“Hey, have you seen my tap card?” She’s running late, frantically shoving a composition notebook and a half a dozen dollar-store pens into her bag- finding one that will actually work is like a treasure hunt.
He slips the card into her back pocket, it’s the same special edition card with a vintage shot of Union Station that she got the night they met- packed into public transit after a music festival like drunk sardines. She’d dropped her hat. He bought her a taco.
“Baby, you know I don’t like you taking the metro alone. You don’t know what kind of creeps lurk down there.”
“It’s fine,” She rummages in her bag for a tiny pink plastic spray tube. “See? I have my mace.”
“Be safe, okay? And text me if you need a ride when you get out of class.”
“I really have to run, I’m super late.”
They’ve been in LA for two days.
They don’t like it.
There’s two women and one man. The man sits in the subway seat like a dollop of mayonaise squised into a pastel polo and topped with a $20 Supercuts haircut. The woman next to him is thin and angular, decorated with resort-store Brighton jewelry and a Guy Fieri haircut. Their guide is a nondescript woman with nondescript hair and makeup- she’s oatmeal in a bejeweled Lane Bryant crew neck.
They’re headed to the Walk of Fame.
They’re excited, and in their excitement, breaking the cardinal rule of the Subway: Don’t speak. Sunburned in their knee-length bermuda shorts they recount the trip so far.
They don’t see the girl in the corner, fingering her keychain mace like a talisman because she’s lived here all her life and she knows that lots of things can happen on a Subway. Or a Big Blue Bus. Or the Third Street Promenade. And no one will intervene because people in cities know the cardinal rule of survival: Don’t draw attention to yourself.
“Well we went last night to uh,” the man pauses. “Olie-vera street. I didn’t care for the restaurants. I don’t like Mexican food.”
The angular woman interjects, “That’s because all you like are Cheese En-chee-ladas.”
They don’t notice the girl frantically turning up the volume in pink Target dollar-bin retro headphones.
They don’t stop to think that Los Angeles, a city whose name isn’t even in English, might be filled with all manner of immigrants. Immigrants who came 200 years ago or last year or three months ago. Immigrants who came for work or school, who brought their languages and food and music. Immigrants who had children who became friends with other first-generation children. Who grew up and remembered who they were, who worked to shape their diverse city.
Who rode the Subway.
“I bet if they shut the tapwater off, these people would take the drought seriously.”
The lights flicker.
“Well, I went to see Bob Edmunds the other day, he switched golf courses so I don’t see him that much. Anyway, there was this flock of Asians out in front. Just a bunch of Asians…”
The lights flicker again.
“Anyway, that Olie-vera street was way too crowded and I didn’t appreciate that the restaurant only had menus in Spanish…”
The lights flicker again and this time they stay off as the train glides to a stop at the platform.
The subway car opens at the Hollywood and Highland stop and the girl slips out. She’s lost in the crowd of tourists and Hare Krishnas and celebrity impersonators.
A man in the subway station is wearing a dirty Uncle Sam costume and yelling at the top of his lungs, “WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND IF YOU ENDED UP HERE YOU MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT.”
She disappears somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard.
It’s not until the next stop that anyone notices.
A young mother hulking a large stroller behind her is the first to notice. She doesn’t scream.
“Jesus, fuck,” She just points.
Everyone in the subway car follows her gaze to the back. The tourists have been torn limb from limb, their hearts torn out. Scrawled on the window in blood is a message from their killer.