At the end of particularly long day, I welcomed my quiet time on the train platform. When the train arrived and the doors opened, I expected to see crowds of people, and lots of noise, instead, there was an unlimited selection of seats and calm. I noticed a young black boy, perhaps 5 years old, who appeared to be sitting alone with an oversized knapsack. He was quiet and periodically glanced around the train.
My concern radar was on. I asked the child if he was alone, and if he was okay. He looked up at me and shook his head sideways, so many times, I was afraid he would give himself a headache. Then he pointed to the man sitting across from him who was reading a newspaper. The man lowered his paper, smiled at me and identified himself as the boy’s father.
I looked back the child’s face for confirmation. I was relieved that I didn’t have to call the police to report a small child riding alone.
I sat a few seats away from the man, and we started talking. I explained my concern about the child, who I now knew was his son. He thanked me for my concern and we laughed. I listened to this man proudly speak about his son. He mentioned that this child had arrived in the later years of his life. The father appeared very comfortable with his son’s decision to sit across the aisle from him. I noticed that from time to time, they exchanged words ‘man to man’ style in muffled voices. The father would then return to our conversation about the dangers and dreams of black boys and their fathers.
Eventually the man returned to his newspaper, and I started working on a sketch I started earlier in the day. I started thinking about all the arguing and fussing I had witnessed on trains between younger parents and their children…a battle of wills that did not know any racial boundaries. The parents demanded their children remain seated next to them in perfect silence and stillness. The children responded with tears, screams, and lots of attitude.
As I exited the train, I looked back at the father and son. Unprompted, the small boy stood up, crossed the aisle, and sat with his father. The father loved his son enough to respect the child’s independence, and the son, felt grown up enough to cross the aisle and sit with his father.
Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers…a lot. Her column appears regularly in Oddball Magazine.