On Board #60

On Board rolls on; it needs your help.

March 9, 2010, 8:42 p.m.
B Train – Grand St. to 7th Avenue

The pretty girl with the tuft of bangs sweeping over her left eye is staring at the Budweiser ad, then out the window, then at a woman standing near the door, then at me. Her eyes dart downward. She’s holding her pen stationary, the ink pointed at a 45 degree angle toward her white drawing paper, 18×24, bound in a spiral notebook.

She starts sketching, two parallel lines at first, shading them on either side. They’re getting thicker and forming the base of a structure of sorts: a chair, a table, a thatch hut, a subway seat. An elderly woman sits next to her, none too subtly watching over her shoulder.

The artist is holding a large bottle of FIJI water and a look of concern. She picks up her pen and flips the page halfway through the drawing. There’s another blank page. She has only black ink, otherwise she might draw the lipstick red pea coat she’s wearing, or the plaid jacket on the woman to her right. She has an even bigger pad leaning against her shins, and given the blank page on her lap and forlorn stare on her face, we can only assume that pad is empty as well. The Chinese woman has opened a newspaper. The artist rides over the Manhattan Bridge without putting pen to paper.

She finally leans forward to draw, and the water bottle tilts with her. She grabs it with her empty hand just before it falls. The drawing begins with an oval; two vertical lines; a connecting curve; two more lines angled to the side of the pad, settling into short vertical stumps; a pair of curves intersecting the stumps; two straight lines plunging to the bottom of the page. She moves the pen back to the middle of the image, and starts writing in bold, dark letters: F…I…J…

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