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“Thanks,” August calls after him. His shoulders scrunch up to his ears, as if nothing could displease him more than being thanked for an act of kindness.

“Cool knife,” he grunts as he shuts his bedroom door behind him.


* * *


Friday morning finds August shivering, one hand in the shower, begging it to warm up. It’s twenty-eight degrees outside. If she has to get in a cold shower, her soul will vacate the premises.

She checks her phone—twenty-five minutes before she has to be on the platform to catch her train for class. No time to reply to her mom’s texts about annoying library coworkers. She punches out some sympathetic emojis instead.

What did Myla say? Twenty minutes to get the hot water going, but ten if you’re nice? It’s been twelve.

“Please,” August says to the shower. “I am very cold and very tired, and I smell like the mayor of Hashbrown Town.”

The shower appears unmoved. Fuck it. She shuts off the faucet and resigns herself to another all-day aromatic experience.

Out in the hallway, Myla and Wes are on their hands and knees, sticking lines of masking tape down on the floor.

“Do I even want to ask?” August says as she steps over them.

“It’s for Rolly Bangs,” Myla calls over her shoulder.

August pulls on a sweater and sticks her head back out of her door. “Do you realize you just say words in any random order like they’re supposed to mean something?”

“Pointing this out has never stopped her,” says Wes, who looks and sounds like he stumbled in from a night shift. August wonders what Myla bribed him with to get his help before he retreated to his cave. “Rolly Bangs is a game we invented.”

“You start by the door in a rolling chair, and someone pushes you down the incline of the kitchen floor,” Myla explains. Of course she’s figured out a way to use a building code violation for entertainment. “That’s the Rolly part.”

“I’m scared to find out what the Bangs are,” August says.

“The Bang is when you hit that threshold right there,” Wes says. He points to the wooden lip where the hallway meets the kitchen. “Basically catapults you out of the chair.”

“The lines,” Myla says, ripping off the last piece of tape, “are to measure how far you fly before you hit the floor.”

August steps over them again, heading toward the door. Noodles circles her ankles, snuffling excitedly. “I can’t decide if I’m impressed or horrified.”

“My favorite emotional place,” Myla says. “That’s where horny lives.”

“I’m going to bed.” Wes throws his tape at Myla. “Good night.”

“Good morning.”

August is shrugging into her backpack when Myla meets her at the door with Noodles’s leash.

“Which way you walking?” she asks as Noodles flops around, tongue and ears flapping. He’s so cute, August can’t even be mad that she was definitely misled about how much this dog is going to be a part of her life.

“Parkside Avenue.”

“Ooh, I’m taking him to the park. Mind if I walk with you?”

The thing about Myla, August is learning, is that she doesn’t plant a seed of friendship and tend to it with gentle watering and sunlight. She drops into your life, fully formed, and just is. A friend in completion.


“Sure,” August says, and she pulls the door open.

There’s no ice to slip on, but Noodles is nearly as determined to make August eat shit on the walk to the station.

“He’s Wes’s, but we all kind of share him. We’re suckers like that,” Myla says as Noodles tugs her along. “Man, I used to get off at Parkside all the time when I lived in Manhattan.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I went to Columbia.”

August sidesteps Noodles as he stops to sniff the world’s most fascinating takeout container. “Oh, do they have a good art school?”

Myla laughs. “Everybody always thinks I went to art school,” she says, smacking her gum. “I have a degree in electrical engineering.”

“You—sorry, I assumed—”

“I know, right?” she says. “The science is super interesting, and I’m good at it. Like, really good. But engineering as a career kind of murders your soul, and my job pays me enough. I like doing art more for right now.”

“That’s…” August’s worst nightmare, she thinks. Finishing school and not doing anything with it. She can’t believe Myla isn’t paralyzed at the thought every minute of every day. “Kind of amazing.”

“Thanks, I think so,” Myla says happily.

At the station, Myla waves goodbye, and August swipes through the turnstile and returns to the comfortable, smelly arms of the Q.

Nobody who’s lived in New York for more than a few months understands why a girl would actually like the subway. They don’t get the novelty of walking underground and popping back up across the city, the comfort of knowing that, even if you hit an hour delay or an indecent exposure, you solved the city’s biggest logic puzzle. Belonging in the rush, locking eyes with another horrified passenger when a mariachi band steps on. On the subway, she’s actually a New Yorker.

It is, of course, still terrible. She’s almost sat in two different mysterious puddles. The rats are almost definitely unionizing. And once, during a thirty-minute delay, a pigeon pooped in her bag. Not on it. In it.

But here she is, hating everything but the singular, blissful misery of the MTA.

It’s stupid, maybe—no, definitely. It’s definitely stupid that part of it is that girl. The girl on the subway. Subway Girl.

Subway Girl is a smile lost along the tracks. She showed up, saved the day, and blinked out of existence. They’ll never see each other again. But every time August thinks of the subway, she thinks about brown eyes and a leather jacket and jeans ripped all the way up the thighs.

Two stops into her ride, August looks up from the Pop-Tart she’s been eating, and—

Subway Girl.

There’s no motorcycle jacket, only the sleeves of her white T-shirt cuffed below her shoulders. She’s leaning back, one arm slung over the back of an empty seat, and she … she’s got tattoos. Half a sleeve. A red bird curling down from her shoulder, Chinese characters above her elbow. An honest-to-God old-timey anchor on her bicep.

August cannot believe her fucking luck.

The jacket’s still there, draped over the backpack at her feet, and August is staring at her high-top Converse, the faded red of the canvas, when Subway Girl opens her eyes.

Her mouth forms a soft little “oh” of surprise.

“Coffee Girl.”

She smiles. One of her front teeth is crooked at the slightest, most life-ruining angle. August feels every intelligent thought exit her skull.

“Subway Girl,” she manages.

Subway Girl’s smile spreads. “Morning.”

August’s brain tries “hi” and her mouth goes for “morning” and what comes out is, “Horny.”

Maybe it’s not too late to crawl under the seat with the rat poop.

“I mean, sure, sometimes,” Subway Girl replies smoothly, still smiling, and August wonders if there’s enough rat poop in the world for this.