"Hey baby, can I come with you?" he propositioned as I passed him on the street. Too tired to properly convey my disgust at the dirty old man, I simply averted my eyes, folded my arms across the cleavage my dress exposed to the midmorning sun, and sped up my hobble towards 8th Avenue. For the next two blocks, people stared. Their gazes lingered, some judging, some amused, some lusting, but all knowing. I focused on making it to the train, pretending not to notice them. I didn't want to acknowledge what we all knew. I was on the "Walk of Shame."
The Walk of Shame isn't hard to spot. It’s more than obvious that you’re going back to your home as everyone else is leaving theirs. With a quick once over perfect strangers can tell exactly what you were doing last night. Your looks say it all. The hot little dress that looked perfect when you left the house is now wrinkled. The hairstyle you carefully crafted 12 hours ago is either crushed, matted, fallen, limp or otherwise wrecked. Your face is no longer painted, and accessories and stockings are crammed in your tiny clutch. The strut and swagger are now gone, replaced by a methodical limp to compensate for the screaming blisters on your feet. The worst part about the Walk of Shame is that it lets everyone know you're NOT the girlfriend. Girlfriends don't make the Walk of Shame. Girlfriends have a change of clothes at his place or can at least swipe a pair of sweats, a t-shirt, and some beat up sneakers before heading home. But you're not the girlfriend, just the chick he took home last night. Even if you're more than that, that's all anyone sees. The details don't matter when you look like the lukewarm leftovers from last night.
I dragged my body to the 138th Street station and headed down into the heated pit. Waiting on that platform, I felt every single one of the “I know what you did last night” looks people threw my way. I felt dirty, not because of what I had done the night before, but because sweat clung to my inner thighs. Having no choice but to wear the same panties I’d danced in all night (going commando in a dress while riding NYC public transportation is NEVER an option) when I dressed that morning, I was feeling less than fresh. Gargling warm water and using my finger as a toothbrush hadn't been enough to conquer the morning breath still marinating in my mouth. Personal hygiene always gets shafted the morning after and it was way past time for a shower. I hugged my purse close and willed the train to hurry up and arrive. The only good thing about the walk of shame is its end, which can never come soon enough. What I didn’t know was that mine was far from ending.
The Downtown A was nearly empty when it pulled into the station. I hopped aboard and fell onto a hard plastic seat in the air conditioned car. I tried to sleep as the train traveled from Harlem through midtown Manhattan, the Village, Chinatown, and Brooklyn on its way to Far Rockaway. Periodically, I'd awake to new passengers, or rather witnesses. When the train emerged from the tunnels and rumbled along the tracks above the streets of Queens I knew it would all be over soon and I could reclaim my privacy and maybe a scrap of my dignity. I checked the time on my cell phone and estimated that it would take less than a half hour to reach my stop. Approaching the Broad Channel Station, the train came to a halt. Assuming, it was a momentary delay, I sat back and waited for the familiar lurch to signal we were once again on the move. One minute passed, then two. After about 5 minutes, I knew something was wrong. I checked the time. More than 90 minutes had passed since I left his apartment. Why did this have to take so damn long? Ten minutes later the conductor came over the loud speaker and explained that the suspension bridge across Broad Channel was stuck and no trains could cross. All passengers had to get off at the Broad Channel Station and take the bus to Far Rockaway.
A bus? A freakin bus? I don’t do buses. At least not in a little black dress and high heels with dirty draws sticking to me. I immediately panicked. I had no clue what bus I needed to take or where to find it. Stepping off the train, the situation went from bad to worse. The early afternoon temperature hovered around 90 degrees and it was soon apparent that my deodorant had stopped working somewhere between Manhattan and Queens. Desperate to get home, I approached the station attendant’s booth and asked what train would take me to Beach 25th and Seagirt Blvd. He mumbled something unintelligible and it was obvious he would be no help. Completely lost, I followed the throng of stranded travelers flooding the street. Eventually we all came to a bus stop. Several lines made stops there and I hoped that the bus I needed was one of them. When the first bus approached, I pushed my way to the front of the line and asked the driver if he was heading my way. He told me that my bus would be arriving at the bus stop around the corner, but not before ogling my chest for a few seconds. Exposed and dejected I headed around the corner, wondering when my misery would end. I was tired, hungry, sweaty, and my feet hurt. Worst of all, I was positive I was about to set a record for the longest Walk of Shame ever.
I limped towards the other commuters who were waiting at the bus stop and leaned against a brick wall along the sidewalk. Standing there, I could take no more. The strappy sandals I wore were no longer sexy, just extremely painful. The balls of my feet were on fire, my swollen pinky toe strained against the leather strap holding it in place, and my ankles were shaking from teetering on four inch spikes for so long. I checked the sidewalk for broken glass and other debris. Finding none, I slipped off the stilettos that had gone from being "killer heels" to plain killers. Relief was more important than cleanliness. I could scrub when I got home. Where was the damn bus?
“Do you want to wear these?”
I turned around. Her face was friendly as she stretched out her hand to offer me the new flip flops she had purchased that day. I tried to refuse, but she insisted. Grateful, I slipped on the cheap footwear. They were about too sizes too small and my heels hung off the back, but I didn’t care. I was finally comfortable. I don’t know why she came to my rescue. Maybe she had a habit for doing good deeds. Maybe she was grossed out seeing bare feet on a city street. Or maybe on a different day not too long ago she had been me. Whatever her reason, the kindness was more than welcome. Who says New Yorkers aren't nice?
After what felt like an eternity the bus finally came. I found a seat near the window and prayed to God the person who sat next to me didn’t notice any offensive odors coming from my direction. When I finally got in the house, I headed straight to the bathroom. I was naked under the shower’s spray in seconds. And as everything that transpired over the last few hours spiraled down the drain, I vowed that no matter what, the next time (oh, there’s always a next time) I was most definitely taking a cab home.