Thiis story goes by many names.
The first of which was:
That was pretty good, but the
next one was:
How lovely. But thien I had
AND A WILL
But really, this is
just a letter.
And it's a letter
For me, though -
this will be for faith.
It can be for anyone
you’d like, for you.
But for me, it will be
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
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
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
If you were the
madman taking off
in the subway, you
could leave one
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
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,
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
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
for my stop that
was almost comically
absent from its
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
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
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
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
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
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.