“She wasn’t off the train, she was outside of it,” August clarifies. “She can walk between the cars.”
“So it’s not the train that’s got her trapped, it’s the line,” Myla concludes simply, unlocking the storage room door. “Good to know.”
August leaves fifteen minutes later with a portable radio and a reminder from Myla to pick up batteries, and when she hands it to Jane, she gets to watch her face light up like Christmas came early. Which, she has to admit, is part of why she bought it. The other reason quickly presents itself.
“There’s this thing I’m trying to remember,” Jane says. “From LA. There’s a taco truck, and Coke with lime, and this song by Sly and the Family Stone … and a girl.” She looks at August. And August could—she could get off the train and return with a wedge of lime and a kiss, wants to even, but she thinks about what Jane said about getting out of here, the way she smiled at the thought of leaving.
“Oh, man,” August says. “That, uh—that sounds like a good lead, but I’m—I gotta clock in. I got a double today, you know, need the money so—anyway.” She gathers up her bag, eyeing the board for the next stop. Not even close to work. “Try the radio. See if you can find a funk station. I bet it helps.”
“Oh,” Jane says, spinning the dial, “okay. Yeah, good idea.”
And August dips out of the train with a wave as soon as the doors slide open.
She thinks—she is pretty sure, actually, that she’s figured out a solution to her problem. A radio. That should be fine.
It starts on a Saturday morning when Jane texts, August, Put your radio on 90.9 FM. Thanks, Jane
Obviously, August doesn’t own a radio. And it would never occur to Jane that August doesn’t own a radio. Even if she did, she’s outside for once, sitting by the water in Prospect Park, watching ducks squabble over pizza crusts and stoners pass a joint under a gazebo. She’d be on the train with Jane except Niko personally packed her a sandwich and insisted she take advantage of her Saturday morning off to “recenter” and “absorb different energies” and “try this havarti I got at the farmer’s market last week, it’s got a lot of character.”
But it only takes a minute to download an FM tuner app, and August thumbs through the dial to the station. A guy with a dry voice is reading a list of programming for the next six hours, so she texts back, Okay, what next?
Just wait, Jane replies. I remembered another song, so I called in and requested it.
The guy on the mic switches gears and says, “And now, a request from a girl in Brooklyn who wants to hear some old-school punk, here’s ‘Lovers’ by the Runaways.”
August leans back on the bench, and the harsh guitar and pounding drums start up. Her phone buzzes.
Today I remembered that I dated a girl in Spanish Harlem who liked to get head to this album! XOXO Jane
August chokes on her sandwich.
It becomes the new ritual: Jane texts August day and night, Hey! Turn on the radio! Love, Jane. And within minutes, there’ll be a song she requested. Thankfully, after the first, they’re almost never songs that she used to eat girls out to.
Sometimes it’s one Jane just remembered and wants to hear. One day it’s “War” by Edwin Starr, and she giddily tells August about a Vietnam protest in ’75 where she broke a finger in a fight with some old racist while the song blasted over the speakers, how a bunch of the guys who hung out on Mott Street passed around a coffee can to collect the money to get it set correctly.
But sometimes, it’s a song that she likes, or wants August to hear, a song from the back of her mind or her menagerie of cassettes. Michael Bolton rasping his way through “Soul Provider” or Jam Master Jay spitting out “You Be Illin’.” It doesn’t matter. 90.9 will play it, and August will listen just to feel that under-the-same-moon feeling of Jane listening to the same thing at the same time as she glides across the Manhattan Bridge.
And suddenly August is as handcuffed to the radio as Jane used to be. It’s extremely fucking inconvenient, honestly. She’s busy worrying about what’s going to happen to Lucie and Winfield and Jerry once Billy’s gets shut down. She has trains to catch and shifts to work and classes to catch up on and, on one particular Sunday, a Craigslist ad to answer across Brooklyn.
“Please, Wes,” August begs. He has the night off, so he’s actually awake before sunset, and he’s using his daylight hours to sketch on the couch and shoot deeply put-upon looks at August across the apartment. For someone so determined to never express emotion, he can be incredibly dramatic.
“I’m sorry, how exactly do you expect us to get a desk and an entire bed home from fucking Gravesend?”
“It’s a writing desk and a twin mattress,” August tells him. “We can do it on the subway.”
“I am not going to be the asshole who takes a mattress on the subway.”
“People take obnoxious things on the subway all the time! I was on the Q last week and someone had an entire recliner! It had cupholders, Wes.”
“Yeah, and that person was an asshole. You haven’t been in New York long enough to earn the right to be an asshole with impunity. You’re still in the tourist zone.”
“I am not a tourist. A rat climbed up my shoe yesterday, and I just let it happen. Could a tourist do that?”
Wes rolls his eyes, sitting up and batting a dangling vine out of his face. “I thought you were into minimalism, anyway.”
“I was,” August says. She takes off her glasses to clean them, hoping the blurry shape of Wes doesn’t recognize it for what it is: not having to see someone’s face when she says something vulnerable. “But that was … before I found somewhere worth putting stuff in.”
Wes is quiet, then sighs, putting his sketchbook down on the trunk.
He grits his teeth. “Isaiah has a car.”
Two hours later, they’re picking their way back to Flatbush, August Tetris’d into the back seat with her rickety new writing desk and a twin-size mattress strapped to the roof of Isaiah’s Volkswagen Golf.
Isaiah is saying something about his day job, about Instagram influencers asking if they can write off handcrafted orchid crowns on their taxes, and Wes is laughing—eyes closed, head thrown back, nose scrunched up laughing. August knows she’s staring. She’s never, not once since she moved in, seen Wes crack more than a sarcastic chuckle.
“You good back there?” Isaiah asks, glancing in the rearview mirror. August whips her phone out, pretending she’s not monitoring their conversation. “You got enough legroom?”
“I’ll survive,” August says. “Thanks again. You saved my life.”
“No problem,” he says. “It’s not as bad as when I did this for Wes. His bed’s a queen. That was a bitch to move.”
“You helped Wes move a bed?”
“I—” Wes starts.
“It’s very tasteful,” Isaiah continues. “Birch headboard, matches his dresser. He may not be a rich kid anymore, but he still got bougie taste.”
“You’ve seen the inside of Wes’s bedroom?” August interrupts. “I haven’t even seen the inside of Wes’s bedroom, and I share a wall with him.”