Like everything else that’s bad for you, it had been sublime in the beginning. He had goaded her on to new dangers and misbehaviors. With Christopher, she’d discovered the childlike delight of wrecking things. One afternoon, at Christopher’s warehouse, he and Jenny began making calls to the phone booth on the corner of President Street and Bond, to see if any passersby would pick up the phone. They could hear the ringing phone from where they sat on the window ledge. It rang forever, or so it seemed, incessant, like an alarm, roiling. Even though they were the ones making the call, the sound jangled her nerves, an unheeded plea for help. With no one around, ringing insistently on a desolate street, that phone seemed to announce some encroaching disaster.
Jenny had said to Christopher: “Forget it.”
But Christopher had persisted, letting it bleat. When a patrol car drove by, Jenny tried to hang up the receiver, wary in the presence of police. But Christopher held firmly to the phone. A cop got out of the front seat, walked to the phone booth, and answered it.
Jenny pressed her ear against Christopher’s head. He turned the receiver so they could both listen.
“What’s happening?” the cop said in a casual, almost flirtatious, tone that Jenny did not associate with the New York City police.
Jenny listened, horrified, while Christopher, imitating the other man’s conversational manner, said, “Hey there, this is Christopher. Who am I talking to?” He sat up straight, on the windowsill, one leg crossed over the other. His comportment was as assured and graceful as a dancer’s. He didn’t look in Jenny’s direction, so he couldn’t see her desperate gesticulations. She wanted him to hang up.
“Hey, I’ve got a fifteen year old girl here without any clothes on. If you look up at the window of the third floor, the second building across the street – the one with trees on the roof garden – you’ll see her standing here.”
Christopher reached out to Jenny and grabbed at the obi of the silk kimono, until he’d pulled the wide strip of patterned material off and the folds of the kimono fell open. He stroked her shoulder blade as he pulled the fabric, ever so gently, peeling her outer covering away until the husk of the kimono slithered off her skin, landing at her feet. Jenny, being Jenny, hadn’t stopped him. Breathing fast, she’d stood by the window as Christopher said, waiting for the one thing, the only thing, she cared about. To see what happened next.
Officer Moore looked up at Jenny in the window.
Disjointed scenes filled her head. She saw herself at the police station, in custody, in trouble. She saw herself in a courtroom, talking to a gray-haired lawyer in a suit and tie. She saw Christopher stepping into the patrol car and waving to her as the car took him away. They had broken some laws together and she had no sense at all of who was innocent, who guilty.
Christopher gave Jenny an encouraging push, caressing her hips, lightly smacking her ass. She stepped closer to the window to display herself naked to two uniformed police. Three stories below, the street was empty. Dozens of overstuffed black garbage bags gleamed beneath the streetlamp.
I am crazy, Jenny thought. I’m losing it. It wasn’t the worst thing she’d ever done, or the hardest, but it may have been a close runner-up for stupidest. She hadn’t known, yet, that the police were fallible, human. She hadn’t known about the porous mesh that is the Law. For the first few seconds, she felt suspense. Maybe Christopher, right then, would be hauled off and placed under arrest. Swiftly, though, the shock of her nudity began to be absorbed by the ravaged streets of an outer-borough industrial zone, where old brick buildings are acquainted with sheltering illegal activities. The factory across the street had no windows. As far as Jenny could tell, it conducted no legitimate business and had no employees, no inhabitants.
To see if she could get away with it – that was half the fun of tearing her clothes off. Stripping off her clothes, pulling up her dress. These were routine activities for Jenny.
Police, however, that was a first. She’d never flashed her breasts at cops.
“Nice, isn’t she?” Christopher had said into the phone.