I’ve just exited the subway. Light rain is falling. Very light. One or two drops every minute. It’s the kind of rain you wouldn’t even notice unless you were bald and wearing no hat, like me, and each drop stung your scalp.
Coming around the corner ahead, by Father Demo Square, a chubby kid in a parochial school uniform. White shirt, khaki pants, black-rim glasses. Looks to be about 12. In junior high or almost there. I say chubby because it takes a lot of work to be fat at that age. He is simply trapped in a body that grew out before it grew up. In his left hand, he holds an enormous black umbrella, sheathed in a telescoping plastic holster. If he held it upright, you’d see the umbrella was more than half his height.
The boy looks uncomfortable walking. The umbrella is throwing off his balance. He walks like he’s not quite sure what to do with his legs. Like he doesn’t want to be where he is, but he wants to reach his destination even less.
He nears the point where the street straightens out and becomes 6th Avenue. There, by a sickly little tree sprouting bike locks, a pigeon is startled by his approach. The pigeon is near the boy’s eye level for a split second. During that split second, he raises his umbrella defensively, perpendicular to his body. Like this pigeon is a vampire and the umbrella is a half-finished crucifix.
The pigeon flutters away. The boy puts down his umbrella and looks defeated, utterly defeated. I can almost see a thought bubble above his head, I can’t believe I did that.
Something in me wants to stop the boy and give him some kind of It gets better spiel, but I know that would be a lie. He might outgrow this body, but the Scared Fat Kid stays within you forever. He lopes on his way past me, on his way to a place where is learning how to hate himself.