“How long’s it gonna take?”
“Yes you do,” he smiles. This line of questioning is clearly an amusement of his.
“Impossible to tell. Traffic and shit. Can’t say.”
“Just make a guess. An average.”
“No.” He’s annoyed with his friend, and pulls out a green sweater. He struggles to pull it on over his afro.
The friend, dressed trendily in a navy shirt with orange suspenders and glasses to match, leans back against the door of the train, not bothering to help. “45 minutes? 50 minutes?”
“It doesn’t matter.” He has an island accent, from somewhere in the Caribbean.
“23 times 62.”
“1,426,” comes the muffled reply.
“Easy. 256 times, like, uh, negative 30.”
The fro makes it through the sweater. Green sweater over a lighter green polo. Pop the collar. “Negative 7 thousand…7,680.” He picks his backpack up off the floor, checks his phone.
“963 plus 520.”
Green Sweater answers quickly, like a parent tired of explaining basic life functions to a child. We don’t know if his calculations are correct.
Suspenders, the playful antagonism still in his voice, points accusingly. “Man, move your backpack.”
“Move it. You might be cheating.”
Green Sweater is not playful. “You think I don’t know my numbers?”
“I know you…”
“Fuckin wanna bet me that I don’t know my numbers?”
“No no I’m just fuckin around.”
“You’re just giving me easy shit, kid.”
Suspenders stands up straighter. “150 divided by 60.”
“Your GPA, 2 point 5.”
“2 point GOD, ohhh!” He throws his arms out to the side, does a little dance.
They are quiet for a while, and Green Sweater is relieved. It’s hard for him, being stuck with a guy who is clearly a moron. Well maybe not a moron, but certainly not an intellectual peer. Yet there is this pesky desire, need, for companionship. And it’s not as if people were lining up to be in his squad. So he continues doing the thing, running the numbers, since that seems to be the only interesting thing he can do.
Even if, sometimes, it’s bullshit.
Suspenders starts up again. “Hey you get it with that girl last night?”
“You did? Oh shit! I can’t…”
“I said I didn’t.”
“I thought you said you did.”
“I can’t understand you with your thick-ass accent.”
Suspenders considers his friend — the clashing green shirts, the now-slightly- disheveled fro — and decides not to harass him. “Later, then.”
“Hey, hey, when she sees you on the field, right? She can’t resist that! When you play…”
“If I play.”
“Makin touchdowns and shit. Then you can be like, ‘Do the numbers on the points I scored! 1, 2, 3…’”
Green Sweater shakes his head.
“…4, 5, 6, 7, oh!”
“Touchdown is 6. I don’t kick.”
Suspenders decides not to waste any more time trying to make his friend feel better. He wonders for the zillionth time that week why he even bothers. Doesn’t this dude know how it hurts his cred to be seen with him? This cheesy shambles of a nerd, no friends, no skills with the ladies. Or with the guys, for that matter. It’s charity, making him do this lame-ass party trick. Someone should pin a medal on his suspenders right now for putting up with this shit.
They ride the rest of the way in silence.
The train pulls into the final stop, and we all start to gather our things.
Suspenders gestures to the door with his head. “How long did it take?”
“48 minutes.” He responds instantly, without checking a watch or phone. We don’t know if that’s true.
“So, 48 minutes, then.”
“This time. It doesn’t matter.”
We all push out through the doors. Some of us are late, some early, and some right on time.