I didn’t know that love could be so painful, and leave you feeling as empty, weak, and alone as I do now.
I met Tony when I was nineteen. I was wild-eyed and wide open, looking for love and finding nothing but one night stands in the back seats of random cars that usually ended with me getting paid or getting the shit beat out of me. I’d lived that way for a long time, running the streets, being one of the true children of the night. The hookers, pimps, and drug dealers that ran the pavement of Hunts Point were my friends.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have a pimp, I wasn’t hooked on any drugs, and I didn’t always sell my body for money. I just wanted love and I guess so did Tony.
Tony came into my life on the heels of yet another one of my misadventures. I’d just gotten kicked out of yet another car when he pulled up in a midnight blue jeep 4×4. It was the middle of winter, but I wasn’t dressed like any of the girls who were on the stroll who had barely enough clothes to keep warm. I had dark-washed skinny jeans, Converse, and a black wool coat with matching hat, gloves, and scarf.
I was standing in the middle of the street, breathing heavily, having just tried to run down the ass who kicked me out of his car, my breath meeting the cold night air and turning to mist the second it hit, when Tony pulled up next to me.
“You lost?” he asked, after rolling down the passenger side window.
Not dressing like a hooker gave me an upper hand. I got guys to stop for me if they didn’t think right off the bat that I was a streetwalker. It was part of the game for both of us.
“No,” I said, putting my hands in my pockets.
“You look lost,” he said, staring at me. Even in the dark of the car I could see his eyes. They were bright gray, almost like a cat’s.
“Well, I’m not,” I shot back, standing my ground. Most guys picked me because they thought I was easy prey, but I was far from it.
“What’s your name?” he asked me, his voice soft like velvet.
I smiled. “Emily.”
He laughed a little, the lines around his eyes showing a little. “Well, Emily, I’m Tony, and even if you say you’re not lost, you sure look lost to me.”
I giggled. “You’re persistent, aren’t you?”
He smiled and my chest went tight. “Yes, I am.”
“Well,” I said, taking a step towards the car. “Since I’m lost, you want to save me?”
The smile left his lips a little and that’s when I saw it: that hungry, needing look that all men get when they looked at me.
“I’d like that,” he said after a moment.
I opened the door and climbed in. The car smelled strongly of mint gum and his cologne. I felt myself get tight all over as he pulled away.
“I’m happy you found me,” I said looking at him. Good God he was good-looking—a full head of jet-black hair, and strong features, nothing like the usual ugly mugs who picked me up.
“Me too,” he said. “Who knows how many sickos run the streets around here.”
I smiled. “I’m sure you’re not one of them.”
Again, the smile left his face a little. “Of course not.”
We talked for what seemed like forever while Tony drove around.
“Just looking for the right spot,” he said when I asked him what was taking so long.
Finally he stopped. I’d never been to this part of the stroll. There was nothing but empty buildings all around us, and I got this crazy feeling that we were the only two people for miles around.
I’d taken off my coat and underneath I had on just a white t-shirt with black trim. Tony let me climb into the back seat first. Once back there, he just looked at me, smiling a little before reaching out and running a finger across my cheek.
“God, you’re sexy,” he said.
I felt my cheeks get hot.
“You’re not too bad yourself,” I said, trying to keep my cool.
He laughed and I felt my knees go weak. Slowly he leaned over and pressed his lips to mine. As the kiss deepened he pulled me onto his lap. I felt his hands all over me, running across my butt, up my back, and into my hair.
Too soon he broke the kiss. He looked deep into my eyes with a hunger I’d never seen. I ran my fingers across his smooth skin, wanting nothing more than to have him inside me.
“I’m sorry,” he said suddenly.
I felt my heart sink. Great, I thought, he’s chickening out.
“For what?” I asked, wanting to save the moment.
“For this,” he said, before driving the knife I hadn’t seen deep into my stomach, before the world went dark.
Like I said, I didn’t know that love could be so painful and leave you feeling so empty, weak, and alone as I do now, lying at the bottom of the Bronx River. But then again, it never really was love, was it?
Someone once told me that not being able to breathe is a lot like not being able to love. It’s just something you can’t live without. I always wondered how that could work; I guess now I know.
I saw a fish this morning. It was swimming close to the surface of the water, so when the sun hit its scales it was like watching a rainbow being born. It was only in my line of vision for a few seconds, but in this cold and empty world I now call home, it was beautiful.
It helps to think, to get my mind off the cold. I think about a lot of things, but mostly I think about how I got myself into this.
My hunger for love really didn’t start till I was about five years old. Both my parents worked long hours so I could have the life they didn’t growing up. They didn’t want me to know what it was like to go without, so they bought and gave me everything except love.
When I started school, unlike most kids who would cry and fight and wouldn’t go in unless they were carried kicking and screaming, I went in and sat down and learned. I learned everything I could and then some. I think I was too smart for my own good sometimes. I didn’t want a lot of attention aimed at me, so I downplayed everything, from tests to homework. By the time I hit middle school, I was set in a B average, and happy with how my life was going.
Until the day I met Rory.
The very first time we talked I’d been sitting alone in the lunchroom reading a book, when she came over, sat across from me, and gave me her million-dollar smile.
She held out her right hand, “My name is Rory King. What’s yours?”
I took her hand and gave it a little shake. Her skin was soft and warm.
“Emily Knight,” I answered. “You know Rory is a boy’s name, right?”
She looked taken aback for a second, then she started to laugh. She laughed so loud and hard that the kids at the next table stopped what they were doing to stare at us.
From that day on we were inseparable. Where she went, I followed like a good little puppy. She showed me a part of myself I didn’t know was there; things I didn’t know could be real. All through middle school we were known as the Soul Sisters, that’s how close we were.
When it came time to pick a high school, Rory and I sat down together and put the same schools on our lists. Rory was a dancer, and was so graceful that watching her dance brought tears to my eyes. The day we got into the same art school we danced like two crazy people around my living room. I got in for art—I’d always loved to paint—and Rory for her dancing.
That summer before freshmen year our families decided to go on a big road trip together. Rory and I both caught food poisoning from some truck stop diner and spent the rest of our trip in the hospital.
That summer and the ones that followed went by too fast for my liking. Before I knew what was going on, I blinked and I was seventeen and in love, but not with just anyone…I was in love with Rory.
It must have happened between the food poison summer and Jack Coe, Rory’s first real boyfriend, but I can’t say for sure. Jack had been the love of Rory’s life. He had been better than a good book and cup of hot cocoa to her, but in the end he was only poison.
In the beginning, like all good things, they were fine. Jack even went as far as to call me his “soul sister-in-law,” and even tried to set me up with one of his friends, a band geek with bad acne named Manny, but all good things much come to an end.
The first time Rory showed up at my apartment with a busted lip, I begged her to call the cops, but she told me that she knew Jack hadn’t meant it, and told me to chill, that she would handle it. He showed up the next day with a dozen white roses, and she forgave him on the spot. I wasn’t so understanding.
Then came the black eye, the almost broken nose, and then the broken rib. By that time, thankfully, Rory had had enough and called it quits. After the broken rib it had taken her weeks to be able to dance again, but she did.
It had been about a month after she and Jack had broken up. We were having a girl’s night in, complete with pizza, cookie dough, a little Johnny Walker I’d gotten from Dad’s keep, and every season of “Sex in the City” on DVD.
We were sprawled out on my bed in the dark looking up at the glow-in-the-dark stars my dad had put up when I was a kid, and had never bothered to take down. Somehow we ended up on the topic of Jack.
“I just don’t get it,” she said. As much as she had had to drink I was shocked she could still talk straight. “I gave that dick almost a year of my life and what does he give me: a broken rib. The nerve of that ass.”
I laughed a little. “He just didn’t know how to handle you. I mean, you are the shit, you know.”
That got a little laugh out of her. The sound made my heart jump.
“You really think so?” she asked. I could hear the doubt in her voice.
I rolled over so that I was lying on my side, looking at her. She was at an angle to me, laid out on my bed in one of her 1930s silky nightgowns, her hair flowing across my pillow like black gold. I knew that if I died at that very moment, I’d die happy just for having known her.
“Look at me,” I said. She rolled onto her side so that we were facing each other. Her eyes were sad and it nearly killed me to see them like that. “No matter what he did, you made it. He didn’t break your spirit; he didn’t break your soul. He didn’t break ya.”
She smiled at me, and before I knew what I was doing I leaned over and kissed her. It wasn’t a real kiss or anything; I just put my lips to hers for a few seconds, then pulled away.
When I did she was staring at me, her green eyes full of shock and wonder. It took me a full minute or so to realize what I’d done and when I did I tried to move away from her, but she reached out and grabbed my hand.
“Please,” she whispered, holding my hand a little tighter. “Do it again.”
“…In other news, the police have found the body of 19-year-old Emily Elizabeth Knight in a remote part of the Bronx River. Ms. Knight had been missing for more than a week before her body was found by a homeless man who had been fishing in that part of the river. Police are still investigating, but believe that Ms. Knight is a victim of foul play. They are questioning everyone who had contact with Ms. Knight on the night of her disappearance. We will have more on this story as it develops…”
I stared at the TV, but I couldn’t believe it. I felt my hands go cold, and my chest got tight.
They found her, I kept thinking. They found her, and now they’re gonna find me. I stared at the TV and at the picture her family had given the cops when she’d gone missing that the news was now using. She looked the same way she had the night I’d picked her up. Chestnut brown hair, hazel eyes, and caramel skin.
I knew the moment I’d turned the corner and saw her standing in the middle of the street that she’d be the one. I knew that I had to have her no matter what. I’d tried to fight it at first—that burn that went through my whole body when the urge got too strong—but like the times before, I couldn’t. So I’d pulled up next to her and asked her if she was lost…
“No,” she’d answered, putting her gloved hands into her pockets. She wasn’t dressed like the other girls I’d seen that night. She was well dressed and healthy looking. But there was something about her eyes that caught me and wouldn’t let me go.
“You look lost,” I said.
She stared at me. “Well I’m not,” she shot back. She was playing hard to get, and I liked it.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
She smiled at me. “Emily.”
I laughed a little. The last girl’s name had been Emily. “Well, Emily, I’m Tony, and even if you say you’re not lost, you sure look lost to me.”
She giggled and it sounded like bells. “You’re persistent, aren’t you?”
I smiled. “Yes, I am.”
“Well,” she said, taking a step towards my car. “Since I’m lost, you want to save me?”
I felt the smile leave my lips a little. Could it really be this easy? I felt the burning get stronger. I had to do it soon. “I’d like that,” I finally said.
She opened the door and climbed in. She smelled of roses. I felt the knife in my pocket start to burn. Soon, my friend…soon…
“I’m happy you found me,” she said after a minute. I could feel her eyes all over me. I didn’t like it.
“Me too,” I said. “Who knows how many sickos run the streets around here.”
I caught her smile out of the corner of my eye. “I’m sure you’re not one of them.”
If only you knew, little girl. “Of course not,” I said.
She talked while I drove around. She told me a little about herself, all things I knew were lies; a streetwalker never told the truth about herself, and neither did I.
“What’s taking so long?” she asked after I’d been driving for a while.
“Just looking for the right spot,” I told her. She just smiled and kept talking.
Finally I stopped. We were close to the river so I could dump her easily when I was done.
She’d taken off her coat and had on some trampy little t-shirt. Now she looked like the hoe she really was. I let her climb into the back seat first so she couldn’t see as I took the knife from my pocket and slipped it up my sleeve. Once back there, I just looked at her. She looked so much like the girl that came before her; it made me smile just thinking of the ones before her. I reached out and ran a finger across her cheek where I longed to cut her. “God, you’re sexy,” I lied.
“You’re not too bad yourself,” she said coolly.
I laughed before slowly leaning over and pressing my lips to hers, as sick as it made me to do so. I lured her in, deepening the kiss, before pulling her onto my lap. I needed her close. I ran my hands over her body, drawing her deep.
It was time. I pulled away and the look in her eyes was priceless. I needed it, and I could see in her eyes that she saw it, but not for what it really was.
Suddenly it hit me that it was wrong. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take this girl’s life—but I had to. “I’m sorry,” I said before I could stop the words from escaping my lips.
I saw the confusion and frustration in her eyes as I slipped the knife from my sleeve and into my hand.
“For what?” she asked.
“For this,” I said before driving the knife deep into her stomach. She went out cold after that first hit. No fight, no screaming, so the rest was easy. I hit her twelve more times, one each for the girls who had come before her. I cleaned up quick and got rid of her, after tying a rock to her legs and dropping her over some random bridge and into the river. After, I drove back to my hotel, showered, and slept like a baby for a day and a half.
I went to the spot I dumped her a few times before things got too hot and the burning started again, stronger this time. The rush I’d gotten from her hadn’t lasted, and it was time to move on, but now I couldn’t.
I turned off the TV, throwing the remote across the room. Shit. I should have been smart. I should have been more careful. I was getting sloppy. Now I was gonna rot.
“No,” I said out loud. “I’m not, I’m not gonna rot.” I ran over to where I’d left my new coat and took the knife out of my pocket. I’d had it for as long as I could remember. I think she had given it to me, the first one, the girl with the black eyes.
I shook my head. No, I couldn’t go back there, not now. Still holding the knife, I went into the bathroom, stopped up the tub and started to fill it with cold water.
As the tub filled I went back into the room, took out some paper, and started to write. I wrote it all down, everything I’d ever done, and every girl I’d done it to. When I was done I went back into the bathroom with the knife and what I’d written and laid it on the rim of the sink so when they found me they would know. Slowly, I stripped off my clothes, letting them fall to the floor. When I was done, I turned off the water, picked up the knife and got into the tub. I knew the water was cold, but I didn’t feel it.
I sat there for a long while just staring at the walls. Then I took the knife and ran it across both my wrists. I closed my eyes and let the world slip away.
Now I would never rot.