Cebo Campbell

New York Subway

The train’s young black boys are the most powerful things in the world. They only know this truth vaguely. Their awareness infiltrates the way they tie their laces, or lift their collars, or call their ladies “Miss”. They vibrate, these boys. A rhythm naturally jiving with the simple frequencies of the universe. Young idols. Affecting far and near. Mexico, Bali, Slovenia, Austria–their way of being is to others ceremonial. Their walk is mimicked in Montreal. Their gestures practiced in Sao Paolo. In Europe, blue eyed schoolboys in uniforms will tie their laces back and call themselves “B”. A Singapore teen speaking English like shattered glass will call his lady “Miss” and she will feel a sensation is her ribs when he does. These boys. No being exists who is more intentional. More naive. More dangerous and wondrous at the same time. Landless kings. I don’t imagine they are in need of land at all anyway. Not when they are so free–so stelliferous. Chewing gum. Spitting on the pavement. Daring. Daring. Daring anyone to say anything. Curling that smile. They know the future is dark. Which is the best thing the future can be. So, go on young king. Go on young idol. Vibrate. Drag your cool all over the world without ever leaving this platform.
Beautiful Asian girls in shirts that bare their pale bellies stand with their gay white friend in clean white shoes who laughs like a chorus of birds coasting the shores of Montauk.
His hands are so full. A phone. A book. A sandwich. A bottle of coke. A pack of cigarettes. He shifts them around in the slowest juggle I’ve ever seen. Tending them all. He tries to turn the page in his book and, in the end, has to use his teeth. In the seat next to him, a man in headphones starts to play an air guitar. Then an air drum. Then takes his beat to the seat itself. Pop piddy pop pop piddy pop pop. The rhythm unleashes him and he thrashes his head from side to side. Holding nothing back at all. His story has no pages to turn. Just words and rhythms. Soundless music hanging in the air.
Yellow lines are painted everywhere. A color that seems to welcome the oily residue that time crawls over it. Pretty women don’t look at me or anyone else. On the occasion one does, the contact darts their eyes away. In that moment they are no longer human. Well, perhaps, they are the most human–instinctual animals. Gazelles in a safari. Speaking at all feels to lack courtesy. Like spitting in the most tasteful way. No one looks or talks in the dampness. The things that have fallen down near the tracks soak in pools of water. Bottles, shoes, pens, receipts. I try to imagine the last person to lose a bottle over the yellow line. I wonder if anyone watched. Or spoke at all. I wonder if the one losing the item felt a singular kind of sadness–a quiet loss erased in seconds. Fleeting. Darting away. Like the pretty human women afraid of losing themselves in the subway.
Chaos finds quiet in these tubes. A mess of shuffling stills itself below the city. Swarms of steam and cigarette smoke evaporate leaving air that tastes like earth. Otherwise alert eyes turn inward. Or electronic. Silent subway. Too often a metaphor for a tomb. Like death is a respite from one station to the next. Like living lacks miracle. Stand clear of the closing doors.


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I am an author and a Creative Director.

As a full-time creative (VP of Creative Services at Spherical), I spend most days writing in the nooks and crannies of my available time. I wake up at 5:30am just to get in a few hours putting words on paper. I write on the train. I write on planes. I write waiting in lines. I feel I have to write. The reason is simple: representation.

I often tell the story of Ferris Bueller; a kid who decides to skip school and, on charm alone, steals a car, impersonates a cop, drinks underage, tampers with computers, and at every step exposes his best friends to peril, only to go home and fall asleep with his mother to kiss him into sweet dreams. I asked myself if Ferris were Trayvon Martin, how might that story end? I know the answer. So do you. And this is why representation is so important. I aim to contribute more stories into the world that diversely feature regular (but beautiful) lives made extraordinary. Art, I believe, is the only way to accomplish this. All my creative work is inspired by and aims to add to all the great work in the world.