Once upon a time there lived a beautiful young woman, who flew east through the clouds following a series of vehicular crimes in order to develop a fashion line and a perfume line as well as many other exciting projects. Sadly, far away from the Pacific sun, her spirit hardened into something strange; a cold, bitter, angry thing, unrecognizable to the friends who had known only her light. A restless wraith, she glided through spas and shopping malls, over sidewalks and streets, eager to show herself but desperate not to be seen. People would catch flashes of her in mirrors, in pools of water, in out-of-the-way luxury hotels.

Maybe, one night, you too will see her. A breeze will blow in off the Hudson, sending a shiver through the warm summer air, and suddenly she'll be there, lit only by the moon's pale light. Maybe she'll watch you watch her. Maybe she'll say something to you: a warning, a plea, a question. Maybe she'll haunt your dreams.

What follows is a true telling of my interaction with Amanda Bynes, which took place late last Saturday night.

The part of New York City where my friends live always looks like it's just had the ribbon cut off it. It's quiet and it's safe and it's regularly power-washed. Walking around the sidewalks late at night feels like being locked after-hours in a particularly boring section of Disney World: Anonymous Business Park Kingdom.

As I walked alone late Saturday night, a famous hobgoblin from television and Twitter suddenly appeared there beside me.

It was about 1:30 in the morning when I left my friends' apartment. The party was moving to da club. I was headed home. I'd just sent one of the revelers a text, reminding him to make sure everyone checked out the supermoon before pouring themselves into cabs. That's when I realized there was someone walking behind me.

Phone in hand, I glanced back and saw a tall, thin figure with long blonde hair cascading down from underneath a baseball cap. "Gams for days," I would later text a coworker. (Along with "One of the creepiest moments of my life.")

Fuck, I thought, this crackhead's gonna mug me.

I stopped walking so that the mugger, who I believed might be a man in drag due to his great height, wouldn't be able to ambush me from behind. As the figure passed in front of me, I realized that the long blonde mane looked gnarled, like extensions or a wig. Wouldn't it be nuts if that were Amanda Bynes? I thought.

"Can you [mumble mumble]?" asked Amanda Bynes*, whipping around to face me.

Fuck, I thought, Amanda Bynes is gonna mug me.

"Sorry?" I asked. We were completely alone on a wide strip of sidewalk, bounded by roadways on either side. There were no cars driving by.

She took a step toward me.

"Can you not take my photo?" she repeated.

I looked down at the phone in my hand.

"I wasn't."

She seemed lucid. Her voice was clear, her tone: a little miffed but polite. If she hadn't been wandering around an abandoned sidewalk, wearing sunglasses even though it was almost 2 a.m., and interrupting strangers to tell them not to take her photo, I wouldn't have thought there was anything amiss with Miss A. Bynes.

After I revealed I was not taking photos of her, I wasn't sure how we'd proceed. I thought she might argue with me or make a lunge for the phone, as she has reportedly done in the past. I noticed she was cradling a tiny dog and wondered if she would put it down or just flail at me one handed. I wondered if I should use this opportunity to take a photo of her. I wondered how long it would be before another human being appeared in the vicinity.

Fortunately for me and the dog, Amanda Bynes was not in a fighting mood. She mumbled something to herself, then abruptly turned from me, wandered through a small patch of dirt, and crossed the street. I watched her teeter up the stairs to her hotel and disappear through its glass doors.

Rooted to the spot, I immediately phoned my friend Alex, whose apartment I had just left. "I feel like I just saw a witch," I told him.

"Did you take a photo?" he asked.

I should have.

*Note: Because I didn't ask for her ID, there's always the chance I was approached by a tall, paranoid, bewigged young woman with the voice of Amanda Bynes who was not Amanda Bynes. I'm confident it was.

[Art by Jim Cooke]

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