Starter Pack

Starter Pack

Lauren Ho

“I would like to know,” asked her friend, “why you don’t like looking at my starter pack account—its follower count really does speak for itself and it’s even been accredited with a checkmark!” The pair was sitting together in the ninth floor cafeteria high above the rest of Jamaica. While their two-seater table was less than ideal with it being so far away from the double door entrance and food line, the location did afford them one luxury: a floor-to-ceiling frosted window comprising twelve mini panes, one of which was broken. When one of them pressed their warm cheek against the cool glass on the window pane just left to the broken one—careful to avoid a protruding, jagged edge—they were able to see the outside world and beyond. 

She wished he would stop talking; she was beginning to get incredibly irritable from both the lack of air conditioning in their ancient performing arts school and his idle campaigning. 

“So, I really do think you should follow my account, Esther,” he said while reaching down into the front pocket of his fraying gray bag. “Let me search up your account—what is it again? @EstherinQueens?” 

Esther sighed at his mention of her account—she really wished that she had gone ahead and deleted her account last night. She knew, oh she absolutely knew last night that she would regret her decision by lunch, and yet, here she was.

Turning her head to the window, she closed her left eye and tilted her chin down: she wanted to try and see if she could see outside from the angle. She wanted to look out the window and let her thoughts be carried by the gentle breeze which ruffled the petals on the cherry blossoms along the Avenue. Oh, what she would give to be on Jamaica Ave. at the very moment with headphones in and passion fruit gum in mouth. If she couldn’t be there now, well, at the very least she could let her mind wander to the next possible scenario even more unseemly. 

“I would like to know,” her friend began again, this time with an undertone of annoyance, “what your instagram @ is because you still have not told me, Esther!” 

At this, Esther rolled her eyes. This was just typical, all in a day’s lunch. Her friend would hound her about not following his microcosm of a fever dream while she would miserably try to look out the broken window pane from an awkward angle to dream about the very place she wished to be all the way down Jamaica Ave. Following the gray cement road is what would lead her eyes, and mind, to the Jamaican Estates. 

She really couldn’t wait to get out of here; her performing arts school had lost its shiny luster quite a while ago but luckily the commute to get here wasn’t too bad, she only had to walk three blocks from 88th which, in total, took four minutes (if she ran, and this was deducting the time it took if she were to stop and buy a lukewarm coffee just outside the Queens Public Library).

Esther really felt his eyes on her now. She knew that his brain was suspended in time due to never receiving an answer, or really, never getting that knowing notification from his phone that he had a follower request. 

She stood up abruptly, the rubber ends on wooden chair legs screeching against the linoleum tile to mark the beginning of her departure, and walked toward the aperture to get a better picture of what she really wanted to see: the Jamaican Estates. She was almost ashamed to admit it, but her vantage point of the Estates at this height afforded her a richer luxury than she had ever dreamed; the neighborhood’s handsome Tudor-style houses with their monochrome crimson tile roofs and neatly pruned sidewalk hedges stood out from the tight packing of the rest of the city.

Once, Esther and her Aunt took a self-led walking tour around the Jamaican Estates. She enjoyed her surroundings and atmosphere thoroughly in the brief two hours of a summer day they were there. The lack of gum that stuck to the sidewalks and the quiet, battery-powered cars—Nissans and Audis—that didn’t bother anyone who was trying to create Instagram starter packs. 

From behind her back she heard a voice say, “It’s an aspiration, Esther. You can dream or you can pair together tidbits of the life you wished you lived together.”