She knows what to do in front of an iPhone camera. In the waning sunlight of Tompkins Square Park, Chloe shakes her head slightly, her raven-black hair bouncing against her delicate shoulders. She looks as though she might burst and become a cloud, or better yet, rain. That would be edgy. Dark. The content she’d been creating lately was too glossy. She appeared too ripe, too one-dimensional. A wind blew through the trees and her nipples went hard. Jesus Christ it was getting cold so quickly these days. Seemed like just yesterday she was slurping oysters on the boardwalk, skin glistening. She sighed. The sun was beginning to crest the tenement buildings on Avenue C; soon it would be dark and the park would transform into an entirely different beast. She was bored. Who would have thought one could go bored in a city that never sleeps? Maybe she should buy some new shoes. Ones made for dancing. They would go well with her mini skirt, which made her hips bulge in all the right places, which made her look fast, unstoppable. She craved adderall and a strong drink. That would ease her looming malaise. At least Dante, the bartender she had a pulsating crush on, was attractive enough. She liked his tattoos and the way his biceps hardened as he shook the cocktail tins. Man, was Chloe tired. And she still had to do two more posts before 7pm. Perhaps she should do a personality post, a nice shot of her journal perched in the liquid gold sunlight of the bar window, her pen gleaming next to a freshly written haiku. This post would make her appear to her fans creative and wistful. They would connect with it. She already had the haiku written in her notes app, ready to be revealed to the world, who waited so desperately for Chloe's next move. Ugh. It was exhausting being in the spotlight.
As she approached Wimberly’s, there were two barstools open, the light raking the windowsill just so. But when she set foot inside it fell quickly. It was now merely a faint glow in the distance, an afterthought. Was this a sign from God? Was she not meant to do a personality post? She glanced out the window as a deranged woman that looked like she'd been struck by lightning, or baked at 450 degrees, pushed a shopping cart full of cans past her. When the woman's emerald-green eyes met Chloe's amber-flecked brown ones, Chloe looked down. The woman started screaming and cursing at no one in particular, though she was still staring in her direction, almost through her. After a few minutes the woman got distracted and rattled on down the street, her cracked heel popping out from her shoe every third step. Chloe, heart racing, sipped her hot toddy and wrote in her journal that she was grateful. Grateful for her apartment on Perry Street, for her weighted credit card, for her smooth, immortal skin. Most of all, she was thankful she would never have to live the life of a peasant, destined to become another stain on the sidewalk.
She thought of her hometown in Missouri, of her mom and brother. What were they doing right now, at this exact moment? She imagined her mom pacing back and forth in the pale kitchen light, the line of her body askew because of the metal rod in her left shin. Her brother was probably playing video games, yelling into his headset to strangers with names like "titaniumdeliveryboy_57" or "doomcobra". She wondered when the last time she visited her father was. She had brought him a deck of baseball cards and a glass of fernet and placed each item artfully next to his tombstone. Daddy's little girl. If only he could see her now. The thought of it made her slightly excited, slightly damp between her thighs. She thought about the evening ahead. The boxes of clothing from designers she had to sort through and curate posts for. The copy she had to write, the HIIT class she had to do in the morning, the emails she had to respond to with genuine excitement. So many exclamation points. When would it ever end?
Jenna Putnam is a writer and visual artist based in Southern California. Her work has been published in Hobart Journal, Expat Press, The Sun, The New York Times, and others.