Kids

I ate noodles on a park bench while I watched them.  Two kids were being assholes.  Shouting after half-aged ladies once they were just far away enough to not exactly hear.  “Is that a man?  She’s more like an ape!”  These boys were really bonding.

We had two rows of trees with leaves as pink as green, and we had fresh painted park benches, and beyond the florid flower beds, although we couldn’t see her, the Statue of Liberty was standing out in the water just a stretch away.

The kids bent down to tend their scooters, those narrow foot-powered scooters that are barely better than walking.  One of them wiggled his wheel a little, leaned on the footboard, and the wheel flew out across the sidewalk, rolling itself out near another group of walkers.  “Hey!” the kid called.  “Hey!”  No one heard him, so he yelled, “Bitch!” and scrambled over to get the wheel himself.

I actually knew the passers by, and felt quite confident that they would have handed him back his wheel if they had noticed.  But I was just observing.  No one had noticed me.

I had a box of noodles that were so healthy they didn’t taste very good.  I forced down bite after bite of brown hippie sustenance.  I drank a bottle of water.  I chomped through a Gala apple.  I watched the boys, and looked past them, to the door at the end of the sidewalk.  I had come out of that door a half hour earlier.  Inside that building, I had walked past photos of children who were starved, dragged off to camps, and gassed.  In one case was a stuffed toy bunny, the same size and shape as a bunny I’d once known.

The kids looked at me and my noodles.  “Hey,” one called.  It was a test.  I looked at him real firm and waved and said, “Hey.”  He seemed satisfied.  I tucked my bag against the iron side of the park bench and looked up at the leaves bubbling in the wind.  I could have been looking at the water and the Statue of Liberty.  I didn’t feel like it, though.  I like trees.

When I was in high school, I tagged along on a friend’s family vacation.  I wanted to visit colleges that my father didn’t want me to go to, and hang out with my best friend, but we also made a stop at the baseball hall of fame.  Her brother, the boy who loved the toy bunny, was desperate to see Babe Ruth’s bat.  His sister and I spent that time in a Cooperstown bookstore.  I bought an ancient copy of Hamlet and petted the resident cat.  Then we went to visit another college where tuition exceeded my mother’s annual salary, and students were allowed to bring their own horses.  We changed hotels every night, and every morning there was anxiety about leaving Bunny behind.  He had been left before.

“You suck?  Ten dollar?” one of the kids crowed to the other in a mocking Asian accent.  I thought about something clever and devastating I could say to these kids.  I could knock them back.  I could shame them back into respect.  Then I thought about how embarrassed their parents would probably be.  The parents would probably blush fury.

They stepped up on their scooters and pushed away.  Even leaning back on my bag, I could see them head back into the rumble of downtown.  I could see they were wearing shiny white helmets.  You see, someone loves them, someonen threatens them about those helmets.  Great love was clothing petty cruelty.  Small insults sat right outside infamous human evils, and no one knows what they will grow up to be.

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