****Author’s Note: the other day I was out and I saw two kids walking. They were about a quarter of a mile from the high school and school was out. Classes had been dismissed about a quarter hour before. One of the young men was carrying a full gallon of milk. I assume he had stopped at the nearby convenience stuff and picked it up on his way home. What caught my eye was how he swung it as he walked. It was super teenage carelessness personified. His casual nature told me he had done this before. As I watched I wondered, what’s his story?
In my helmet, through the smoked visor I can still see him as clearly as if I were looking at him right now. Untucked green tee, brown hair to the shoulder–slightly greasy, no bangs, just hanging down covering half his face. Wearing jeans and a pair of black vans; walking accompanied by am unremarkable friend I cannot remember for the life of me. Well, it was another boy but nothing stood out. Maybe if his companion were swinging a gallon of milk as he walked it would have made him memorable too. He swings the milk like a happy girl swings her purse carefree in a 60s magazine ad sort of way. Big smile.
The incongruity of the moment was striking, like finding a diamond in gravel; so unexpected and unique, a Norman Rockwell with a twenty first century twist. The milk boy seems under no duress. There is no angst, no hurry, no burden of breaking from tradition, this is a rote act that has been finished before and will be finished again. Practiced.
Has he ever spilled the milk? What happened if he had? Did he get beaten? Socio-economically he is heading to the trailer park. Is there a Father there? Or only Mom? In winter’s bite does he put the milk in a snow bank and share a few snowballs with friends, launching that barrage of unbridled childhood joy? Does he forget the milk and have to run back and dig it out of the snow?
A fourteen year-old amongst single wides. He could be slave, serf or king. If father is gone he could be the man of the house, fending off hunger or suitors. The outside was a baby but lurking inside could be broken, brutal experience. The old men might call him hooligan or terrorist and he could guilty of both or neither. Kindly widows could expect him to cut whatever lawn there maybe–or he could root through their grandma garbage hoping they threw things out on their expiration dates. Extortion and protection could be his bag. He could be the guy who tagged the stop sign or the one who puts the garbage cans right when they’ve been wrong. Waiting at home could be mom or sis or no one and he might find that disappointing or thrilling or not care at all, all the while intercepting his grades and notifications from school.
Does every scenario end with hair in his face boy running a meth lab or trafficking in black-market babies or human organs? No. He could just be an average kid who comes home to very few things and almost enough love. Average, or just below. Happy. Could be that too.