Mine is always the first train stop. I get on the train in a tiny town station, a few kilometers from where I live. There’s shelter from the rain; a café; a Turkish fast food place; an automated tobacco shop; a ticket machine. There’s a woman with short hair and glasses I accidentally drew twice. She prefers to stand to the end of the station, away from the benches. There’s a Black high schooler who always smiles when he sees me. He was one of the first I drew at this station, a few weeks ago. He points me out to his friends. And there’s kids, too, milling about the station. One kid I always see, is this boy.
Mine is always the first stop. I get on the train, find a seat. I search for a place from which I can see at least two people. One stop: nine minutes. That’s time for two—hmm…maybe three—portraits. So I always have to choose. He’s seen me work before, this boy. It lights up his eyes. He’s with his sister this time. And this time the train is emptier. The train has more free seats, so he finds one right next to me. I draw a school girl across from us. The boy studies my hands. He looks up at the girl I’m drawing, then down at the paper, then at the girl again. Four minutes, done. I hand her her portrait. She smiles. Nine minutes, one stop—there’s time for one more. The boy takes his chance. He leans forward, swallows. This is it, it won’t come again. “Can you draw me next?” Yes. I’m glad he asks. This is the last week I’m commuting this way. I move to a new place on a different train line the following Sunday. We won’t have this chance again. I pull out another sheet of white A4 paper. He smiles like it’s Christmas. He wants to pose, but he can’t stop looking at my hands. He can’t stop looking at how his portrait is developing. He exchanges some excited words with his sister. Four minutes, done. After a few weeks of watching others get drawn, the boy gets his drawing. “Thank you,” he says. We trade names. He asks a few questions. I’m glad to answer them. But mine is always the first stop. I get off here.