For Faith - a graphic novella

spinda

This is for class, for faith.

Thiis story goes by many names.

The first of which was:

OH, HELVETICA!

G TRAIN

EVERLASTING

That was pretty good, but the

next one was:

How lovely. But thien I had

thought of:

99 CENT

MEMO PAD

AND A WILL

TO LIVE


But really, this is

just a letter.

And it's a letter

for you.

For me, though -

this will be for faith.

It can be for anyone

you’d like, for you.

But for me, it will be

for faith.

Ahem -

For faith.


Delays always upset me. Not

because I’m being held up, but

because they are almost always

the best excuse. When anyone

asks where you were, why

you’re late, the MTA, despite

its universality, can always be

villainized, as if you were the

only one using it, as if it were

your car on the tracks that put

the breaks on, that had a fire,

that had “a sick passenger” -

something like that.

But because of that, after the first

few times you use that excuse, it

starts to fall flat. In a crystal clear

boy-who-cried-wolf fashion, the G

train was on time and you woke up late,

even if the first two ran express

right past you that morning.

It would have to be a true event, some

sort of massive 45 minute blockade

that held you up next time for anyone

to believe, and even then - even if they

had four other coworkers on that

same train, they’d think you got on the

one just after the dust had settled,

and squeezed yourself in for the

guilt trip.


Morning trains are always packed, but almost less threatening, in a way.

Everyone feels as though they’re in the same situation. If you’re in a train

that’s leaving at 8:51 in the morning, you can live with the security that

everyone else on that train is going to be exactly as late as you are. The

moment you step off, the stairs will move at a fixed but still impressive pace.

No one will slip even if it’s raining, the dogmatic nature of their American

work ethic will get them there fast, even if it’s nowhere in particular.

I had a friend that told me that you’re supposed to look at -

well, not that you’re supposed to look at, but that everyone looks at each

other’s shoes on the subway. I wore a decent pair today, white sneaker

bottomed leather oxfords, one of my favorite pairs, but it’s not about that

right now. He told me it’s a method of looking at each other’s class, and

finding out more about a person without looking at them. Maybe that’s why

people buy $500 sneakers, was my first thought.

Really, though - that’s

why people might wear

cheap payless or rag-tag

sneakers, even if they can

afford something better.

They’re wearing them so they

specifically go unnoticed,

unassuming that you wouldn’t

even spend time looking at

their shoes, let alone the

rest of them - and you’d move

on to the next pair.


Maybe people wear those shoes as a cloaking device.

adorning those 20 dollar black champion running

sneakers isn’t telling us that you’re going on a run after

work. No average person works out, anyway.

You want to slip by, face turned and headphones in. You

want to be one of many, under the blanket of rush hour,

another moving body going to work.

The second I get a seat, I start drawing those people. The ones

that are trying to not fit in, but skip out. I figure that might be an

invasion of their space, and I don’t mean to do it to bother them.

If they were to leave the car scott-free, though, they might

think that their ploy is working. That they can walk around like

a ghost and get away with anything. If those businessmen didn’t

see me drawing their profile before looking down too quickly

and pretending to check their email (when, mind you, wev’re so far

underground that there’s no service), they would probably feel

so invisible that they’d wind up picking their nose in a meeting. I’ve

probably saved a few jobs already.

Maybe a couple dates, too. That’s a nice thought - I’ve always been a

romantic.


Coming home, it’s a different story. Anyone

can be a victim to my wandering eyes. For a lot

of people - I guess I mean specifically women,

but it’s really anyone - that might be a really

horrific thought. What am I doing, with my

eyes? Why are they wandering in that manner,

what shapes are they following, what trends?

What I am doing, though, when I look

at these folk, is finding the lightest

and darkest parts of their faces, the

highlights and the shadows. I make

a big deal out of the word shading,

what a horrible piece of vocabulary,

as if you’re the one throwing shadows

on the people you’ve drawn

flat as a chip.

Value. What a phenomenal piece of

terminology, one of my favorites,

outright. The edges and angles of

the visage, or a coat, or a shoe -

willing them into existence on the

page, finding their weight through the

rebounding light that pours over them

from the overhead lamps. Every line is

another stroke of a chisel, perhaps

this is the same way that the old

masters felt when making the memory

of a man in marble.

Needless to say, I am not unclothing folk in

my head, unless that be the explicit topic of

the day. "Think of everyone in their underwear"

is such a horrible piece of advice and I might

wish death upon whoever thought that up. You

would have no idea what people are into. I

myself would feel terrified to be undressed

like that, or completely out of place being

clothed. What if there is someone pretty on

the train? I don’t want to think about it.


I love noses. It’s our most

valuable part. Not to say

that, if you were to kidnap

a fella and chop his face

flat you would make the

same profit on the black

market as an ivory poacher

performing a similar act.

Noses have value. They have

the deepest shadows, the

brightest whites. They have

a space in the real world.

Most would say that they

could know someone by

looking at them, like the

color of someone’s eyes

lies on one of those

pantone sheets, 7.6 billion

options but only one that

matches.

If you were the

machete wielding

madman taking off

people’s noses

in the subway, you

could leave one

at someone’s

doorstep and they

would know exactly

who they would have

to avenge - even if

that person behind

the door was blind.

They would pick the

nose up, feel the

long ridge, the deep

pockets, and rush to

the hospital before

making their plans

to dress up in black

and kick your ass as

revenge for turning

their brother into a

hack job voldemort.

Maybe I’m going too

far with this. I have no

intent of cutting off

people’s noses, or buying

a machete, or becoming

a hack job voldemort.

It only crosses my mind

because so often I start

with the nose, and then

we’re at hoyt or jay

street and everyone has

somewhere to be and I’m

left with a whole lot of

lonely noses for myself

to smell the flowers

with. Really, it’s only

april, but I suppose I’m

ready, more or less.


It’s raining today.

I always wear the wrong shoes for the rain. You

know me, I’m not a fan of boots. I had always

told you that the platforms of boots always

wigged me out - they lied about a person’s height,

they didn’t feed naturally into the rest of the

boot, they were always big and hefty and made

of rubber. Maybe it’s emasculating. Maybe I’m being

a dumb boy.

I had stolen a salad from a bar that was for

strictly entertainment today. Of course, I took a

paper plate instead of the company provided ceramic

ones, so the folks there thought I was behind the

scenes the whole time and was just getting a bit

hungry in the moment. That being said, HR is getting on

my ass for not clocking out for lunch break. I never

do because I thought they wouldn’t pay me. No one

notices when the intern is gone, anyhow.


I decided to just go for a walk rather

than taking an honest to god lunch

break. I walked right up to york street,

as if I was going to hop on the train and

leave, right then and there. Of course,

I needed to clock back in, so I decided

against my obtuse journey down to park

slope. You should really, really know

though, how glad I was that I walked all

the way out. As soon as I turned around

- I saw a halal truck.

An honest to god halal truck. In DUMBO!

I can’t tell you how many times I looked

up where I could get falafel and rice,

how many times I’ve said “okay google,

halal food near me” out loud, in public,

to my phone. This was it. Deliciously

seasoned food, carbs and veggies and

protein - right there in an aluminum

container. For under 7 dollars. I could

not contain my excitement then, and I

could hardly express it now - I walked

down to that truck like I was late to my

own inauguration.

What got me about this truck, though,

was the guy running it. He clearly had

made a few friends vending dishes

to the people, fist bumping a few

construction workers who walked

by, no commercial intent in sight. This

was someone who had a job, friends,

personality. He was in charge of my

meal. He made it, packaged it and put

it on the metal platform extending

from the window.

But he hadn’t told me it was mine - he

plopped it right on the platform

as I walked up and got out a 10. I

handed it to him, he handed me the

change, and looked the other way.

Now, in this moment, one might think,

oh, everybody else gets the sweet

talk, but not me? Did I look at him

funny? Really, rather than worrying

about what I might have done wrong, I

wound up liking the guy a bit more. He’s

not lying. This is a genuine human being,

that feels and reacts, that exists in an

environment through his preferred

method, that made my lunch. I’ll make

sure to come back, maybe I’ll earn a

fist bump by the end of it.


cisgendered, heterosexual white

man from an upper middle class

family. I am immensely lucky to be

the individual I am, there’s no two

ways about it - my tuition is paid

and my stomach is full and there is

nothing more in this universe I see

myself demanding, unless I’ve really,

truly, honest-to-goodness

earned it.

I guess I don’t know why I believe

I’ve earned safe passage after I’ve

swiped at the turnstile.

You know who I am -

Yes, I have paid 2.75, and I do have

expectations for the G to show

up, at a point - any point, really -

but today, I suppose my point was

missed. It was only court square

G trains that weren’t running - not

a single one on the schedule for

the next 30 minutes (when I would

have my class). I know another way

to school, but it’s so absurdly out

of the way that it would be better

to bite the bullet and make the 40

minute uphill walk and settle for my

own lateness.


Regardless, I would be taking the F to Jay street and transferring

to the A or C, which would take me to the other clinton

washington stop - the one that was 10 minutes away rather than 3.

Realistically, it wasn’t too bad at all, but it was a sore kick after I

had actually woken up that morning to get to class on time (which

was a first, I won’t lie).

I exit the F, and begin my search for a blue train to take me the rest

of the way. One almost immediately arrived, to my convenience, so I

boarded without a second thought. This would be the first decision

contributing to my undoing.

Understanding my error, I send an email to my professor, informing

them of my woes. There was a reason for my desire to be early, of

course - I had a presentation that day. Attaching the files necessary

for my slideshow and sending the email off, I figured that I would

be back right quick, no scuffs or slip-ups, standing in front of the

small class of about 7 to use every ounce of charm I had in my

body to weasel out of further questioning.

I got on a train back to Brooklyn in order to at least show up

to the class that my peers explicitly expected me to provide for.

I leaned all the way back in my seat, this train far less crowded

than the last. I realized that, logically, the packed train in the

early morning meant that the first A train I boarded was inevitably

headed to Manhattan to drop off folks at their 9 to 5. Maybe I

projected myself onto them - those working folk that completed

presentation for pay, not the other way around. Maybe I wanted to

make 5-6 figures a year rather than costing it - or rather, felt it a

bit more passionately that particular morning.

Most rational folk understand that if you don’t switch tracks in

a larger station, that is, a station with multiple platforms, you’ll

probably wind up going in the same direction.

I saw an opportunity, I took it. Fast acting is only effective when

thinking is involved. When it’s not, you’ll wind up in Manhattan when

your class in Brooklyn has just begun.

However, lost in these thoughts, I looked up to see the stop just

before my own being skipped by the conductor. This was a welcome

sight - express trains are always nice. Unless, of course, they were

to skip your stop. And the one just after it.


I got off the train, upset, disoriented, a bit sweaty - the works.

Lugging myself around the station, I searched for any blue train

headed towards manhattan, shrugging off the obvious irony, dead

set on righting the wrongs that I had put upon myself but blamed

the MTA for without a single moral question in mind.

Lo and behold, manhattan bound A’s and C’s were just downstairs - a

filthy platform, but a platform nonetheless.

In that moment, I folded.

Upon the arrival of

the train (which took

a reasonable four

minutes), I stuck my

head inside the next

to empty train car and

triumphantly checked

for my stop that

was almost comically

absent from its

displayed destinations.


I walked upstairs. I

exited the station. The

sky was blue and the

air was brisk and the

world was real again. I

gathered what I needed

from my surroundings.

miraculously, I knew

where I was.

I saw poverty and those who

thrived despite it. This side of the

neighborhood was not brought up,

it was not for show, but it was so,

brutally, beautifully real. My whole

body jolted when I saw Classon avenue

- I knew I was one beeline away from

bursting into a class well under way to

beg for forgiveness like a priest on a

dusty altar. But I knew that, at least the

bones beneath my skin, the brain inside

my skull, the feet that moved me so -

they would all remain.

I walked. I looked up. I took

off my headphones. I knew it

would be an admittedly less

reasonable 20 minutes until I

arrived at my class. But I knew

I would arrive. Along the way,

I saw a group of old friends

meet for the first time in a

long time. I was given the most

genuine “excuse me sir” and

“thank you” I had received in at

least five years.

So what would I ever

need to complain about?


My music is getting old.

I had the sorry experience of flipping

through tracks on the way back home,

with a bit of a hole in my heart

(mostly because I miss you).

Out of the hundred and twenty songs

that had found their way into my “liked

from radio” playlist, none of them

seemed to fit. So I had listened to

another playlist that I had assembled

and sent to you a few months ago.

Though eventually I came to a slow

stop on one tune I couldn’t help but

thinking that the those melodies that

had captivated me for so long had

finally died. Farmers rotate crops in

order to keep the soil fertile, and

lumberjacks sew new saplings after

every tree cut - if they know what’s

good for them. I couldn’t seem to

implement the same process here. The

members of this creative community had

been strained for their resources, my

modern ability to consume this music has

finally destroyed it.

Modernity is the bloodiest sword with

two edges - at least, that’s what they

taught me in my course on Genocide.


in another course, I wrote an essay

recently on a designer named Paul Rand.

Mr. Rand is a big deal, and I suspect that

you know him, or at least know of his

work, or at least have heard the name

before, or at least would lie to me

now that I’ve said all that I’ve had with a

“You know, he sounds familiar, but...”

I appreciate the sentiment in advance.

Which would, for many, get them fired.

But the IBM logo still looks the same.

And if I said, “IBM Ad”, and you thought

of an eye, bee and M, then you too have

been affected by Mr. Rand.

The modernist that was Rand would

allow me to disassociate the artistic

movement of modernism and modernity

itself. Modern modern modern.

Paul Rand was really good at what he

did. He was so good, that he hardly

needed to do anything at all to do

what he wanted to do. He saw design

as a problem - not as quantum theory

or a deeper philosophy, but more like

a mathematics worksheet that you felt

like you received a bit late into your

high school career, one that when

you were handed it, you would say

“really, professor - aren’t we a bit old

for take home worksheets? Frankly,

I think this one is missing the comic

sans and some stock microsoft word

illustrations.” I say that in particular,

because Rand’s solutions were made of

construction paper and put together

with paste, and to anyone else, it would

end there, but he had the AUDACITY to

walk into a meeting room, slam his arts

and crafts project on the table and

say “this is the answer, there is no

other answer, the fifty cents worth

of colored stationary that has just

graced your vision will propel this

company into the future.”

But I suppose there’s more research

to do there. By simplifying a design,

making it purely visually efficient

and elegant, we will likely sweep

a vast majority of what that that

design represents under the rug.

Maybe these purist logos carved

with perfection in mind hide the

corruption and lack of fundamental

ethics under the hood.

Maybe every pretty logo is lying to

us. Maybe I should never make anything

ever again and just tell the truth

from a high balcony in manhattan.

Maybe I should do the same from

coney island. If I’m going to become a

complete psychopath-schizophrenic,

then I think I ought to do it facing

the ocean. That seems more ethical.


I do draw faces quite a bit.


We’re naturally drawn to

them, without question.

Of course we are. We see

ourselves in everything. In

electrical sockets. In the

shape of fruit. In plants and

animals. We see ourselves

in rocks, which is somehow

more commonly accepted

than seeing yourself in an

animal. Or at least, I would

think so.

I do think so, for a reason.

There’s an obscured sense

of familiarity to creatures

or things that already

have such a clear and unique

face. If something remains

in obscurity, we can assign

our own definition to it.

This definition tends to be

one that is so ingrained in

ourselves that we wind up

looking at some kind of

mirror with every object

that we stare at for

too long.

I’ve come upon a bit of an

issue. I only really ever

draw other people. Every

time I get the chance to sit

down, I hunt for someone

who has made the mistake

of looking at their phone

for too long, or passing

out, or really, being too

shy to look back. I say

hunt, and mistake, the whole

victimization thing again.

Really, I just need a muse.

You might have been that,

but you’re not here. That’s

alright. I’ll just have to sit

you still for a moment next

time you’re around, or at

least while you’re making one

of those aforementioned

mistakes.


It’s not that the people

on the subway aren’t you,

no - it’s that they aren’t

me. I can exaggerate their

noses and eyebrows and

cupid’s arch as much as I

want, but then these folks

aren’t themselves anymore.

They’re the person I drew. I

inevitably draw this person

enough to fill a museum. alas,

this person isn’t me.

I hardly know what I look

like. I don’t think of it

often, anymore. Every once

in a while, I’ll look in my

reflection, and I know,

there I am, but I think of

myself as just another

passenger, in the most

classical sense. I’m there

with a stern look, and a

memo pad in my hand, and

I don’t want to speak to

anyone, I just want to listen.

That’s pretty intimidating.

The “everybody else” has

invaded my sketches and has

dug itself into a rut so deep

that it has become arguably

permanent. That individual

that I draw, however many

people they really may be,

will always walk by my side

so long as I carry this

sketchbook.

But it’s less by my side,

and more so within me.

Overlapping. As if with every

step our feet are side

by side, making lunchbox

sized footprints on the

metaphorical timeline of life

that’s on a beach. Of course

it’s on a beach. You know it’s

on a beach. Or maybe it ends

on a beach. Like the G or F.


I don’t think I’d draw me.

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