Gabrielle Korn

APPLE PICKING

Because the city had started to wrap its urine-coated concrete fingers around our necks; because 
Bushwick crept into her apartment on the backs of bedbugs through her walls; because the heat still
wasn’t on at my place and we awoke daily to blue-lipped panic, we fled.

She clutched my hand through Grand Central as if at any moment she might get sucked into the 
bowels of Midtown. 

On the Metro North to Beacon, we held our breath until we passed the Bronx, exhaling when
it finally looked like October. At every house that peaked through the trees I said, “What if we lived
there?” 

It’s colder upstate but apple picking is hard work and we had counted on sweating through our
flannel.

At the station: the cab drivers, gatekeepers of the orchards, evaluated our origins. 

“Fifty bucks,” they declared.  

We had barely thirty crumpled bills between us. And what about the ride back? 

Instead we followed the curve of Main Street up a hill into town. “At least it’s quiet,” she said.  
“At least it’s not Brooklyn.” 

We sipped coffee and looked in shop windows. Her nose felt like an ice cube as she pressed it
into my neck, saying, “What if we lived here?” 

But further into Beacon the ground leveled out. The mountains on either side of us were golden
and green but the sidewalk in front of us was turning a familiar gray, lined with Chinese take out and
gas stations. 

And then the quiet was abruptly filled with adolescent voices.

“Look at these babes,” they said to us. 

I started reaching for my pepper spray while she was yelling back, and oh how quickly we
turned from “babes” to “bitches.” 

“I’m going to steal your girlfriend,” they said to her. 

I was pulling her away by her cold, clenched fist while she was still shouting, but there was no
one around to hear her in the mountain stillness.

She had a pocketknife and twenty-eight years of indignation. I knew she thought it was enough
to save us.

Had I remembered to tell anyone where we were going? I didn’t want to die in that mountain
town. I wanted to run down Main Street to the station, back to the safety of over-population, where
Manhattan’s urine-coated concrete fingers could protect us. And bedbugs would just mean she’d have
to stay at my place, where we’d drown out the honking from Houston Street in an airtight cocoon of
faux-down blankets.

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Gabrielle Korn is a writer based in New York City. Her writing has been published in The Huffington Post, RH Reality Check, BlogHer, On The Issues Magazine, Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more.