Saturday, April 26, 2014

Field Trip

Faith has a face. Today it is stubbled and lined, weary. Faith wears a baseball cap artfully placed to conceal a bald spot, or two. Faith wears jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. Faith keeps a Diet Coke by his thigh, the bottle tipped, too skinny to fit properly into the vehicle's cup holder. I implore Faith to drink that Diet Coke. Faith adjusts the side view mirrors and sighs, a bone-deep sigh. He coughs and clears his throat. I wonder: has he slept? Has he slept enough?

Forty children on this bus. No, they are not children. They occupy the uncomfortable space between children and teenagers. A gum-smacking, malodorous, coltish space. He, Faith, sees a mass of pimpled, noisy, rude riders. I see the toughest part of youth, so tough that this age group is segregated from older and younger kids into a three-grade outpost we unironically call middle school. I see the tears each and every one of these awkward bodies shed at night, when they believe no one is looking. I see diaries with scrawled secrets, especially poignant because in reality the secrets are not secret at all.

And I beg Faith to keep these incipient people safe, to bring them home, in all their lovely unloveliness. They are becoming. Think of the hideous cocoon that encases the chrysalis. Remember what comes next. These forty kids, they are all potential.

Perhaps, Faith, as you drive, you flash back to your own unlovely years. Did they scar you? They enabled the best years of your life, whenever those were, however many there were. I guess by your appearance that for you those best years have come and gone. Still: they survive in your head, don't they?

Your cargo is precious. Today I will go to work and fear getting a phone call. I will consider just how often we call strangers by the name Faith. I will encourage you to go ahead and take a second sip of that Diet Coke. 

And when the tweens are stomping on that last nerve of yours, find the empathy I know you possess, because you lived there once, on that bus, in that school, in that no-man's land where you are no longer cute but not yet interesting.


Christine said...

I see my 13 year old on this bus and all those I also call "Faith."

Elizabeth said...

" that no-man's land where you are no longer cute but not yet interesting."

Isn't that it exactly. You are so well able to place yourself in others' shoes.

Mary Gilmour said...