort. Eureka! The keys click clack as I type up a sugar baby dating profile:

I hide behind my computer screen spooning the last of Bianca’s freezer-burned Tahitian vanilla bean gelato and drinking cheap Pinot Grigio out of a plastic cup. Starting with a screenname, I craft my persona, looking at objects around her room and in my purse for inspiration. If only I could be clever enough to create some variation of her alias, callipygian_fellatrix69. Then I remember Mr. Splendorio’s nickname for me: Southern Comfort. Eureka! The keys click clack as I type up a sugar baby dating profile:

I live in an upside-down world. I’m left-handed. Scissors don’t fit my dominant hand and I’m not allowed to use my left foot when I drive. I don’t like driving. I enjoy living in the City and being crammed in sardine can subway cars. I love the noise and the strange people and the stench of black garbage bags piled on the sidewalk. I’m from the south and I hate the Bible Belt. It doesn’t fit my waist. I would rather sit alone in my room getting wasted than go out and socialize. I love food but sometimes I forget to eat. Egg rolls. Rice. Pizza. Tacos. Chicken. Pasta. Salmon. Burgers with Swiss cheese, grilled onions, and mushrooms. Wine and pomegranate juice. Sushi is okay. I ate Japanese squid chips once. I play right-handed guitar, and not very well. I long for the day when I find a generous benefactor who will fund my artistic endeavors, which include drawing charcoal nudes, writing poetry, and oil painting. I may be left-handed, but I’m still in my right mind.

In my black and white profile picture, I’m lying on the grass in Central Park, my hair like dark tentacles floating underwater. I snap and upload a few provocative selfies and look for something to eat. My gurgling intestines kick. 

Money is tight and there isn’t much left in the fridge, so I have to get creative. Bianca left a carton of expired almond milk and a soggy rotting cucumber she had used to practice the art of fellatio. I already inhaled the ramen noodles I found in the cabinets. I used to hate them, but they’re economical. Now I’m down to condiment packets. Ketchup. Soy. Duck. Mustard. I’m slurping rich and creamy gluten free mayo out of the last packet. It’s not that bad. I’ve gotten to where I don’t like eating because I don’t like to shit. Every bowel movement is a strange mixture of pain and pleasure, with blood streaking the toilet paper. It makes my asshole raw and I have to daub it with diaper rash ointment meant for babies. 

My neurotic diet and cheap toilet paper are to blame. Sometimes I don’t eat for days, then I eat something spicy, guzzle gasoline, as Bianca referred to the higher proof poisons, and binge on cheese. Eruptions of diarrhea follow. My anus becomes inflamed and itchy. I scratch, I shit, I bleed.  

Within two hours I have over twenty messages from potential suitors, perverts, and boys with braces pretending to be men. A chill passes over me and my nipples harden reading every message, so I can’t discern who should be my first client. Most of them are too creepy for me to respond. 

Dom4SubSugar, whose profile picture is a shirtless hairy chest, writes: those eyes n lips are amazing n you have the perfect sized hands 😉 500 for a few hours of playtime. i would love to spoil u. i don’t have any weird fetishes…the craziest thing i like in bed is anal. I shudder, X out the message and scroll down to the next. Richie_Rich gives me access to his private images to reveal a disgusting dick pic. I wonder if he used Photoshop to give himself horse-sized proportions. Terrifying. A new message hits my inbox. It’s from Cash_to_Burn:

Hello, Miss Comfort. You look ravishing. What’s your ideal arrangement? You may call me Alp. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.

He’s a youthful thirty-eight year old buck. In his picture, he’s wearing a pin-striped suit with a brilliant orange tie. On his profile, he describes himself as an attractive businessman with a net worth of over one million: I am very generous and I can help that special someone achieve her dreams.

I tell Alp my desperate story: 

The pleasure is all mine, Alp, if you can slay my dragon. I’m in a sour pickle. My roommate marooned me last minute, and I can’t renew the lease for our apartment because I’m not on it. I’ll be out on the street in a few days. Even though I’m employed, my credit has bullet holes in it, and I can’t afford the exorbitant cost of living in the City. I am an artist and a musician seeking a benefactor who will pay for my living expenses while I create my Great Work.

Never mind that I haven’t produced anything in months other than a few fragments of syphilitic poetry accompanied by charcoal sketches of skulls, dead fetuses, and decapitated nude women. There’s a portrait of Bianca with smoldering eyes, worm eaten breasts and moths fluttering in her hair. 

Darling, I think I can help, Alp says. He offers me two hundred and fifty dollars to meet, in good faith. I will give you half in the beginning, and the rest at the end, regardless of what happens in between. If nothing else, I will get a free meal and a few cold clams in my wallet just for showing up. I agree to meet him at The Boathouse in Central Park. I tell him my name is Kitty, not that an alias will do me any good if he keeps a collection of women’s body parts in his freezer.

Are you the type of woman who will go out of her way to please her man? he asks me. Within reason, I say. I don’t mean to be crass, he says, but some of these women are just looking for money and not companionship. This doesn’t need to feel like a transaction, he assures me.

My bathroom is a temple, each ritual an invocation. With gloved hands, I massage black ink from the roots to the split ends of my mud brown mane. The fumes blur my vision and I tweeze my eyebrows until I’m sneezing and tears spill down my cheeks. In the shower, my tentacles drip viscous blue black dye like the ejaculations of a squid. I stain the shower tiles with violent Rorschach blobs of drowning women. I shave my arm pits, mons veneris, legs, feet, toes. I exfoliate with sugar and rinse the avocado oil out of my hair. I lather the folds of my labia with a pink bar of Dove soap, the final ablution. Like Aphrodite rising from the foam, a girl-child emerges from the depths hairless and pure.

I lie down on my back on the bathroom mat, still naked, legs akimbo in the air, as if I’m practicing some obscene yogic posture or demonstrating a sexual position from the Kama Sutra. With a compact mirror I inspect my perineum and the wrinkled mouth of my anus. The skin around it is dark purple, almost black, like the lips of my labia. There is visible inflammation. Thin, red cuts radiate from the orifice. It’s strange to see such a vulgar part of the body, to know it’s always there, but hidden. As a child I never indulged the curiosity to inspect what was down there out of embarrassment and shame that my private areas existed. Only out of necessity to relieve myself of the vexing, humiliating itch, and out of fear that it may be hemorrhoids or pinworms, do I examine the most shameful part of my body. With sick fascination, I apply the thick white paste from a tube of maximum strength Desitin, meant to cure babies of diaper rash, and the sensitive cuts respond with a pleasurable sting.

Snick-snick, I cut blunt doll bangs across my forehead with a pair of dull scissors. Strands of hair fall in the sink and on the floor like blades of wet grass. I blow dry my mane, so black it’s blue, sweating in the heat. I think about Bianca as I anoint myself with rose water and apply my war paint. I can still feel her energy, an apparition hovering over me, materializing in the steamy mirror. Confident in the gifts of her flesh. I can still hear the mattress springs through the thin walls, her muffled whore moans. She left a sanitary rag in the wastebasket and I can still smell the fertile silt of her uterus. I pencil my cupid’s bow with the tabasco orange lip liner I stole from her and think about the time she let me kiss her on the mouth when I was drunk, let me taste her cotton candy flavored lip balm. 

Since I couldn’t put her in my pocket, I made a habit of stealing her jewelry, as if having a gemstone that had touched her skin would be an amulet that would imbue me with more sexual confidence, beauty, and good luck. I knew it was wrong, always promised myself I would return these found objects that became my living, breathing religion, but I never did. I kept them in my purse and decorated myself like a gaudy Christmas tree when I arrived at work. I had a big purse.  

She confronted me about my sticky fingers while I was binging on questionable Thai cuisine that I’d ordered through Grubhub with my last twenty-five dollars. I ripped open the brown paper bag stained with oil that the out of breath delivery man carried up four flights of stairs for a six quarter tip, and I feasted on drunken noodles, calamari puffs, and crab rangoon, which I called rat rangoon, because there was some strange brown meat that I suspected was rat mixed with cream cheese and wrapped in a crispy wonton skin. The air was thick with the nauseating smell of grease, mingled with my dirty pantyhose and my weary feet free of their high heels. My bloating belly made me feel nauseous and horny. 

“It smells like a cat shit fart in here,” Bianca said, making an ugly face as she came in the front door. 

I offered her some rat rangoon. 

“Bleh,” she said. 

The silence that followed was as thick as the fried grease stench trapped in the air. 

“Where’s my Victorian brooch,” she yelled, the click clacking of her heels echoing through the apartment. 

I took the brooch off and stuffed it into the pocket of my jeans.

“Well?” she said, hands on her hips, setting me on fire with her eyes.

“This is why I go to punk rock concerts and punch people in the dark,” she screamed, slamming the bathroom door shut behind her. 

Dress casual, Alp said. No heels. Of course not. I told him I’m a practical girl. So I dress like I would for an interview. I put on a little black lace camisole underneath a white silk blazer with Bianca’s sterling silver ankh dangling between my breasts for protection. Silicone bra inserts for extra cleave. A black pencil skirt with a slit up my thigh. Pantyhose underneath, the control top compressing my little paunch. That silky sheen smoothing out the stretch marks on my calves from weight gained and weight lost. For the final touch, I put a few drops of Bianca’s Cleo May oil behind my earlobes and on my wrists. She once told me it’s an old Hoodoo recipe for making men open their wallets. “I work less and get wealthier johns when I wear it,” she said. 

Bianca always told me that Manhattan was the cock and Brooklyn was the balls of New York City. I could look at a map of the subways and know this to be true. Amazing how geography mimics human anatomy. The subways are veins and orifices. The tunnels long urethral canals that smell like piss. 

I can’t believe my good fortune when I step off the platform into an empty car. The air conditioning is on the fritz and the sole occupant is the urine perfumed corpse of a man wearing a t-shirt that says, go love your own damn city. He’s wearing sunglasses, narcoleptic head bobbing with his mouth wide open. He hasn’t shaved in years. The doors close behind me before I have a chance to change cars. So I take a seat in the oven and cross my carrot legs, the sweaty nylons glistening like melting butter. I’m a tender pot roast simmering in my own juices.

Drifting through the catacombs of the subway, the car rocks and vibrates my groin. Tears of sweat trickle between my breasts and thighs and I shiver despite the heat. I smooth out my skirt and my mother’s face floats to the surface of my mind, like a drowned decapitated head. Ladies don’t lift up their dresses to play with their belly buttons, she says. I don’t want her to tell me I’m better than this, to stop what I’m doing, to not meet Alp, so I push her back down into the deep. It’s better than returning to the womb and sucking my thumb. At least I’m doing something. I’m becoming someone else.

The green six train dumps me at East Seventy-Seventh Street and I make my way towards Central Park. 

I know that Alp will soon rent a studio apartment in the Upper East Side for Kitty. I can see the herringbone wooden floors, the tacky pistachio green walls, the liquid light pouring through the windows, the doorman with the phlegmy cough who will hate me for tipping him with two dollar bills and golden Sacagawea coins. I will only need to crash in a homeless shelter for a couple of days, at most. Hell, maybe Alp will even offer Kitty one of the beds in his Jersey City flat while he haggles with the realtors and broker sharks on her behalf. Perhaps I can even quit my job at the bank.

I rehearse lines in my head that Bianca would use, lines that Kitty will regurgitate. I mimic her musical cackle, the oh please eye roll and the smoky come hither stare. I even tell myself I can do all of it better. 

The host directs me to the watering hole on the patio when I tell him I’m meeting someone. My benefactor has already arrived. Seated himself outside, at the bar with a burning candle in a shot glass. Bedroom lighting.

Alp, who is wearing a polo shirt with a paisley tie, blue jean shorts, and sandals, is heavier than his pictures have led me to believe. He has bad skin. Craters on his cheeks from picking acne as a teen. Scoliosis posture. He moves like a caveman.

As I turn to leave, he wraps his claws around me. Plants an eager kiss on my right cheek. He gives me a mammogram, the kind of hug a man gives a woman when he wants to feel her breasts pancaked against his chest.

“Thank you for coming,” he says.

I try to force a smile with my painted doll mouth but I can’t feel my lips. The thing that keeps me from fleeing is my confusion. This isn’t one of Bianca’s boys with braces pretending to be a man. Would she fuck a troglodyte for the right price? She never told me what to do in this situation. 

“You look more like a Guinevere than a Kitty,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

“But I suppose we do not use our real names,” he says with a condescending grin. “Perhaps next time, you will be Guinevere.”

“Whatever,” I tell him with a Bianca eye roll. “If that’s what gets your goat.” 

“It does,” he says. “I like authenticity. Have a seat, Guinevere, and tell me your real name.”

“I’m Bianca,” I say, sinking onto the stool beside him.

“Bianca,” he parrots, the vowels rolling off his tongue. 

He pets my hair, and I turn away. I can’t look at him. He creeps under my skin. Dusk is falling and the reflections of the lanterns dip into the green water like bioluminescent fish. I watch the boats melt into darkness. My perianal itching begins to flare up something fierce and I shift around in my chair for relief. 

“You’re shy, Bianca,” Alp says. “Let me buy you a drink to loosen your tongue.”

“It’s about time,” I say.


“Hell no. I’ll take a cranberry vodka.”

“That’s good for the urinary tract,” he says. “I would have taken you for a martini girl.”

“Do I look like a martini girl?”

“I was hoping to watch you eat the olive.”

“You won’t have the pleasure.”

Alp grins and flags the bartender, a hipster with a man bun and a black bow tie. The bartender asks to see my ID, but not Alp’s, who looks at least fifteen years older than his profile picture. The bartender’s eyes pinball between Alp and me, and I wither with shame.

“Cranberry juice is a good flush after sex with a man who is well-endowed,” Alp says. “Prevents bladder infections.”

“Contrary to popular belief, not every woman wants a large cock battering her cervix,” I tell him.

Alp laughs.

“I suppose I’m forgetting something,” he says, reaching into his pocket. “That hug was worth at least fifty dollars. It was wonderful. May I have another?”

“We agreed to one hundred and twenty-five in the beginning. Fifty is a bit of an insult. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“You’re spicy, Bianca,” he says. “I like that.” 

Alp slides a box of matches across the bar to me. 

“Open it,” he says.

Five twenties are inside and a note that says: cash to burn. I try not to smile because I know Bianca wouldn’t. 

“That’s only one hundred,” I say. 

 “My spoiled little princess,” he says, laughing. “Excuse me while I relieve myself. Don’t go anywhere.”

Alp is suctioned into the crowd, and I wait for him. I could escape. Right now. But I don’t. A strange feeling washes over me. I wonder what it would take for a man to think the only way he could be touched by a woman is by bribing her. I almost feel sorry for him. 

The air is saturated with noise. The sounds of laughter, rhythmic beats from the stereo speakers, the exchanging of words, a strange sort of reversed photosynthesis, releasing dizzying carbon dioxide into the Dionysian air.

I feel like a ghost, I tell my glass. The glass replies with a nonsensical clink of ice in a cranberry vodka arctic. I can feel myself slipping away. I’m not sure if I’m a lightweight tonight because I haven’t eaten or if I’m stumbling into a Rohypnol dream. The bottles behind the bar remind me of canopic jars in a mummy’s tomb. This one for the lungs, that one for the liver, another for the brain. I’m drinking embalming fluid mixed with blood. I suck on my straw. There is nothing but ice.

I smile at the bartender. 

“You need another one?” he asks.

I need a double, and then another. 

Alp stomps towards me. He has the leaden feet of an incubus, the kind that would crush a woman’s sleeping corpse while he hunches over her, nursing from her cream-clotted udders.

“Put your hand on my knee,” he says.

I do, and he puts his hand over mine.

“This drives me crazy,” he says. “From now on, I want you to do this without me telling you. Now, put your hand in my pocket. Own me.” 

I feel empowered, the way Bianca must have felt during every transaction. I reach into his pocket, glimpse the one hundred dollar note in the money clip of tantalizing folded bills. I feel like a child, playing this game, fulfilling this ogre’s fantasy, with a paroxysm of girlish giggles that slip out because of the vodka. 

“I love to make you laugh,” he says. 

A well-deserved reward for my valuable time. He should window shop for a poseable mannequin. Feed his words to the mouth of a blow-up doll. Poor bastard wants to be used. 

As I pull the crisp bills out of his pocket, the troglodyte grabs my other hand, rubbing it over his crotch.

“I’m leaving,” I tell him.

“Darling, I was only playing,” he says. “I may have had a few drinks before you arrived, and you are one sweet little honey trap. Come sit in my lap.”

“Stop infantilizing me,” I say.

“You’re so cute,” he says, placing the bills in my sweaty paw and squeezing. 

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Alp carries on in his soothing, serpentine salesman’s voice. “You are my dream girl. I’m serious.” 

I doubt it. I’m sure he says that to all the girls. I fight the urge to slip a hand into the back of my panties, dig my fingernails into the wrinkles of my anus, and scratch away the itch still tingling there. 

“Let me tell you a story,” he says. “Do like stories?”

“Not really.” 

“There was an old man who used to sit in that chair over there,” says Alp, pointing to a lipstick red leather recliner near the bar. “He was a friend of mine. He would sit in that chair so he could watch the women walk through the doorway wearing their translucent summer dresses. The sunlight would penetrate the fabric.”

He looks down at my skirt, scrutinizing its opacity. Kitty is hissing and arching her back, Guinevere is willing to see how far this will go, and Bianca’s ghost is laughing at me.

“He would bounce his grandson on his knee to draw the women closer, so he could look down their shirts and squeeze their breasts with his eyes. Anyway, he’s passed his expiration date.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” I say, swirling the straw in my empty drink.

Like a stage magician, Alp summons another round with a wave of his hand, the drained glasses vanishing and full ones materializing. 

“Have you eaten today?” Alp asks.


“What would you like?”

He passes me a menu and that’s when I see it. The malignant island of a mole bubbling on his forearm, just above the portentous gold watch around his wrist. Hairs like the antennae of a cockroach sprout from it. I fan myself with the menu.

“I don’t think I want anything,” I say.

“Is something wrong?” he asks.

“No,” I say. “Nothing at all.”

“I recommend the oysters. What’s the weirdest grub you’ve ever eaten?”

“Fried alligator tails, I guess.”

“I ate snake once,” the mole says, its feelers twitching. “In Cambodia. It smelled like piss. It was dried and dipped in soy sauce. Are you sure you aren’t hungry?”

“I’ve lost my appetite,” I say.

“I haven’t,” he says.

“I do like that name,” he whispers. “Bianca. It means white, doesn’t it? Like purity? White as virgin snow?”

“White as death,” I whisper back. 

I’m cornered between Alp and the bar, in the shadows. There is so much noise. The patio sways like the deck of a sinking ship. He leans into me, his breath reeking of oysters, his cologne smells like blue cypress, cedar wood, and cigars. He grabs a fistful of my hair and pulls me into his hot sour breath.

“I can’t do this,” I whisper.

“Is it the way I look? Not what you expected?”


“We can go for a walk in the park,” he says. “A change of scenery may help.”

Beneath the bar, out of sight, he puts his hand on my knee and roves up to my inner thigh. His thumb presses through my nylons, stroking the lips of my vulva. For a moment, I watch from outside of my body, a voyeur, paralyzed and lubricated with terror. I pinch his nipple through his shirt and spill off the bar stool onto the wooden planks, my skirt hiked up around my hips.

“Let’s get you home,” he says. “I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink.”


  “I’ll call a car for you.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

He yanks my elbow and lifts me to my feet. I can feel the black blood rising to the surface of my skin under his grip.

“You’re being too spicy, Bianca,” he says. “It’s giving me indigestion.”

No one sees what is happening to me. Women in sparkling dresses are laughing. Glasses are clinking. I dig my nails into his crotch and he yelps. I break free and run, a shadow on my heels like a hunting dog, pursuing. Black out, black in.

I’m squatting on the sidewalk somewhere on Fifth Avenue. Just being a pussycat is a constant hazard. What the hell am I doing in this dirty fucking city? I unclasp my purse, dab hand sanitizer on my cheek until the place where Alp kissed me feels like it has been stung by a yellow jacket. I iron out the crumpled twenties with my fists. My jaw unhinges with laughter. The poor ugly bastard deserved to have his wallet raped. I stumble into the sanctuary of a cab. 

“Put out that cigarette, pretty,” the driver says. “You don’t want to catch cancer.” 

I blow smoke at the glass partition protecting him from me. “Mister,” I tell him, “I am cancer.” 

Rachel Christina McConnell is an emerging writer who graduated from Columbia University’s creative writing MFA program in May 2018. She was blessed (and cursed) with a Gemini stellium. She is a Gemini Rising, with her Sun, Moon, Venus, North Node, and Chiron all in the sign of the Twins, while her ruling planet Mercury is imprisoned in the labyrinth of her Taurus Twelfth House.