, March 2021

It was less than a ten minute walk from her house on First Avenue to the Massapequa Park train station, yet Candy, to avoid the ridicule she received from neighbors whenever she stepped out of the house, normally called a cab.

But going to the city was expensive and she was tired of wasting what little money she had on their insecurities, as if she were a sign of the coming apocalypse that would destroy their malls and beach clubs. So today, at her bedroom mirror doing her hair and makeup, she decided she was going to walk.

She put on the red dress, the skimpy one that showed more leg and shoulder than even a “regular” girl would be comfortable showing. She chose her brightest shade of red lipstick and went heavy on the eye shadow. With the Aqua Net she teased her curls as high as they would go. She wore her highest black heels.

“You’re not calling a taxi?” her mother asked, “especially dressed like, like… that?”

“No, mother,” Candy said. “I’d tell the neighbors to go to hell, but they’re already there.”

Purse in hand, she clacked out the door. On the front walk, she encountered the next-door neighbor mowing his lawn, the man who usually said, Put on some trousers, sissy! He cut the engine of his Lawn Boy and opened his mouth, but remained silent when she looked him in the eye instead of down at the concrete.

Up the block, she encountered a trio of teenage boys approaching on the sidewalk who bore a resemblance to the ones who’d tried to lynch her in high school. They pointed and laughed when they noticed her. Normally, she would have crossed the street to avoid them, but today she steamed forward. They quieted at her approach, then dove out of her way when she didn’t break stride.

She stopped and watched them inspect the grass stains on their slacks.

“Looks like I got a strike,” she said, then pouted them a kiss and continued on.

The train was crowded, but there were a few empty seats next to people traveling alone. As she walked down the car, people started shifting over to the aisle seat to block her from sitting. Several ladies put their purses on the empty seat. It was difficult keeping balance in the heels when the train started moving, and she nearly fell a couple of times.

Finally, an elderly woman wearing Coke bottle glasses looked up at her and said, “You can sit here, miss.”

Candy accepted the invitation.

The people seated behind them got up and moved to the next car. Others followed. Soon the car was empty, save she and the elderly woman.

As the train slowed at the Freeport station, she saw her friend Lou waiting out on the platform. She got up and hurried to the open door, sticking her head out, calling his name, waving. ▪