Jake Undone

By: Penelope Ward

“Where are we going?” I asked.

He lifted his arms and smiled. “Manhattan, baby!”

“That’s it? How long is the ride?”

“Not long, but I didn’t calculate it.” Jake walked a few steps down into the station as I stood on the sidewalk above. He turned around and stared up at me.

My pulse quickened, and I closed my eyes unsure of what to do next. My mind flashed images of being stuck like a sardine in that tin can. When I opened my eyes, he was still standing in the same spot. His large green eyes lit up from the darkness of the stairwell.

He was so beautiful. I just couldn’t move, though.

He stood there patiently on the steps waiting for me to come down. I was frozen. Finally, he lifted his hand toward me and silently urged me with his steady gaze to walk down and take it.

“Nina, come on. I’ve got you,” he finally said.

At that moment, something clicked, and I moved toward him. His warm hand enveloped mine, and our fingers intertwined. His thumb ring pressed against my skin as he held my hand tightly and led me down the stairwell, which smelled of urine.

If I weren’t so terrified of acting like a complete lunatic on the train, this moment would have been epic. It was a mixed bag of emotions with fear and lust shining above all. My body was trembling in confusion.

I felt a sudden coldness as Jake let go of my hand to pay for our subway cards.

He thanked the subway worker and surprised me when he grabbed my hand again. The butterflies in my stomach were now doing somersaults as he led me through the turnstiles.

We sat down on a bench as we waited for the train to arrive. Disappointingly, he let go of my hand.

Then, he patted my back. “You’re doing okay so far.”

“Yeah,” I managed to say as I continued to breathe heavily. I kept nodding for no reason and wished the train would just hurry up and get there.

The B train finally approached and grinded to a screeching halt. He took my hand again and led me onto the crowded train car, which was bustling with evening commuters.

There were no seats, which didn’t matter to me. I preferred to stand, since that made for an easier exit if I ever had to leap out at the next stop.

When the train doors closed, the panic really began to set in. I felt completely trapped and began to shake uncontrollably.

Jake put both of his hands on my trembling arms causing my conflicting emotions to assault one another. Lust was winning by a thread. “It’s okay to feel nervous, Nina. You’re not supposed to be comfortable. Stop trying to fight it and just let those feelings be there.”

When he let go of me, my body craved the return of his touch. I just wanted him to hold me until this disastrous feeling passed or until we got out of that train car. Trying to calm myself, I focused on a baby who was sitting on her mother. If she could do this, I could. She smiled at me, and I smiled back.

He was looking at me, but my shame kept me from making eye contact. I was still shivering while holding onto a pole. It was difficult to accept the uncomfortable feelings instead of fighting them. The train swayed, and I couldn’t tell if it was the normal movement of the vessel or my skewed perception due to nerves.

I jumped when Jake grabbed my chin forcing my eyes on his. “How are you doing?”

“Fine. I just want this to be over.”

“Our stop is next.” He smiled.

Immediate relief washed over me upon hearing that, and the last few minutes of the ride were somewhat bearable because there was now a light at the end of the tunnel.

When the train stopped at the 8th Avenue station, I followed Jake out of the car. My breathing immediately slowed, and I felt on top of the world. I was free.

Turning to me on the platform, he smiled and said, “You’re still with us. Was that so bad?”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “It was about what I expected, but I am glad it’s over. Can we take a cab home now?”

He stared at me silently for several seconds before leading me through the turnstiles and up the stairs to the streets of Manhattan. The noise and smells of the city were a stark contrast to the dark subway station. I hoped, at least, he was taking me somewhere fun.

“Jake? Where are we going?”

He stopped short in front of a Chinese restaurant. The scent of roasting chickens and MSG was nauseating. He turned around to me as swarms of people rushing home from work brushed past us. “Nina…”

Then, I had a light bulb moment, looking at the large backpack he said contained supplies and my heart sank.

“The subway. That wasn’t the exercise…it was just a means to get here. You’re taking me somewhere now, aren’t you?”

Jake nodded. “You need to trust me, okay?”

Panic started to build all over again. The sounds of car horns from the street seemed to get louder as my nerves became sensitized.

I licked my lips nervously as we walked side by side through the sidewalks of New York.

I turned my head to him as we continued walking at a fast pace. “Where are you taking me, Jake? Tell me!”

“If I tell you, you are gonna overreact. Just wait until we get there, and remember what I said. I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you.”

“What if I can’t do it?”

“You always have a choice. But if you choose to back away from this, our deal is off. In the end, you know you’d only be letting yourself down.”

As we walked in silence for about three more blocks, he stopped in front of a high-rise apartment building. “Here we are.”

I hesitated before following him into the front door. A friendly-looking heavyset man greeted us and smacked hands with Jake.

“Jake, my man, how goes it?” He smiled.

“Good, good, Vinny. This is my friend, Nina.”

Vinny stuck out his hand. “Nina, it’s a pleasure.”

“Same here,” I said.

Jake turned to Vinny. “We still good to go?”

“Yeah, man. No problem at all. Take as long as you need.”

“Thanks, Vin. I’ll owe you one.” Jake turned to me. “Come on.”

“Who is he?”

“An old friend. He manages the building.”

Jake led me through the foyer and down a hallway. I knew where this was heading, and it was not good. We stopped in front of an elevator, and he pushed the up button.

This was my absolute worst nightmare. I pleaded with him. “Jake, listen, I don’t know if Ryan ever said anything, but this whole thing…all of my problems…they started in an elevator. It was where my first panic attack happened. I was in high school and got stuck in one and—”

“All the more reason to get past that. If you get in one right now, you can help undo the damage created by your own mind.”

I grabbed his arm and begged. “Please…I’ll do anything else but this.” My eyes were beginning to well up.

When the door opened, he stuck his hand inside to keep it from closing. When he looked back at me, he noticed I was starting to cry.

“Fuck. Nina, don’t cry. Come on, I promise you that nothing will happen to you in there.”

I shook my head and covered my face to mask my tears. I was disappointed in myself for reacting this way, but this was too big of a leap to take so soon. Just the sight of that death box made me want to run far away. I couldn’t imagine having to set foot in it.

He threw his backpack into the elevator and continued to stand in the opening, holding the door open one with of his hands and reaching the other out for me to take.

I considered running. I considered pretending to pass out. I considered screaming for help. In the end though, I looked into Jake’s eyes, deciding to trust him and took his hand, letting him pull me into the elevator. He tried to release me, but I grabbed onto his hand tighter.

“Leave the door open,” I demanded.

“Okay. We can take this slow.”

Jake kept his hand on the open door button. “You tell me when you are ready to take a ride.”

“I won’t ever be ready. Don’t you understand? I won’t ever be ready for that door to close.”

“Then you need to let me decide when, okay? You trust me, Nina?”

I looked at his pleading eyes and squeezed his hand tighter.

Why did he care? Why did he want to do this for me?

“I probably shouldn’t trust you, Jake, but the truth is, I do. I am just scared.”

I knew I had to do this. If I couldn’t do this today, with this crazy guy who was willing to help me through it, I would never be able to do it myself. It was only getting worse over time. Even if it killed me, I knew I had to let him close that door.

“Nina, I’m going to let the doors close now, okay?”

I nodded silently and watched as he took his finger off of the button. When the doors closed completely, I began to shake uncontrollably. Memories of the last time I was in an elevator flashed through my mind.

He pushed a button, and as the elevator began to rise up, I instinctively leaned into him, holding on for dear life. I could feel his chest tighten as my nails dug into him, and I closed my eyes, breathing in his scent to calm my nerves. I was terrified and didn’t care how foolish I looked. I needed him to hold onto me, because it felt like I was going pass out.

“You’re doing good,” he whispered into my ear, which was right under his mouth. “Look. We’re on fifty now.”

I shook my head, which was buried in his armpit. “Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know how high we are.”

Top Books