The morning was just like any other: after leaving the house too late to catch the bus to The Bus, I waved down a taxi to bring me to 5th Avenue and 58th Street. Traffic was New York City on a Sunday, but I eventually made it to my destination and found ~the woman holding a blue umbrella~ and proceeded, unwillingly, to my pre-purchased VIP (aisle :/) seat. Next to me was a woman in a red coat. I thought she was like me, alone (and scared), but she wound up being mother to the two Australians seated behind me who "aww"d and arthouse-theatre-laughed along to the various Sex and the City clips shown to us on tiny televisions and at maximum volume throughout the day's tour. Across the aisle sat a man in a hooded sweatshirt. I would eventually speak to both Red Coat Woman and Hooded Sweatshirt Man (even going so far as to asking the latter to pose for a dick pic), but for now, I sat, motionless and emotionless, until the woman holding the blue umbrella climbed aboard, and the door closed behind her.
She introduced herself as Elyse our tour guide, and the man behind the wheel as Conrad our bus driver. Elyse had a Carrie vibe about her, while she described Conrad as being "30% Charlotte, and the rest Samantha." I was terrified.
After getting through the initial introductions and pleasantries, the tour officially began. I felt my stomach fall through my feet as the bus shifted into drive and my hopes of a normal life were left behind me. The familiar scenes were blasted into our eyes and ears as the bus drove past relevant filming locations. Carrie being stood up in her wedding dress at the New York Public Library (the movies were also included in the tour); Miranda telling Carrie that she's pregnant at the corner of 23rd and I'm in Hell; Elizabeth Taylor getting gangbanged at a dog park. The other passengers shifted in their seats to get a good look or a good picture. I just shifted in my seat. Like how people shift in their seats when they are uncomfortable, or readying themselves to tuck and roll out of a large, moving vehicle.
Eventually, Stockholm Syndrome set in. I raised my hand when Elyse asked the bus who lives in New York; I even took a picture (of two men who were very mad at Conrad for accidentally turning onto a small street and then backing back out of it (they're the ones with hands in pockets, staring angrily at the bus)). Nightmarish visions crept through my brain each time Elyse mentioned all of the drinking we'd eventually do (were the others going to hold me down and pour cosmos down my throat?), but mostly a numbing calm swept over my person as I gave into the experience. And then we pulled up to The Pleasure Chest and Conrad turned off the bus.
(click for larger/nsfw)
As she reboarded, I heard a fellow captive say, "I think I lost my body." I knew exactly how she felt. While much of my walk through The Pleasure Chest is a blur of Rabbits and lubes and just, like, a set of balls(??), I vividly remember a mousy man in an ill-fitting, light gray suit trying to return something at the front counter. If I hadn't run, screaming, from the store at the sight of mannequin heads in various leather masks lining one of the walls, I would've eavesdropped further to hear what it was this man was returning. Instead, I refueled with a slice and a Snapple from the pizza place next door. Do Snapple caps have facts on them anymore? I forgot to check. I miss the Snapple Lady. I hope she's doing well.
More driving, more clips, more dread.
Our next stop was Bleeker Street. Here, we were set loose to shop at places like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and other successful white male fashion designer stores. I contemplated using this freedom to obtain actual freedom. To escape. To duck out of the crowd, slink into another crowd, and onto a train. But Elyse promised cupcakes upon our return. And although I found a little bit of myself in this caged dog and this caged baby as I walked by windows of mildly expensive shops, I couldn't shake the cupcake anticipation. And sure, the original Magnolia Bakery that was featured on an episode of Sex and the City (the one where Carrie tells Miranda about her crush on Aidan) sat just a measly block away from where Conrad parked my mobile jail cell, but the Elyse cupcakes were free of charge. That didn't stop me from purchasing a brownie and a hot chocolate from Magnolia, however!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm so bad ;)
QUICK REVIEW OF MAGNOLIA BAKERY: The brownie wasn't very good and the hot chocolate jumped out of my lap and onto the floor of the bus in an effort to escape before I'd had a chance to try it. ✮✩✩✩✩
me not knowing my angles in front of Carrie Bradshaw's brownstone / COSMOS, LADIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, the free cupcake was as delicious as it was easy to shove into my mouth so that I could free my hands to slop up my spilled hot chocolate with a roll of toilet paper. The rest of the tour was much of the same: pointing out of filming locations; playing of Sex and the City clips. We stopped at Steve and Aidan's bar and the brand new bartender's ratio of lots of grenadine + a splash of 7 Up made my Shirley Temple taste :/. I sat alone, looking through the pictures I'd taken, still embarrassed from the hot chocolate spill. The knowledge that I might never see my family again washed over me. These people were my family now. Elyse was my mom, Conrad my dad. Hooded Sweatshirt Man might very well become my husband, even though he would much rather have had a husband of his own.
We were herded back onto the bus, filed back into our respective seats. I took my place next to the same Red Coat Woman. I glanced out of the same windows. There was one final stop: the HBO flagship store. Our tour was coming to an end. I steeled myself as we approached Bryant Park. I was ready. Conrad pulled the bus to the curb and opened the door. No one moved. We all silently glanced around at the outside, at one another, as Elyse drew our attention to the tip envelopes included in our brochures. I was the first to stand, and the first to flee. Without looking back, I flew across 6th Avenue and into Times Square. I narrowly avoided being mauled by a Tigger as I continued to sprint toward the nearest train. I didn't stop until I was in the Port Authority ACE station. I don't know if anyone had followed me. Maybe they did. Maybe Elyse is outside of my apartment building right now, waiting to throw me onto a bus and yell more behind-the-scenes anecdotes about her time as a background extra on the first movie at me.
I look forward to a time when hearing the Sex and the City theme song doesn't send my body into violent, panicked fits. For now, though, I'm safe. And with a broken elevator, I don't plan on leaving my apartment anytime soon (I refuse to live in an eight-story walkup!). But I do worry about the others. Are they still on the bus? Maybe they're halfway to Los Angeles now, gearing up for a tour of those episodes. I hope Elyse brought extra cupcakes with her.