Andrew Cusick ~ Star Wars and Subway Surfers

X lives over the USA Fried Chicken and Pizza Halal on Hancock Street. He goes by X because he doesn’t have a name and the peo­ple at the boys’ home in Williamsburg said that he was wear­ing a raggedy Star Wars t‑shirt when they found him on the stoop out­side in the rain. They said after they admit­ted him he used to just sit on the floor and cry out for Mom and they got to call­ing him X because of how he’d smile at the X‑wings in all those bat­tles. When all the oth­er boys came and went, X stayed, and no mat­ter when they walked in or when they ran out, X was there watch­ing Star Wars on the floor wait­ing for Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke or Leia or fuck­ing any­body to come through the screen and drag him inside.

X fix­es things now, any­thing sil­ver and met­al and bit­ter, and some­times when he’s rig­ging an anten­na or dri­ving a flat­head into a screw that’s stripped too thin he imag­ines him­self Wedge Antilles, a Marlboro cig­a­rette in his mouth and Corellian princess on his side and the smell of inter­galac­tic gaso­line on his hands, the Death Star vapor­ized into star­dust behind them, “we saved the world, let’s go and save our­selves, there’s a whole galaxy to explore babe I believe it,” light years away from the hum­drum melan­choly of canned cran­ber­ry on Thanksgiving, hon­ey ham sand­wich­es DoorDashed on Christmas, the Star Wars Holiday Special that X watch­es each year. He’s thir­ty years old now, you see.

When work is out or he’s laid off or he’s bored or it’s two in the morn­ing and the sleep won’t come, X rides the sub­ways back and forth, any line he can hop on, tra­vers­ing through the city and imag­in­ing each car like some new incar­na­tion of Mos Eisley, hives of scum and piss and sweat and vil­lainy, scan­ning the crowd look­ing for any­body who might be some­body like the woman in his dreams: “help me X, you’re my only hope.

The woman with the pur­ple hair and the green eyes is the only one who ever acknowl­edges him, the one on the 6 PM A train from Penn every day, the one who some­times nods when he says some affir­ma­tion about Alderaan deserv­ing it, or how the peo­ple of Coruscant had to have been com­plic­it in the Empire’s arrival, or how the Ewoks weren’t as inno­cent as they appeared on the sur­face. She nods when he finds the holes in every tiny mythol­o­gy, every black and white con­struct, how it wasn’t as soft and jel­ly as it seemed, how it was dark and full of holes and porous with rot as all things are. She gasps when he cries and imag­ines Jabba’s tod­dler son Rotta the Hutt find­ing his dad choked to death, or the way the Gamorrean screamed as the Rancor ate him alive, or how every det­o­nat­ed X‑wing had some­body inside it who nev­er came home, and she even puts her hand on his shoul­der when he says when he was a boy it was so easy to root for a Skywalker or a Solo but now he just imag­ines the way each one of those Stormtroopers died alone, in pain, writhing on the floor after being blast­ed away for a punch­line or a plot point.

In the eyes of the woman with the pur­ple hair he can only see his reflec­tion, wet and glassy, star­ing back and wait­ing for the answer to the ques­tion he can nev­er finish.

Are you…” he whis­pers over and over again to her, too qui­et for her to hear.

But the sub­way bell dings and night after night, even as she keeps her eyes focused, she becomes yet anoth­er van­ish­ing act in X’s life, dis­ap­pear­ing back into Mos Eisley.

By the chick­en and piz­za joint there’s a half-torn, moldy poster for some new Star Wars movie and by this point X doesn’t even rec­og­nize any of the faces: no Vader or Emperor or Luke. But beside it there’s that woman with the pur­ple hair and the green eyes, or some­body he imag­ined to be her, star­ing up at the poster like she was look­ing for some­thing or some­one, and though he didn’t and though he wouldn’t, and though he’d nev­er, he imag­ined walk­ing up to her and ask­ing are you her? are you that per­son in my dreams? are you here to take me away? far far away…


Andrew Cusick lives and teach­es on the Jersey Shore. He’s been pub­lished in Booth, Orca, The Hunger, Sky Island Journal, trampset, Flash Fiction Magazine, Blood Lotus, and Underground Voices. His flash piece “Birds” was nom­i­nat­ed for Best Small Fictions 2022 by the afore­men­tioned Orca lit­er­ary mag­a­zine. He’s work­ing on what will hope­ful­ly be his debut nov­el, and he’s been writ­ing since some­where around the fourth grade. When he’s not teach­ing, you can find him hang­ing out with his wife and kids, surf­ing (ter­ri­bly), run­ning on the board­walk, or lean­ing into what­ev­er Jersey Shore Springsteen cliché one can imagine.