The kippot-sporting teen lopes across the street in front of me, slightly hunching into a quintessentially post-pubescent slump-walk gait — a newly tall creature still trying to conform to its smaller self of summers past. His physicality now a bizarre competition of what was and what his bones have cracked him into being. He clutches his tall Starbucks container like a small bird, and I can only surmise that the caffeine-rich container belies its cocoa contents.
Regardless, it appears more like his prop than fuel — like a youthful cane supporting him as he continues his short trek across the faded crosswalk, which holds the sputtering cars at bay like some sort of force field.
Sunlight beams down through the fog, illuminating the quartz flecks embedded in the pavement, making it appear as though the crosswalk is lighting in sync with the teen’s stride. Tom Hanks in Big pops into my mind, and I smile a little as I think how all of us wish for and savor those moments of being a kid, while retaining the experiential arsenal of an adult — a most cherished liminal state.
The teen reaches the other side of the road like some punchline of a joke, and I glance into the rear view mirror, and catch the line of drivers behind me — like a visual echo, each face tracking and morphing the further back I scan. And I think of the particular tiers of anxiety and stress they’re steeling themselves for as the teen adjusts his backpack, likely mentally rehearsing the litany of textbooks he’s supposed to have for the day, before turning to the line of cars momentarily, then cutting around the corner into the school yard.
His moment of acknowledging those metallic beasts hovering around him makes me remember how I would stare out to the lines of cars speeding past the school each morning, thinking how lucky they were not to be heading to Precalculus. How the drivers were probably much happier than I.
And I’m sure more than one of them would look at the school with a hint of nostalgia, thinking to themselves how lucky those damn kids were to be so carefree and unburdened by the real world.
But unbeknownst to us, we’re all the same — impostors in unfamiliar, shifting skins.