I’m thrilled my new story, “Charon Taxi & Limo Corp.,” about a New York City cabbie who transports lost souls, is included in The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, out now from Zombies Need Brains in: a limited Kickstarter edition ($20), trade paperback ($17), eBook/epub/mobi/pdf ($7), and on Kindle ($7).
Working with editors Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier was a true joy and I’m so grateful this story landed in their hands and alongside all the truly excellent work in this collection.
Please check out all the ZNB anthologies, especially Modern Deity’s pub-day siblings, When Worlds Collide and Derelict. The Kickstarter for ZNB’s next three anthologies launches in August, so keep an eye on Twitter and/or Facebook for details.
A little about this story…
There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers—every one of us has our own set of people, places, and memories that create our unique version of New York City. I fucking love this about New York.
Some days*, it is the only thing I love about New York.
“Charon Taxi & Limo Corps” is a tiny piece of my New York heart, a hug goodbye to versions of the city, and me, that only existed for a few years, or an evening, or a heartbeat. At any given moment, New York City (like most cities, I assume**) is changing. These changes happen slyly, over time, like that little crease that pops up now whenever you smile (but don’t worry, you have an amazing fucking smile!). These are often bite-size losses—your favorite pizza place becomes a cell phone store; that club where you danced your ass off becomes a dorm (or a gym!); that bar where you spent so many nights with your friends that they’ve blurred together into one infinite and untouchable evening…fucking condos. (Million dollar condos at that.)***
Other times, New York City changes abruptly—a hard reboot. Before COVID, I’d lived through two of these—9/11 and Sandy. (I could also make a case for the dotcom bust and the 2008 recession and Ghouliani’s disneyfication and Bloomberg’s billionaireapalooza, etc. but those shifts, while massive and destructive, lacked the abruptness of the hard reboot.) The hard reboot, as I see it, is real life time-travel, dimension warps, alternate realties—I got on the train for work in one New York City, and arrived in another. I went to bed in one New York, and woke in another.
With the pandemic though, the reboot happened in an instant and also over 16+ gutting months. During the early days of NYC’s lock-down phase, at home in Queens, I spent hours watching live-streams of Manhattan streets and parks, and even tourist spots, on YouTube, stricken by the pervasive emptiness and silence and feeling so cut-off from my life and my home. I missed being an active part of “my city;” I didn’t realize yet “my city” was already long gone and still disappearing by the minute. For weeks, my mind clung to this stubborn idea that once the curse was lifted, like a fairytale, or The NeverEnding Story, the city would be restored.
But of course, that was never going to be true. Grieving this, adjusting to it, will likely take far longer than most of us expect. Because in addition to all the lost businesses, restaurants, arts venues, resources, jobs, homes, infrastructure, etc.—all significant and terrible losses on their own—we’re also missing so much of the mesh that makes putting up with the more exhausting aspects of sharing space with 8.4 million other people worth it—the other people.
There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers. When we lost 33,484 New Yorkers, we also lost 33,484 New York Cities.**** Even this is an entirely inadequate and inaccurate means of gauging everyone and everything that’s missing from the city right now. I know some people won’t will feel it, and that’s okay. There are lots of ways New York is still New Yorking, and I’m glad the energy is coming back, but I don’t know when New York City will feel whole for me again, or that it ever should. So, even though I wrote “Charon Taxi” long before the pandemic, I can’t think of a better time to share this tiny bit of hometown love, and grief, with you all.
Please get vaccinated.
P.S. I want to send so much love to the many people who kept the city alive, literally and figuratively, while the rest of us were home. “Thank you” is also woefully inadequate here, but it’s a start—so thank you.
The footnotes are the best part, right???
* Like, when one must leap over a squirming pile of maggots left behind by a garbage truck in order to cross the street; or when one must dodge the considerable output of a man pissing into the wind; or when one steps into a subway car that’s been painted with human feces; or when…(I limited myself to a single subway example, but I have hundreds people).
** I don’t want to speak for other cities, not having lived in any…(yet?).
*** But that newsstand, where you sobbed to your friend because the guy you loved didn’t love you back (a refrain), is somehow, impossibly, still a freaking newsstand in 2021, and maybe you think of that night every. single. time. you pass it, but now it’s only with gratitude for the friend who held your bruised heart so gently, rather than with regret for the dude who didn’t want it in the first place.
**** At the time of this post.