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Pull the hair back from your face and tuck it into a wig net. Choose the wine-red wig; torrents of burgundy ringlets fall to your shoulder blades. Become Alexis. 

Wear a short skirt, but not too short. Faded denim, above the knee, hugging your butt—no underwear. Alexis is wise, free in ways most women don’t dream of. August in New York City: petal-pink tank top, nipples flat and wide from heat, breasts’ curved undersides damp with sweat. Long legs, delicate ankles, feet in pink pumps with three-inch heels that arch the lower spine, pitch the pelvis forward. The angle of the shoe exaggerates the curve of the calf, makes the foot look arched, delicate. The mirror shows: a tapered waist, dainty shoulders tilted back, c-cup breasts thrust out, long, wild, wine-red tresses cascading. 

Toss your head; watch the curls shimmer and bounce. Feel Alexis settle around your shoulders like the silver capes runners wear after a marathon. Walk out the door. 

Listen to high heels on the sidewalk, tap-tap, tap-tap on 72nd Street and Broadway. Odor of garbage, trash can overload—don’t look down at the pavement: gum wrappers, cigarette butts, crushed soda cans, smear of dog shit half-scooped, day-glow yellow condom (used). 

First stop, Chase Bank: long lines, refrigerator cold. Sudden freeze stiffens your nipples, raises awareness of hidden heat below the skirt. Contract those lower lips beneath their denim veil. Contract, release, contract, release, walking through the crowded bank with a secret. Who are those people on the Priority Services line anyway? Contract, release, contract, release while the ATM belches out twenties. Never talk to a teller anymore. Punch “yes” for a receipt—not that it’s proof of anything. 

Tap-tap, tap-tap, back on the sidewalk heels play the rhythm of a pop song stuck in your head. Baby, baby, I need you, need you. As if you were 15 instead of 25. Under the skirt, tiny movements continue. Squeeze and hold . . . hold. hold. Sashay down the street. Ignore the self that fears, the face before the wig. Alexis never feels raw or ridiculous, but revels in taking risks. Smoldering eyes sweep the sidewalk; look for attractive men. Amazing how few are on the loose. Loads in magazines, on TV. In real life, women try harder. It’s no secret—makeup, manicure, workout—like having a second job. 

At the health food store a man holds the door open. His dark hair is tousled, and he needs a shave, but his lips are full and pink. Smile, and Alexis shimmers around you. Beneath the denim skirt, summer air kisses your crotch. Squeeze and hold . . . hold, tightening the inner walls, feeling the inner itch. Invite the health food man with a toss of the head, a sparkle in the eye, but he looks away, scared. 

Never mind. For now, keep the secret. He’s not the one. Behind the counter, the Pakistani cashier doesn’t recognize you, but hands over Ginseng with a better smile than usual. His dark eyes run over your face, down your neck to where the bra bares cleavage, pushes breasts up. 

Smile, tilt your head; lick your lips. 

His dark eyes shy away, focus on the cash register. Again, not the one.

Down the block, in Ricky’s, there’s a salesman: tall, thin, dyed white hair, the lobe and rim of one ear pierced with silver loops. Silver ring on one thumb. Yesterday, he gave advice about hair products, knowledgeable as a woman, but not gay. No, not gay. 

Yesterday, there was a vibe, but you weren’t Alexis then. One cigarette, a quick Marlboro before entering Ricky’s, the West Village originated trendy drugstore/novelty shop. As Alexis, smoke without guilt. Grind out the butt with a shell-pink pump. Feel the freedom beneath the skirt; saunter into Ricky’s. 

At the door, there’s a fan. Its whirling blades send sudden up-rushes of air to surprise the calves, flutter the thighs, and mold the skirt to your body. Faded denim forms an upside-down v; the apex is sex. 

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