I didn’t intend to write a sequel to “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” I really just wanted to write a story that pivoted around this ridiculous delay I faced on the train the other day. But Aidan and Swann showed up for me again, so, here you go.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 12 minutes
It’s the middle of rush hour, and I need to be at school in less than an hour for the chemistry Regents, which I will probably fail. I drag myself to the far end of the platform so I’m in the right car when I get to the stop near school.
Aidan said he’s not going to take it. He said this last night— his parents weren’t home, and I was testing the limits of my curfew the same way I tested my alarms this morning, which is to say pretty fucking stupidly in both cases— “I’d probably just bomb it,” he chuckled, reaching for another handful of Skittles from the bowl on the coffeetable in front of their ginormous sofa. “Fuck it. It’s not like you really need it, either.”
“It’s just good to have options,” I’d replied, lamely, as he tossed the Skittles in his mouth and held back one of the green ones, my favorite, and slipped it between my lips. “I should be studying,” I added, even more lamely, after I chewed it and swallowed it, soft even just from that moment or two in his hand.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 11 minutes
He’s probably right. It’s just that I can’t lie— How was the chem Regents, sweetie? And I’d have to say, I skipped it, and they’d make concerned faces and noises and there would be yet another discussion about whether going so far away was right for me.
I get out my phone and pull up Twitter. @NYCTSubway: Due to a train going out of service unexpectedly, R trains are running with delays of 10-15 minutes in Brooklyn. Yeah, no kidding.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 10 minutes
Eleven minutes. He leaned in and kissed me, and his tongue was rough and sour and sweet from the Skittles— “Still think you should be studying?” he murmured.
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“Yes,” I said, sharply but not really, pulling away but blushing. I remember feeling hot even though the a/c was cranked up super high in their apartment, so much that I’d already scammed him out of the plaid flannel shirt he’d been wearing over his (“ironic”) Taylor Swift t-shirt.
He reached into his bookbag and pulled out the Barron’s Let’s Review book for chemistry. “Go for it,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to order some sushi and put on At Eternity’s Gate, but, you know, you do you, Swann. I’ll be right here.”
“Oh, is it on Netflix?”
“It’s on Amazon. My mom bought it.”
R Forest Hills-71 Av 8 minutes
I text Rachie: girl I’m gonna be so late for the chem Regents
Some toddler just walks right into me and of course neither the kid nor the mom in her fucking rainbow clogs apologizes. It’s hot on the platform, late-June sticky, and my gauzy black top is starting to cling to my skin via the thin layer of sweat running down the middle of my back.
Rachie texts back: I’m not even out of bed, I’m ditching it
Am I the only one taking this stupid test
yeah girl, are you surprised? and weren’t you at Aidan’s last night till super late?
I had indeed been at Aidan’s super late. “Fine,” I said, “let me just do, like, one set of stoichiometry problems and then you can put it on.”
R Forest Hills-71 Av 7 minutes
“Sweet,” he said. “It’s kind of long, though. Don’t you have to be home by 12?”
I looked at my phone. “I should make it.”
I look at my phone. Rachie is waiting for a response.
damn girl, so much for not getting attached before you have to go to ga
R Forest Hills-71 Av 6 minutes
“Cool,” he said. He stood up and swept his long hair out of his face, going to retrieve his laptop from where it was sitting on the table near the huge window with its view of the Hudson, and I watched it swing for just a moment before I dragged my chem notebook from my own bookbag and reluctantly flipped it to an empty page.
“You’re actually going to do it,” he said, shaking his head. “Have you drawn anything today?”
“No,” I admitted. “I’ve been stressed about this stupid test.”
A man in a bougie suit plants himself right in front of me. I look up from Rachie’s text and sigh heavily. Like it’s so much more important that he gets on the train one millisecond before me. God.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 5 minutes
“I mean, I can’t tell you how to spend your time. It’s just that— anyone can learn how to do chemistry, pretty much. Not everyone can draw like you.”
I sighed. “Aidan, can we not? I need to have, like, a plan B and a plan C and a plan D in case this art thing doesn’t work out.”
I can smell the man’s cologne, heavy in an expensive way. Sweat gathers along his hairline where it meets the starched collar of his pale blue shirt. It’s still five minutes until the train comes and I can feel a rim of dampness starting to form along the top of my hips, where the waist of my blouse gathers right before my cutoffs begin. The toddler that banged into me is back, his mother clutching his hand as he writhes and whines, something about not wanting to go to see Jessie. I slip in my earphones and start the new Bastille album.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 4 minutes
He shrugged and opened his laptop. “What do you want from the sushi place?”
My phone buzzes.
conspicuously not answering that one, I see (Rachie again)
The N train rumbles down the express track, behind the wall. What am I waiting for, again?
R Forest Hills-71 Av 3 minutes
I text Aidan. u up
I am now, i guess 😉
I look down the platform, everyone going somewhere as a new day begins. But the day started three hours ago when the sun rose. It started eight hours ago when the moon hung high and no one heard the change because no one has a clock that makes a sound anymore, that marks the time clearly and decisively, cutting the day into hours and minutes with their early bells and late bells and uniform admissions deadlines.
whats up, besides us
R Forest Hills-71 Av 2 minutes
nothing really, just waiting for the train
you’re really going to take that test, huh
I sighed. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I guess I just can’t believe that it’s all happening.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s, like, a real thing.”
“I wish— it just doesn’t feel like enough. I’m going to get there, to SCAD, and I’m not going to be ready.” I toyed with the cuff of his shirt, hanging past my own wrist.
“You’re going to get ready by spending time on your art, you know, and just, like, being in the world.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Doesn’t make it less true.” His eyes weren’t on me— he was adding two seaweed salads to the sushi order— and I looked down at my chem notebook, the review book splayed open on the table. Van Gogh (as portrayed by Willem Defoe) gazed up at me, reflected from the television screen on the glass. My sketchbook was still stuffed in the back of my bookbag.
R Forest Hills-71 Av 1 minute
It’s almost eight-thirty. I finally text back:
plan b, son
R Forest Hills-71 Av 0 minutes
The cloud of the man’s cologne parts as I turn around. The toddler lets out a scream, and the mother sighs heavily.
The train pulls up, but I hear it rather than see it. I head back up the stairs, stuffing my phone in the back pocket of my cutoffs, and, before I can change my mind, run down to Industry City, where I can see the water and the city skyline and the sun shimmering through the watery clouds. I sprawl out on a bench, pull out my sketchbook, ignore the buzzing of my phone, let the minutes advance in their unseen and unheard way as I draw and forget all the chemistry I ever learned.