I had already lived in the Bronx once before, so that Madeline’s building did not surprise me. A childhood friend of mine had lived in a similar building, only it had many more stories and a playground where the tire swing was where all the cool kids wanted to be.

This building was only ten stories and had two elevators, which, surprisingly always worked as long as you watched your step and remained wary of any puddles. Taking the stairs was only for the brave and desperately horny.

The stairwell smelled like shit, mostly because it was peppered with shit. Some people were assholes about walking their pets. They had no problem letting their dogs relieve themselves on the floor, leaving it for someone else to clean up.

Still, during the time I lived there I often took the stairs because it was the fastest way to the bodega, covering my nose and mouth with my shirt. I interrupted a couple at least once in those stairs, and seeing condoms not much further from a brown mushy spot was common.

Over time I realized that this building was actually public housing. A crew came in daily to clean the hallways and elevators, which somehow made some people think it was okay to leave their garbage everywhere. The building was full of the old, poor and disabled, and while I was able to meet a few people, I realized that my chances of meeting a kindred soul were slim.

For a brief moment, I made friends with a personal trainer who lived a floor above me. That friendship was quickly soured after, while we were working out together for the very first time, he showed me two pictures of his cock from different angles. My decision to keep the hell away was only sealed after I went to pay him, and he met me outside in the hallway. While we talked about lifting weights he told the voice on the other side of the door that he was talking to “a friend”, when “a customer” or even, “a girl from downstairs” would’ve worked just fine.

Yeah, no, I already know how that story goes, but one thing that I wasn’t nearly as prepared for was driving in New York. Not counting my arrival and driving around with three confused Dominicans for two hours in the rain the night before, the only time I had driven into the city was on the day I had my interview for The Big Fancy in White Plains. Eunice accompanied me on that trip, and acted as my personal assistant as a thank you for the invite.

For my interview, the drive from Hartford to White Plains had been picturesque. It was clear day, sunny, there was no traffic and my hair looked great.

Seriously, it looked amazeballs 

And while we took a much earlier exit by mistake, I had more than allotted for time. We took a slight detour through Cheshire and stopped at this amazing cheese place for some cheeses, artichoke dip and dried figs. We made it to White Plains just fine, and I got the job pretty much on the spot.The drive from White Plains to Manhattan however, was a little more like this:

We were almost side swiped driving into the city by a black SUV. Eunice had to keep calm for the both of us because I was ready to lose my shit, and I had to flip other drivers off more than once.

Once we got into the city, however, we could not have asked for a more perfect day. We walked all over Manhattan, ate at Carnegie Deli where my stepfather works (Eunice had to explain to me that it was world famous. I figured everything in Manhattan pretty much is), we visited the New York Public Library, and hung out in the lobby of Random house like two delusional creepy stalkers. It was awesome.

Even then, when we were back on the road I could not wait to get back home. The drive back was dark and nerve-wrecking. I remember shouting with glee when I finally saw signs on the highway that said Hartford, and while my phone was drained from using the GPS all day, once we were about 30 miles from home I was finally able to relax and lean back. I knew the way.

I kept these things in mind for my first day of work. I gave myself a full hour to drive and made sure to charge my phone. I believed that driving from the Bronx to White Plains would be a little easier than driving into Manhattan. Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

That first night I barely slept wondering if my car was safe outside. I knew I had parked on the Tuesday side of the street, but I kept doubting myself and asked Tati to check on it when she came home from work early that morning.

I had already been warned that owning a car in the city was a pain in the ass. Even if you survived driving on the highway, paying car insurance, and not getting your car stolen or vandalized, there was still the issue of opposite side parking, or what I like to call, How To Get A Ticket In Your Sleep.

This isn’t over
I woke up and dressed at an ungodly hour. Before I left home, I used a big chunk of my savings and tax return to build a wardrobe fit to sell designer clothing. Mostly black and fitted with textured tights, and since I have a thing for thongs and corsets, even my underwear looked great.

I’m not stupid

I left the building, got in my car, and set the GPS. I was on East 181st street. The GPS sent me through 3rd Avenue, and then to East Fordham Road, which were two of the most heavily congested roads in the area. That stretch was barely a mile long, yet it took me over twenty minutes to drive through. There was construction, heavy foot traffic, and people honking at red lights for no reason.  Even after I passed all that and reached the Pelham Parkway I had problems. The GPS had a habit of never sending me the same way twice, so for the first week I was lost every single time I drove to and from work.

It took me days to realize what was happening. Once I did I picked the Bronx River Parkway as my favorite and stuck to it, ignoring the GPS until it finally accepted that this was the way I wanted to go. It still took me several more weeks to realize that instead of turning on 3rd Avenue, I could take an immediate right on Quarry Road and take Hughes Avenue to the Pelham Parkway, cutting those awful twenty minutes off my commute. 
The Bronx River Parkway is a scenic, winding road that leads directly into White Plains. It’s not without it’s problems. The roads are narrow and it’s prone to flooding from heavy rain, but the Bronx River Parkway (or Bronx River Drive as I know it) was definitely one of my favorite parts of the experience. 
That first time I drove much slower than everyone else. I had already seen an accident right off an exit, and my nerves were shot from being surrounded by so many aggressive drivers who didn’t give a shit that it was my first day. I had no idea if I was going the right way. When I reached a red light, I gawked at the scenery. 
When I reached the mall I parked my car and took a deep breath. Even though nothing had happened, I learned my lesson very quickly: until I leveled up, driving in New York should only be done stone sober with at least 8 hours of sleep or not at all. If I wanted to keep my car in one piece I had to get with the program, so I locked my car with new resolve and headed inside to The Big Fancy, ready to see what they had in store.