I was exiting the train station at Christopher Street-Sheridan Square between Marilyn Monroe and Cat in the Hat when my phone rang. I am not a habitual call screener, but I am also not one of those people who feels the need to answer my cellphone every time it rings, and I was in no mood to chat. I wasn't feeling irascible, but to briefly describe the atmosphere, I was amidst an intense crowd created by the Halloween Parade on Sixth Avenue, in which the scuffle to either enter or exit the train station prompted one stranger to yell at another: "Bitch! I will slap you!"
But since my best friend's name popped up in the caller ID as I filtered through the crowded sidewalk, I flipped open my phone.
"What are you doing?" she asked. I smiled and replied, "Oh nothing, just trying to cross Seventh Avenue dressed like a slutty devil. You?"
She laughed and started talking about driving home (just across the Hudson River in Jersey) and deciding against ordering fried chicken for dinner, then she slyly added, "Besides it probably wouldn't be a good idea for me to eat fried chicken when I'm going to be ... 10 episodes ... Tyler ... of Payne."
"Wait? What?" I stopped dead in my tracks, straining to hear her above the groan of the subway through the sidewalk grates below my feet and the festive commotion on the city streets. A fairy stepped on the back of my red, Patton leather stilettos. I turned around and mouthed the word "sorry" to her and then almost stumbled into the gladiator in front of me. The police had paused the ghoulish pedestrian traffic crossing Seventh, and as I tried to keep my balance on the uneven sidewalk, she laughed and casually said again, "It probably wouldn't be a good idea for me to eat friend chicken when I'm going to be on TV in 10 episodes of Tyler Perry's House of Payne.
[It ended up being 28 episodes and led to a role in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail.]
With no regard for the sexy French maid, Groucho Marx and the pirate smooshed on the curb beside me, I began to jump up and down and scream into the phone. I had so many questions and wanted every detail. From that curb, I was half skipping, half jumping and fully squealing along West 4th Street to Sullivan, my eyes welling joyfully with tears, and barely cognizant of the fact that I was almost jogging in stilettos with no regard for why my body suddenly seemed to be in such a hurry.
For whatever primal reason created by my own primitive, cliché stereotype of what my life would be like in New York, I can't think of any other scenario in which receiving this news might have been more fitting. If that night is ever reenacted in a biographical movie about my best friend, this is how the screenplay should read (proper screenplay formatting has been compromised by the fact that I am not a screenwriter):
EXT. WEST 4TH STREET, NEW YORK CITY - NIGHT
A crowded West Village street on Halloween night. Noisy and frenzied.
People in Halloween costumes of all variety hustle and bustle in every direction and create bottlenecks, where police officers and barricades are trying to maintain organized pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow.
KATIE exits the subway station with her cell phone pressed to her right ear and begins squealing on the curb as she waits to cross Seventh Avenue. She is jumping up and down in her red stilettos and despite a few looks from the painted and masked faces immediately surrounding her, her screams are lost in the chaos of the New York night.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Are you serious?
(continue with incessant, blurted expressions and questions mixed with shrieks and squeals)
As KATIE crosses Seventh Avenue, she receives the exciting details from her best friend of 10 years as she heads along West 4th Street to to join friends at an apartment on the corner of Bleecker and Sullivan.
Tears sparkle on her cheeks as she struggles emotionally to grasp the reality of this news while an alternative realm of myth and fantasy floods around her.
Surrounded by ghouls, goblins and sexy nursemaids, she zigzags in and out of the crisscrossing pedestrian traffic along West 4th Street. The Halloween night seems to blur and the bustling bodies around her become illusory figments as if she were the only person in New York.
[Cue wistful music that tugs at heartstrings]
KATIE continues to talk excitedly into her cell phone.
[Zoom out from West 4th Street to Birdseye panorama of New York City]
[Fade to black]
I am on this cycling tour across North America to fill my life with even more moments like the ones I've shared with Bobbi Baker James. Wyoming, was for her.