An Excerpt From Chloe Caldwell’s LEGS GET LED ASTRAY



We really like Chloe Caldwell.  We like her so much that on April 19th, we’re throwing her a party for the release of her book, Legs Get Led Astray (pre-0rder at the Future Tense website) at BookThugNation.  Adam Wilson, Sean Doyle, and Zachary Lipez will all be reading, and there is a pretty good chance she won’t be reading the excerpt we’re debuting here. 


On the G train we fall asleep touching, my head on your shoulder, and you slur and say, “At least we have each other,” and I say, “What?” and you say, “At least we have each other,” and I say, “I was just going to say that.”

On the G train in the mornings there is a woman crack-head who flicks her lighter at me and mutters about murdering me while I sit, trying to look composed and un-phased and unafraid, wearing black and white, writing in my journal on my way to waitress the brunch shift.

On the G train I take candy from a stranger. I can smell marijuana on him, and I know I should say no, but he has these sesame peanut butter things that look too good to pass up, and he offers them to me with such integrity that I take one. I take three of them. When I get home to Bushwick, I don’t regret this and I eat the candies in my bedroom.

On the G train I am on Adderall writing in my journal and I remember that somewhere I read that writing in public makes people uncomfortable and I get sort of paranoid that I am making people uncomfortable because this is New York City and you don’t want to mess around.

On the G train I tell you I have to get off because I am going to throw up. We get off a few stops before our own. I walk to the wall on the platform and slide down and put my head in my knees. You buy me a plain bagel and those mints I like from the bodega.

On the L train we meet a girl who is sick and mumbling to herself and tiny and we walk her to her apartment in Bushwick and later we tell people that we met a heroin angel.

On the L train you eat grapefruit and yogurt which are the opposite of train foods and it’s really gross and people stare. You pose with your spoon in your hand and talk and talk, completely unaware.

On the L train I reach into my bag and find a piece of bread wrapped in aluminum foil. I look up at you and tell you I have bread in my bag and you shrug and say, “This is New York, who doesn’t have bread in their bag?”

On the L train I often end up in the same car as the saxophone alien. He says, “Greetings Earthlings,” in a mock robotic voice and then he announces that he will play his saxophone obnoxiously in our faces until we give him money to stop. It’s brilliant. He even wears antennas. I pretend to be annoyed when I see him like everyone else but I secretly love it.

On the L train I discover that I left my purple wallet at the White Castle in Bushwick.

On the L train you say you are excited to see where I live. You say you like to be the first person to fuck me in all of my beds.

On the L train you teach me to play roulette. “As the subway slows, you look at the people waiting on the platform and make an educated guess of who you think will come into the car you’re in. Or, another way to play is to choose which good looking guys you’d like to get on your car.”

On the L train you ask me if we are under water now like in the Bright Eyes song “Train Under Water” and I say yes and you say that freaks you out. You say it makes you nauseous. We are standing and you moved to New York the day previous and you are on your way to your interview at the Strand.

On the L train we wear the straw hats we found on Avenue A.

On the L train you throw up in your hands from doing something we shouldn’t have been doing.

On the J train we sit across from the cartoon drawing of a stick figure man littering with a line through it and you nudge me and say, “No throwing sugar cubes, dude.”

On the A train I tell you to trade iPods with me because I want to see what you were listening to before you met up with me. “Safety Bricks” by Broken Social Scene.

On the A train it’s the fourth of July and my roommate and I are wearing plastic ponchos and I tell my roommate that I’m terrified of lightning and my roommate tells me that smoking kills more people in a decade than lightning. She tells me that logic and anxiety rarely go together.

On the A train on the way to your apartment at two in the morning, I find the book How To Further Your Intelligence, and I can hardly believe my own luck. When I bring it into your apartment, you tell me that I find things like that because I am looking for them.

On the A train I shave my legs somewhat dry because I saw another girl do it.

On the A train we pound Jell-O shots that we took out of my refrigerator, left over from a Halloween party. It’s Saturday and the train is going local. By the time we get to W. 4th, we are shitfaced.

On the A train I see a boy with Nike sneakers and backpack and I wish he would save me from myself.

On the A train there is a Mariachi band and they play “Here Comes the Sun.” On the A train I read the back of a pregnancy test and eat Smart food popcorn.

On the A train your eyes look blood shot and happy and embarrassed when I slip you a hundred dollar bill out of the envelope my boss gave me with a cash bonus in it. You’d been complaining about how you couldn’t afford a sweatshirt and you hadn’t gone to a hair salon in a year. I shove it in your pocket when you got off on W. 4th Street. Later when I see you, you have a bright blue sweatshirt from American Apparel and short pink hair.

On the A train we sit side by side and you take out the Bible and I take out my journal. You laugh to yourself and say that you only took out the Bible to mess with me, but that’s not true because even at home you’ve been reading the Bible. I take the top off of my marker and begin to write. “What’s that smell?” you ask me.

On the 1 train we are going downtown and sharing headphones listening to “Fistful Of Love” by Antony And The Johnsons and you play the drums on the subway bars and my thighs and I feel overstimulated in this moment because that was always the song I said I wanted played at my future wedding.

On the 1 train you tell me that you like to look at different girls hands on the poles and imagine the pole as your cock.

On the R train we ride to the last stop in Brooklyn. Cheerleaders from the Midwest get on the train. One sits next to me and I talk to her. I ask her if she likes New York. When we walk up the stairs and to the street we stand on the pavement and you light a cigarette. I am a few feet across from you. You nod toward the pavement square I am standing on. “That’s where my dad died,” you say.

On all of the trains I wave enthusiastically to any babies that I see. I stick my tongue out and make faces and smile at them. I try to connect with them. “I always do this,” I tell you.

On the L train I stand alone. On the G train I eat grapefruit. On the A train I try not to fall asleep but I learn to rest my eyes the way the rest of the adults do and I clutch my purse tightly while I do it. On the 1 train I look at different girls’ hands and think of your hands.

Chloe Caldwell is a non-fiction writer living in upstate New York. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, Hobart, Chronogram, The Sun Magazine, Freerange Nonfiction, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and The Nervous Breakdown. She is the founder and curator of the Hudson River Loft Reading Series. 

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