The following is a work of fiction, mostly in the sense that it isn’t a work of fact, journalistic or otherwise. It unfolds in multiple parts (Part 2)
The pizzeria isn’t much. Actually, it’s just a storefront with a few tables and not-too-comfortable seats inside. Every few minutes, there is the faint rumble of a nearby elevated subway line. The pizza itself isn’t great, but good enough for a midafternoon snack. This could be anywhere in New York’s outer boroughs, but in this case it’s the Bronx, close to the northern stub of the 1 train.
All the nearby schools have let out, and the owner steels himself for the onslaught. He appreciates the brisk business the afterschool hours bring, especially on the Fridays, but hates the highschoolers themselves. To him, they’re a hormonal horde of loud, boisterous, and occasionally aggressive nuisance. The telltale voices of a group of students approaches, and the kids walk in. The owner relaxes a bit. These kids don’t look like troublemakers, he thinks to himself. If asked to actually defend such a sentiment, the owner would probably back away from the statement, but anyone whose lived long enough in a major American city would probably “get” what he meant.
The kids approach the counter and order. Most ask for slices, two deicide on the spot to split a calzone. After ordering, they pull two of the small tables together and array the chairs. While waiting for the food, one pulls out a deck of cards, while another pulls out and opens a folder, grabbing a well-worn sheet with a bunch of names and numbers. Poker has been the rage for the past few months among the school’s upperclassmen, and this group of seniors is no exception.
One of the kids, too cheap (and too poor in pocket money anyway) to gamble, instead takes out his iPod and starts playing one of the game apps. Conversation swirls around him.
“You guys doing anything this weekend?”
“meh, not really”
“I hear someone has a free house, definitely tomorrow, and maybe tonight”
“where are the parents going?”
“country house upstate, I hear.”
A few minutes pass, and the owner shouts over the counter. The food’s ready. The kids get up to pay and get it; some drop a few extra coins and reach into the cooler for a soda. They sit down again.
The mid-spring air is warm, and pregnant with the usual anticipation of the approaching end of school. For these kids, who can finally envision the next stage of life with slightly less guessing, the approaching end has slightly more meaning. To them, it’s the end of all This Bullshit, a catch-all phrase for the onslaught of tests, college applications, and essay-writing they endured in the first half of the year. The arbitrary and punitive management from their school’s administration didn’t help their view towards the past few years.
After a half hour or so, the pizza long eaten, the kids finally call an end to the poker game and head towards Broadway, and the 1 train. They start up the staircase when a familiar rumble is heard.
The kids hurry up the stairs, making it to the turnstiles as the train pulls into the station. One springs ahead, making it inside first and putting his hands on the side of the door. The conductor, rolling his eyes, closes the doors on the back half of the train, but the rest of the kids make it to the platform and on to the front half of the train before the conductor can close those doors. The train leaves the station
It’s just before rush hour, but on this Manhattan-bound train, the kids find a nearly empty car after walking forward a bit. They, again, sit. Under normal circumstances this would mark a restart to the poker game, but the owner of the deck of cards got his pocket picked back at the pizzeria, so he conveniently forgets this routine. Instead, he brings up what qualifies as important conversation to a group of boys in late adolescence.
“yo, you never actually told us if you got with that girl last weekend. Did it or did it not happen?”
What else did you expect? Especially among this group of relatively undersexed adolescents, there is one sure-fire way to liven up an otherwise listless conversation, and that is talk of, well, you know.
The others never get to hear the answer to this pressing question, as the doors open at the next stop. In sweeps a panhandler, one of the many minor annoyances of the subway.