Figuring It Out

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, another day, another dollar. Aren’t I just the greatest thing that ever existed? The peak of existence, I tells ya. Yeah, see. I’m just so great… well, maybe. Or maybe I’m just full of shit.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, don’t you know it, a woman with a stroller is getting on the bus. Is this going to fuck up my routine, my rhythm? What the hell, she’s taking forever!

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

But her face is strained, she looks tired. The kid isn’t really paying attention to anything that’s happening, and this poor lady is just trying to figure out how to get to her destination without completely losing it.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

This mother is doing everything she can! Look at her, taking the bus on her own with a big-ass stroller that’s taking up way more space than she would care to take up in the first place.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I make brief eye contact with her and we exchange knowing glances, even though I know absolutely nothing (first-hand) about being a mother or providing for a family. Even being a woman, for that matter.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I get a look at the kid in the stroller, their eyes darting around to see the new sights, soaking them in like a sponge. Inquisitive. Colors everywhere. Information streaming in that may never leave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

We lock eyes. I grin from ear to ear. He/she/they smile back, and keep the eye contact going. I have to look away after a couple seconds, for fear of other people noticing this interaction with a small child.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I think that this person could be a leader, a future president. I don’t want to spoil their innocence by selfishly avoiding their gaze. Their innocence can only stretch so far in the face of cynicism. I put my hand in the air and wave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I look at the time, and it turns out that I’m going to make it to work without delay anyway. All that worrying, all the hand-wringing for things that were ultimately out of my control.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Where is this kid going, anyway? What are they going to want to do with their life? They obviously have a mom who wants the best for them. These are all things that probably won’t be reckoned with for some years (hopefully, if ever).

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Was I like that bright-eyed kid on the bus when my mom was taking me to work with her on my days off from school? Hopping on the blue line and talking about the little things we noticed on the platform and in the tunnel? Were there older people on the train making that same kind of eye contact with me? Did they avoid my gaze after a couple of seconds?

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Here’s my stop. One last glance at the mother and child is enough to charge me up for work, to give me that one last pause before I have to deal with the deluge of humans who may or may not know what’s good for them. But hey, we’re all figuring it out in our own time.