It is easy to forget that a karmic balance exists within this often harsh world. It is directly because of the prevalence of human cruelty that people tend to forget that a universal vengeance can creep up on them. Monica and Gabrielle were two roommates who frequently let the notion of consequence evade them. They assumed that their behavior was untouchable—outside the bounds of any form of punishment. Perhaps this is why they started to, as a result of their own personal dissatisfactions with life, treat people with overt malevolence and vitriol. Their rudeness was cliché and subtle at first—making fun of a fat person here, imitating an autistic person there—but soon, things started to progress to a more heightened level…
Monica worked as a fashion designer for a company that barely registered on the radar. To put it in laymen’s terms, no one at Fashion Week would have ever heard of it. Still, she made a decent living by New York City standards and was fairly immune from ever being fired from her position, regardless of how overt her contempt was for the job. Gabrielle’s occupation was not nearly so faux glamorous. She worked at a Jewish-owned jewelry company where she wrote product descriptions, usually about rings. Her ire for the job mounted from the very moment she began working there, as there is really only so much a person can say about a ring: you wear it on your finger, it’s sparkly, etc. In any event, they both had the notion to start toying with their co-workers and superiors due to this extreme combination of malaise and scorn wrought by their respective jobs.
Soon, they would spend their nights brainstorming all the ways in which they could make everyone at their work as miserable as they were. Monica, the more devious of the two, came up with the idea of tricking Gabrielle’s boss, Reina, into believing that her husband was having an affair. In order to convince Reina of this, Monica instructed Gabrielle to manufacture an encounter with the husband in question, Don. On Thursdays, Don would always meet Reina outside of her building at a specific time. Gabrielle left several minutes early that night so that she could cloak Don’s shirt in the scent of her perfume and “accidentally” graze up against his neck to leave behind a lipstick mark. She quickly made an excuse for needing to be on her way, leaving Don to his inevitable demise—for you see, women always fall for the old perfume/lipstick gimmick—even though very few women can afford to wear either of these nowadays.
The next day, Reina questioned Gabrielle about Don’s excuse that she was the reason why there was lipstick on his neck and perfume all over his body. Gabrielle casually denied Don’s explanation so as not to seem too overzealous about it, prompting Reina to very nearly fly off the handle. In the coming weeks, Reina came into work looking increasingly hungover and disheveled. The seed of doubt had been planted too firmly in her mind for it to ever be uprooted. As her work performance grew worse and worse, the organization ultimately fired her. Gabrielle felt no satisfaction in the outcome, but Monica was overcome with an elation she hadn’t felt since her last coke binge, which was, granted, only a few days ago.
In the latent conscience of Gabrielle lied a tinge of self-loathing and regret for what she had done. But that conscience would not be awakened until things became much, much more exacerbated. Only briefly sated by Reina’s torment, Monica sat in front of the television a few nights later braiding her hair into a fish tail, slowly thinking of who else she could add to her and Gabrielle’s emotional hit list. Gabrielle flipped through the channels vacantly, stopping arbitrarily on Marriage, Italian Style. Monica’s eyes suddenly alighted.
“I know what we can do next,” she beamed.
Gabrielle looked over at her warily. “What?”
Monica motioned to the TV screen. “Haven’t you seen this movie before?”
“Well, we can base our next scheme off of it. You trick one of the wealthy Jews at your work into thinking you’ve had one of his children and we’ll be in the money for the rest of our lives. We can finally quit our jobs.” Her voice raised an octave at the thought of this prospect. Gabrielle turned the TV off.
“Why does it always have to be me? Huh? Why is that?”
Monica sighed. “We need the man to be Jewish. They’re the only ones in New York with money.”
Gabrielle guffawed. “They’re also the only ones in New York with money who refuse to spend it on anything—blackmail or otherwise.”
Monica shook her head. “Untrue. Plus, I know you have a way with Jews.”
Gabrielle glared at her. “What makes you say that?”
Monica shrugged. “Well, those are the only type of men you ever attract in bars.”
Gabrielle got up from the sofa. “I’m not doing this. It would mean actually sleeping with someone. It’s way too involved.”
Monica smiled. “It’ll be our biggest scam yet. That’s why it’ll be our last…”
Unsettled by the gleam in Monica’s eye, Gabrielle decided to brush off her assertion by going to the refrigerator and pouring herself a glass of wine.
Weeks passed before Gabrielle was reminded once again of Monica’s incongruous scheme. It wasn’t until Monica came to meet her for lunch one afternoon that Gabrielle was forced to take note of her aims toward seduction—apparently if Gabrielle refused to carry out the job, Monica would. Gabrielle’s new boss, a classic nebbish named Nevin, had situated himself near her desk to wait for her to print out the latest batch of copy that needed proofing. Monica seized this opportunity by leaning over Gabrielle’s desk just enough to let the top of her nipple slip out.
She looked up innocently at Nevin. “Goodness!”
She languidly rearranged her dress, allowing for maximum effect. It was that sort of innate seduction that kicks in when you’re using Marilyn Monroe as the gauge for eroticism. Nevin stared at her unwittingly until Gabrielle shook him out of his reverie.
“Here,” she thrust the paper in his face.
Nevin barely seemed to remember who Gabrielle was upon leaving his trance.
“Yes. Right. Thank you,” he said robotically.
He continued to stand there until Gabrielle grabbed Monica by the arm and led her to the exit.
Once they were out in the open, Gabrielle wasted no time in laying into Monica.
“What in the fuck are you doing?” Gabrielle demanded.
Monica smirked. “What you wouldn’t.”
Gabrielle couldn’t seem to bring herself to look Monica fully in the eye. “Is this the real reason you wanted to meet for lunch today?”
Monica responded by lighting a cigarette. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “He’s married. Happily.”
Monica laughed. “What a quaint thought, Gabby.”
Gabrielle looked as though she might explode. “I hate that nickname.”
Monica exhaled a plume of smoke. “Sorry, it slipped.”
With that, Monica headed toward the restaurant without waiting for Gabrielle to follow, because she knew, already, that Gabrielle always followed.
Later that evening, as Gabrielle was tying up a few loose ends before leaving her cubic prison, Nevin snuck up behind her as she turned around. She let out a reflexive gasp and immediately closed her mouth.
“Mr. Silverman, you startled me.”
Nevin cleared his throat. “My apologies. And, by all means, call me Nevin.”
Gabrielle shook her head, “I couldn’t possibly. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Nevin appeared uncomfortable at the mention of the word “appropriate.” He pursed his lips. “Really Gabrielle, I insist.”
Her face fell. “Oh. Okay.”
He leaned in toward her. “I was wondering if I might talk to you about your friend.”
Feigning obliviousness, Gabrielle replied, “What friend?”
Nevin looked at her pointedly. “You know. The woman that came here earlier.”
Gabrielle nodded apprehensively. “Right. Monica.”
Nevin’s eyes brightened. Gabrielle venomously reiterated, “Her name is Monica.”
Nevin smiled. Seeing that Gabrielle was looking at him strangely, he continued, “She seems like a bright personality. And we’re actually hiring for a new receptionist at the front desk.”
Gabrielle swallowed audibly. “I see.”
Nevin waited expectantly for some other sort of offering on the part of Gabrielle.
She looked at him dryly and said, “I think her current position would make her a bit overqualified for such a job.”
Nevin adjusted his necktie. “Would you mind passing her along the message regardless? I’m more than willing to make a fair offer—salarywise.”
Gabrielle nodded her assent with all the enthusiasm of a diabetic eating a sugar-free donut.
Back at their apartment, Gabrielle warily entered the living room to see that Monica was nowhere to be found. She turned on the light and went to the refrigerator to pour herself a glass of wine. She knew she had to do something to stop what her life had become. But how? How could she get out of the existence she had let Monica carve out for her? She mulled over this impossible puzzle as she chugged a completely full glass of wine. Just as she was about to sit on the couch and resign herself to a night of total and enveloping depression, Monica burst through the door with a silver-haired gentlemen who appeared only slightly less drunk than she. Gabrielle used all of her eye muscle strength to refrain from letting them roll as Monica bouncily sat down next to her.
“So… Did Nevin say anything about me?”
Gabrielle glowered as she took another sip. “Yes.”
The older gentleman’s facial expression revealed a tinge of jealousy. Monica was unmindful of his overt anguish, believing firmly in her usual tactic that it’s important to make a man feel that you’re highly in demand. By now used to being ignored, the older gentleman saw his way into the bathroom.
Monica turned to ensure that he was out of earshot and said, “Ugh, I had to actually let my lips touch his tonight. The things one must do for a decent meal.”
Gabrielle rose from the couch. “I don’t want to live here with you anymore.”
If Monica was upset by this news, she did not reveal it.
“Gabby, why must you be so theatrical?”
Gabrielle knew somehow that you couldn’t tell a crazy person your needs as they would always simply dismiss them. Frustrated and helpless, Gabrielle could think of nothing else to do except leave the house.
The second Gabrielle got outside, Monica was already following her. “Gabby! Wait!”
Gabrielle whipped around with a fiery glaze in her eyes. “I told you. I hate that name.”
Monica folded her arms. “I’m starting to think it’s yourself you hate, not your name.”
Gabrielle scoffed. “Don’t peddle me your dime store psychology anymore. That may be how you convinced me of the need for your friendship in the beginning, but I’m done with it now.”
Gabrielle stalked away in a direction she was not entirely familiar with. Monica instantly followed her, utterly unaware that the old man had started to tail her in his oh so discreet way. Monica, still too inebriated to notice anything but the object of her desire, focused solely on catching up with Gabrielle.
After a few blocks of staggering after her, Monica started to realize she was wearing four-inch heels—and it was beginning to hurt in a vertical wrist-cutting sort of way. She slowed down to take her shoes off and called out once again, “Gabby!”
Gabrielle didn’t even flinch at the continued use of her so-called name. Stumbling to catch up once again, Monica discovered she was paralyzed by the clutches of the silver-haired gentleman. He gripped her so tightly that her fair skin was instantly bruised. She screamed in agony, unable to think of any intelligible words. Nonetheless, Gabrielle heard her cry and could not turn her back on a friend in peril—even if the friend in question was a deviant. She trotted back with unmasked hesitancy, not anticipating that there would be more than just the silver-haired gentleman to contend with. But, by the time she returned to Monica, it was too late for her to renege on the noble act of saving her. Unfortunately, two other, much younger, burlier men were also suddenly there to pin Monica down. Gabrielle froze as the silver-haired gentleman simpered at her.
“Care to join us? Or shall I force you to?”
Gabrielle made no effort to resist as he led her into an alley of questionable nature (but then, what alley isn’t of questionable nature?).
Monica and Gabrielle sat on the especially dirty ground with equally stoic expressions. It was almost as if they knew their entire life was leading up to this comeuppance, and so, they were utterly resigned to it.
Monica, however, felt compelled to ask the silver-haired gentleman, “What are you doing this for?”
He practically cackled as he responded, “Because I’ve hated you from the moment I met you. You’re an absolutely wretched human being.”
Monica couldn’t help but sneer at this. “Oh please, all human beings are wretched.”
As he tied and bound both of their hands together, he said, “Not quite like you.”
The silver-haired man had been plotting his revenge against Monica for weeks, one of the few among her suitors actually cognizant of the fact that she was making a mockery of him, merely using him for what he could give her.
The two burly henchmen leered at Gabrielle. One of them touched her a bit too lasciviously as he said, “Empty out your pockets.”
Gabrielle cursed her assertive trouser-wearing fashion sense while removing her wallet from said pants. The silver-haired gentleman riffled through Gabrielle’s personal effects, removed all the cash and credit cards and flung it back in her face.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with twenty fucking dollars and what I presume is a negative debit card balance?”
Before Gabrielle could defend her pathetic financial situation, the five of them were startled by the sound of something explosive in the distance.
The sound merely grew louder as the silver-haired gentlemen and his henchmen escorted Monica and Gabrielle out of the alley and back onto the main street. The second they made their way back onto the road, they could see it: the World Trade Center was exploding. It was at that moment that Gabrielle had the revelation that she and Monica were being spared by mass destruction. It was also at that precise moment she awakened from her dream, knowing full well that the explosion of the Twin Towers took place in the morning, not at night. In that instant, she loathed details. After all, the most glaring detail of her life was that she remained in Monica’s web of manipulation and contrivances—and no mugging, real or imagined, was going to save her from that.