Category: Sketches of public transit


Friend in low places.

The trenchcoat mafia has given up on reigns of terror to snapchat themselves vaping behind Rite Aid. They stand four parking spaces apart, silent and hunched over phones, attempting to get the best shot of themselves blowing fruit punch scented smoke. They reach social media climax simultanously, wordlessly shoving their phones into baggy pockets and slouching towards the subway. The greasier of the two pulls out a dull metal object and I take a quick glance around to see if there’s a convienient barrier I can duck behind if shit pops off. But no, I realize it’s just a flask of some special concoction of vape fluid that he’s clumsily pouring into his space-age e-hookah.

An Ashmont train pulls in and I sit down across from an anachronism whose age I’d place in the low sixties. Bolo tie and black leather vest compete with late-model bluetooth earpiece hooked to wraparound sunglasses. Drinking a diet coke from a coozie. Patriotic New Balances propped up on a hard shell suitcase screened with an American flag. I’m breathless.

Two labradoodles get on with a couple in tow.

Vaping outside the rite aid.

Sketches of public transit


The grey sky is hitting the grey water, and the view all the way up to what my Mapquest printout tells me is Nahant is a vast blob of grey, except for a whopper of a retirement home: a buff pink ziggurat rising grandly behind some scrubby shrubs The ocean smells like the hot sweet tang of radiator fluid. It’s nothing like the store brand salt air dryer sheets I bought last month to psych myself up for this move.
Technically I can see why people say that Wonderland is disapointing. I fully acknowledge that the stop is just a giant parking lot littered with Dunkin’ Donuts cups, yet I can’t help feeling a bit betrayed by my sister Ohioan. Twenty-five years of shared history, growing up landlocked with access to nothing but gravel beaches and the turquoise-painted zoo smelling hell that was Canoochee Creek. How is it that she is so unable to look beyond the strip of boarded up pizza joints and burned out crusts of motels to seE OVER FIVE MILES OF ATLANTIC OCEAN BEACH ACCESSIBLE BY SUBWAY.
I can’t believe how easy this was. I should come hear every day after work. Well, realistically, more like once a week. I’m pretty cold in my interview outfit, a sundress from the Urban Outfitters clearance rack covered over with a velvet blazer that some big-boobed girl named Greta left at my going away party. And the water will eventually make my toes numb, but how could I possibly walk on the beach in SHOES?
Two weeks ago I was stuck in the drive-thru at Arby’s waiting for a Jamocha shake and waffle fries. Now I’m standing at the end of a continent, looking out at a vast coniquous body of water filled with whales and dotted with container ships. I am the Queen of all that I survey and–a man is approaching me out of the grey blob. Shirtless. Tan. Big white chiclet teeth and crinkles around his eyes. Probably about seventy. As he walks by, he raises his chin at me–a tough greeting, and tells me in that accent synonymous with Clam Chowder and This Old House, “we’re glad you’re here.”

Sketches of public transit

The miracle of flight

She’s been sniffling quietly since she left her caretaker, a husky woman with a similarly uncoordinated shade of falsely blonde hair, back at the airport. It was unclear how they had both made it back to the gate, only to part ways before we boarded the tiny regional jet. Since then she’s been hunched over her tray table, carefully drawing a big-eyed anime face. Perhaps she received instructions on how to assemble those exaggerated features on an internet video, since she carefully plotted out a series of confident, then tenative crosses, erasing each furiously before finally rendering one that fit her interiorized specifications. Large eyes, small bow lips, and a retrousse nose were added, then topped off with a face-hugging bob, which has yet to be shaded. It is this blank space reserved for sketched in strands and waves which seems to be giving her the most trouble, as she shuffles from pencil to pencil in her elaborately worked zipper bag, seeking the right one.

Giving up, she has instead turned to imagining an overworked, unflattering outfit of oversized, high collared, science fictionish nehru jacket with buttons made out of ground-down circles carved into the paper. The clothes are drawn in quickly, and now she has gone on to reinforcing each line of this wide-eyed creature with a black rollerball, which is causing the expression to seem increasingly plaintive and medicated. Meanwhile, she keeps glancing over as I make notes of her movements in drippy red fountain pen, using my disheveled copy of Wonder Boys as a makeshift notebook. Wonder Boys, which I have taken with me on nearly every plane ride for the past six years, looks more like an overflowing school folder, rather than a book, stuffed full of boarding passes, luggage tags, scraps of receipts for water bottles and gum, and issue one of the 4-page zine Death by Dragonry, found abandoned on a sidewalk, which promises in its second issue the following things:
-Review of gay speed metal band Rainbolt’s new album, “Power Bottom.”
-Sex and You!: How to occupy the free time you’re spending not getting laid.
-Sobbing plea to Hollywood- “Please stop raping my childhood!”
-Construction….And How!
Out of the corner of my eye, I see that our girl has chosen a yellow pencil to fill in the hair! It’s a lemony yellow, certainly more on the cyan end of yellow, similar to a blonde swimmer’s green hair. In comparing the shades of artist and drawing, I can’t help but note that they occupy polar ends of the yellow spectrum, with the artist’s hair ratcheted near the red end of my mental Photoshop slider. As she fills in the jacket with a rheumy purple, I start to wonder if this is some sort of attractive superhero version of herself.
The captain just came over the intercom: We’ll be landing in 12 minutes, which seems to aggravate our girl, who has grown frustrated with the proportions of her drawing. She flips the page, starts clean, and makes a quick angry sketch of a girl in a fishing hat.
We’re pulling in now, and the seatmate is stirring. Odd girl leaps on this opportunity to engage in a conversation about flying and how much she dislikes her stepdad. Seatmate nods politely, murmurs something about the holidays, and clearly wishes she had kept her eyes shut.
At the gate, our arteest scrawls a loopy signature on the bottom of her artwork, then hands it to seatmate. “It’s you,” she says. “Merry Christmas.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the signature: Sara Stoettler. We went to high school together, and freshman year foundation art she drew a portrait of me with cat ears and a tail. I’m glad to know she lost the coke-bottle glasses, but I definitely don’t want to have this conversation. It’s time to close up shop and escape.