Gaslight- Chapter 1


Gaslight- Chapter 1

The night sky was bright with the light of the full moon. I could see the shadow of clouds floating past. The street was freshly wet after an evening rain and I was on my way to work. 


“This is the life.” I thought to myself as I walked down the street. 


I was running from rehearsal still wearing tights and a light black fabric leotard that hung loosely over an even tighter jumper. The only thing I was able to change out of was my shoes. This was my usual outfit when I walked into work on Friday and Saturday nights. It drew quite a crowd of onlookers as I continued to run. Slung over my shoulder was my back sack which held my change of clothes. I was a little late leaving rehearsal because the instructor needed to speak with me. Mark always had a lot to say about our technique and would offer “private lessons” to many of the women in the group. We all knew that it was what he saw as his benefit package for choreographing many off-broadway productions and he’d grown quite the reputation. Many groups like ours that didn’t have a lot of funding for a more expensive and professional choreographer had to deal with his attitude and many of us chose to reject his advances as politely as possible to not ruin the show. 


The theater I had come from was across town from my job. I worked as a bartender at a hole-in-the-wall called “The Velvet Vixen”. The owner had once had aspirations of running an old-fashioned cabaret-style show to draw in a certain kind of crowd but his hopes and dreams were crushed within the first year as he had realized that it was located in the wrong part of town. It became an odd mixture of a biker bar, a sports bar, and a karaoke bar all in one. A little bit on the grungy side, but the stage still existed. Occasionally we’d have people on the stage singing show tunes till they would fall while overly drunk and we’d have to carry them to the backroom to let them sober up. Mainly that was the owner. Unable to sell the bar, he would drown away his sorrows and fall asleep on the couch in the back office until he would feel better about things, come back out, and drink some more. 


I heard the sound of my boots as I ran down the street trying to catch the bus across town. If I missed it I would have to try and make it there on foot. I looked up the street and saw it beginning to park next to the bus stop.


“Wait!” I shouted as I continued to run. “Wait, I’m almost there!”


I kept running and waving my left arm back and forth trying to flag it down but the closer I got, the more I realized that the bus driver’s back had been turned to me and couldn’t see me. I kept waving my arms hoping that one of the other passengers might get his attention and one of them kept staring at me. I was certain she would let the bus driver know that I was coming up the street. It was just then that I knew I had no luck, today. The driver turned to start the bus, looked out the window directly at me, looked in his mirror, and just chose to drive the bus away without a second glance. 


As I finally was able to make it across to the bus stop I watched it continue to drive away. I decided to sit on the plastic bench attached to the plexiglass shelter to catch my breath. I felt my heart pounding. The sound of the bus driving away opened up a wound of abandonment that I was not expecting. 


“Fuck You!” I finally yelled and stuck up my middle finger in the direction of the bus. 


Other cars drove by and looked at me. Once I settled down, the pounding of my heartbeat stopped, and the blood that flooded into my cheeks in my angry outburst went away. I stood up and brushed my legs off. I needed to get to work. 


I started walking down the street. I had a little over 15 blocks to go and the autumn night was starting to cool off. As I walked, I would listen to the car tires on the wet pavement next to me. In my backpack, I had my phone and headphones. If I was going to have to walk that far, I would much rather listen to music while doing it. 


The bright LED screen was in front of me while I chose the song I wanted to listen to. I felt someone bump my shoulder as it was time to cross the street. One saving grace I had was that I chose the most water-resistant boots that I owned. The water-filled potholes were landmines on my way to war. I chose the most upbeat song that I had to keep my mind off of things. Living in the city had its ups and downs. A bunch of street lights were the up when trying to cross the city at night. It wasn’t a bad walk, just a long walk, especially after the practice we had for our show. I always felt a little sore or at least tired and the bus ride over would give me a little bit of time to recover before my shift. 


My guard was always up as I walked through the city because you never knew what would happen. It was always a dangerous wasteland in traveling from one location to another. I never felt scared, just a small sense of anxiety. Something I felt everyone my age felt as they made it through the city outside of a car. Each step always took a little more extra effort and I always double-checked my surroundings making sure nothing seemed out of the ordinary. 


A couple of drops of water started to hit my head. It was beginning to rain again. I pulled up the outside cloth of my costume, I’d thought I would have had time on the bus to throw on my jacket but it had completely left my mind. Now I was late for work and wet. 


A black car pulled up next to the sidewalk and rolled down its window as I was walking.


“Wo— —u li— a r—e?” I heard over the song playing on my headset. 


I looked around and realized that he was trying to get my attention. I pulled out one of the earpieces and looked in his direction. 


“Would you like a ride?” He asked again.


I was only a couple of blocks from the bar and everything about getting in the car with someone I didn’t know threw up every red flag. 


“I’m fine, thank you,” I responded and put my headset back in my ear as I continued down the street. 


I had the feeling of him watching me and I moved as far away from the curb as possible for the rest of my trip. I didn’t want to be the next person on a missing persons report headline. I finally was able to make it to the bar and walked through the front door. At this point, I was soaked and the bar was getting busy. 


Sara, the one who helped serve bar on weekend nights, was struggling to keep up with the customers. She looked up at me with stress on her face. I put up two fingers to let her know that I would be there soon. I moved as quickly as possible into the back of the building where I could change out of my clothes into my normal street clothes. I put on my jeans, shirt and threw on my jacket. The fall air was starting to get to me toward the end of my walk. I stepped outside and took out my headphones and placed them in my pocket. 


I looked over at Sara and a wave of relief came over her. She walked towards me looking to get a drink for a customer. The music was loud and everyone was yelling while trying to have a conversation. The smell of perspiration was in the air and stale beer was in the air. 


“Where were you?” She asked. 


“Missed the bus,” I replied, stepping up to the next customer. “How can I help you?”


The man in front of me looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. He had a look of expectation on his face that seemed to diminish. After a moment he finally responded.


“Can I get a jack and coke?” He asked with a smile on his face. 


“That’ll be $11. Coming right up.” I responded as he handed me his card. “Would you like to open a tab?”


He waved his hand. I slid the card into the reader and handed him the receipt to sign. Along the faux rubber floor, I grabbed what I needed. It was a simple enough drink. I came back and handed him the drink. I took the receipt and placed it in my plastic receipt holder to reconcile at the end of the night. 


The night went along the same lines and ended like it normally did with David screaming his favorite songs to a bar full of bikers. We closed the bar when he did a nose dive off the stage trying to crowdsurf. I helped push everyone out of the bar and helped Sara pick David up from the ground and take him to the back room. 


“Thank you, Lexi.” He said as he lay down on his office couch.


“You’re welcome,” I said as I stood up from the ground. 


This was how everything normally ended. I walked out with Sara to help clean and reconcile our tips. I heard her yipe in surprise when she started going through my receipts. 


“Someone gave you a $100 tip, Lexi!” 




I ran over to her and looked at the receipt. It reminded me of the first customer that I served. I was still highly surprised. The time was getting a little later and I had to try and catch the bus back to my apartment. 


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