I ran into an acquaintance recently. I am not good at small talk. My conversation in person is usually very stilted. People are usually disarmed by to what extent. So there we were. I suppose to break the awkward silence she asked, "So do you have any children?" And immediately my mind went back to that time in Reading in that park. Was it called Forbury Park? And that kid that appeared out of the mist. He did, didn't he? Almost as if on queue.
Remember how I laughed and laughed as you hated to see him coming our way. But that kid was the best. Absolutely the best. Remember how I talked to him for hours? In the drizzle, no less. I was utterly enthralled by him. I really was. Entranced, really. I love kids like that. The street urchin kids. The ones that everyone else has written off. Remember how I told you that no doubt his thinking was that if no one respects him, why should he respect anyone else?
And how I said, amid all the talk of cigarette smoking and getting kicked out of x amount of schools and everyone being a jerk but him...remember what I said? How I said if you took all of that energy that he had invested into being belligerent and mouthy and the alpha male of his little pack and channelled it into something positive, then one day a kid like that could stand on the floor of Parliament. Remember?
He got my allusion when I said to him straight-out that he was something out of a Dickens novel. Remember his reply? "Yes, the Artful Dodger." He got it. The kid wasn't stupid. He was just apathetic and had a chip on his shoulder the size of a sequoia stump. But dumb? Far from it. I find myself thinking about him a lot. I wonder if he ever settled into one school. I wonder if anyone ever got through to him and helped him realize his self-worth. I wonder if he ever took my advice and acted more politely to the populace at large so that everyone wouldn't cringe when they saw him headed their way. I hope that he remembers that one person did believe in him and tried to convey that, if only briefly.
Maybe he will recount one day that some American woman on a chance encounter told him that he was adorable and laughed at all of his antics and validated him and told him that he COULD be anything. And to never doubt that. That the class system thing is there to be defied and what did Churchiill say, "to never ever give up."
And I remember, too, how after he had gone you had told me that you would never have engaged such a kid in conversation if I weren't there but you had thoroughly enjoyed it. And that you didn't realize that about me. And I told you that you had, indeed, learned a few things about me that afternoon. That I liked wrought iron. Black wrought iron. And architecture. And noted that King Henry was an idiot, knocking down all those churches like he had.
And now you are left with just the ruins whereas you could be admiring a no-doubt beautiful church at the edge of this very park. Remember all of that? Remember our little discussion about that kid? How you asked what I would do with a kid like that. And I said, first things first, he needs a good meal, a bath, someone to listen to him and church lessons. Any church would do. He was in dire need of some sort of tenets to live by.
How do you convey all of that in a manageable soundbite with an acquaintance you hardly know? It doesn't really answer her question. But it does tell you where my head is at. I am quirky. I tend to like what others do not. I pride myself on discerning really quickly what is really going on beneath any given surface. I guess that kid exemplified all of that for me on that day.
I remember the last interchange I had with that kid. He had thrown litter on the ground on his way out of the park. In America, we'd say I called him out on it.
Remember what I had said to him: "You are better than that. You need to pick that up and throw it out in the bin." I am sure he was unused to anyone phrasing something to him in that way. Telling him that he should want to pick up the trash he just threw on the ground as he was better than that. And remember what he did? He did pick it up — without fanfare. Maybe on that afternoon he realized he wanted to show the world his better self.
Have something to say? Start blogging on Middletown Patch today!