The A Train Express – Southampton High School (2014)
The A Train Express by Kayla Matters
Olivia: I’m scared. Of not getting in. I mean, I’m scared of the normal stuff too, shark attacks, dark alleys, all that, but I think the difference is, if I don’t get in, it’s my fault – no one else’s. If I don’t get in, it means I didn’t do enough, work hard enough. That’s what she’ll say, anyway – that it’s all my fault. (Pause) I took the SAT three times, you know. You know what I got the last time? 2360. Forty points away from perfect. It was the math section. I don’t even like math. But I got the tutor anyway, and he’d just have me do like, practice test after practice test until I swear, all I saw when I closed my eyes was parabolas and equations and triangles. And I had my pencils all sharpened, and I got a good night’s sleep – I was so ready. But then I got to this question about people making watches in a factory. And I guess I was supposed to be figuring out how many watches they could make in a week, but all I could think about is how those people ended up working in a watch factor, and what college they went to, and if their parents were proud of them. You know?
Guy: I think your stop is coming up.
Olivia: What’d you get on the SAT?
Olivia: I mean, you don’t really have to do that great to get into art school, right?
Guy: (Laughs) No, you don’t.
Olivia: So, what’d you get?
Guy: It doesn’t really matter.
Olivia: Oh, ok. I understand.
Guy: I didn’t do bad.
Olivia: No, I know.
Guy: It’s fine.
Olivia: I’m kind of a competitive person, I guess.
Guy: Really? I didn’t pick up on that.
Olivia: Yeah, sometimes I think I get a little carried away.
Guy: How so?
Olivia: This one time, I had chemistry class with this kid named Ben. And we’ve always been really competitive – you know, with grades and stuff. And so this one day in the middle of winter, January, we all get our midterms back. And Ben sat in front of me so I saw his grade. He got a 99. Which isn’t perfect, but it was still one point better than me. And do then next period, in art class, which I was only taking as an easy A to boost my GPA, we were supposed to paint like, landscape pictures. But next thing I know I painted like, a crying heart with fire in the background and the word ‘failure’ in big letters. And the teacher gave me an A, cause he thought I was unstable. But I’m not. Unstable, I mean. I’m just competitive.
Guy: I used to run track.
Guy: Yeah, four years of varsity track.
Olivia: Really? You don’t seem like the athletic type.
Guy: Yeah, that’s what I thought too. I dunno, I guess my dad kinda pressured me into it, cause all my brothers ran. I could’ve been good, if I wanted to. I just never really tried. Dad was disappointed, I think.
Olivia: I know how that is.
Guy: It’s funny though, because no matter how upset he was, he didn’t yell. I was most scared when he was silent.
Olivia: Trust me, yelling’s not much better.
Guy: Huh, yeah.
Olivia: (Pause) You said you have brothers?
Guy: Yeah, three actually – and two sisters.
Guy: You have siblings?
Olivia: No, only child. I always kinda wished I did, though. Seems like it’d be fun.
Guy: Yeah, breakfast was always an adventure.
Olivia: How’d your parents manage that? Six kids, I mean.
Guy: I dunno, when I was little I thought they must have been superheroes. I mean, they never stopped working. But they always had time for us.
(Glances over at Olivia)
Guy: Let’s talk about something else. You know you can release stress through your palms?
Guy: Yeah, with pressure points and all that. Lemme show you.
(Grabs her hand)
Olivia: What’re you doing?
Guy: See, you press down right here.
Olivia: Oh, yeah.
Guy: You feel any less nervous?
Olivia: Huh? Um, no.
Guy: Where’d you say you were getting off again?
Olivia: Um, 5th Avenue, I think.
Guy: Yeah, makes sense, big fancy college interview’s gotta be in a big fancy office.
Olivia: Did you interview? For college, I mean.
Guy: Oh, no. Art school they just make you send in a portfolio, you know, of stuff you did.
Olivia: So what’d you send in?
Guy: Mostly just pictures – photography. I tried to do a sculpture a couple of times, but I was just terrible.
Olivia: Well, you must’ve been pretty good, to get into (name of good art school)
Guy: Yeah, I was ok. I used to want to open a gallery and stuff, just these giant blown up versions of my pictures on stark white walls.
Olivia: What happened? Why’d you change your mind?
Guy: Too much work, rejection and stuff. It just wasn’t worth it.
Olivia: So what’d you do now?
Guy: I kinda bounce around. I mean, right now I’m working at an ad agency. I get to decide which stock photos best advertise a certain brand of watches, or whatever.
Olivia: And you just gave up on your dream?
Guy: No, I didn’t give it up, I just – it wasn’t worth it, ok?
Olivia: Of course it was worth it, if it was what you wanted.
Guy: Sometimes you have to decide when it’s time to quit and cut your losses, you know?
Olivia: No, I don’t. I refuse to believe we live in a world where people just give up all the time. If you want something, you fight for it. You fight, and you keep fighting and you cling onto your dream as tightly as you can, and you give every single ounce of your being toward it. And then you get it.
Guy: And you believe that?
Olivia: I have to.
Guy: Hey, this is your stop? You gonna be ok?
Olivia: Yeah, I’ll be fine.
Guy: Well, it was nice meeting you Olivia.
Olivia: Yeah, you too. (begins to exit the train)
Guy: That’s what I got on my SAT – 2380.