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As the train lurches back into action after a short stop to let more commuters on, I stumble backwards slightly. Not enough to completely lose my footing mind you, but enough to where I accidentally bump into the person behind me.
I turn around (taking out one of my earbuds while I do so to make sure I’m not screaming) to mutter a half-assed apology when to my surprise I see no one standing behind me at eye level.
There is, however, a child, with a backpack on that is as big as his entire body. He’s watching an episode of The Office on his iPhone X, absolutely transfixed by whatever it is that is happening on his screen.
That he is more than likely under ten years old is the first thing that registers in my brain. Why is this boy watching a show about the mundanity of office life? More importantly, why does the smirk on his face suggest that he understands the subject matter?
I don’t think the kid even noticed that I bumped into him. From the outfit he was wearing, I knew that he was on his way to an upscale private school in downtown Chicago and it boggled my mind to see him on the train alone.
I turned back around, unable to concentrate on the podcast that was coming through my headphones. The interaction with him was so incredibly disconcerting I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
I thought back to when my backpack was as big as I was. My mother would walk me to the bus stop each morning and then sometimes even follow behind the bus in her car because I didn’t like being away from her.
In public settings, I would hug my mother or father’s leg frozen in fear of everything around me, and yet this fucking kid is on a train car packed wall to wall with adults, in one of the largest cities in the country, on his way to school alone like it’s no big deal.
Another day as I was leaving work and headed to a bar with some coworkers, I stopped off in a convenience store to buy to a Red Bull. It was a Thursday night and daddy needed a little pick me up before the night could really truly begin.
As I exited the shop an adolescent no older than 12 or 13 years old stopped me and asked if he could bum a cigarette. First of all, I said in my head matter of factly, I only smoke cigarettes when I’m drunk now. I quit chain smoking years ago, and you asking me for a loosey is not helping my fiendish brain from going back into that store and buying myself a freshie pack of Camel Blues. Out loud, I flatly refused him and began walking away.
The kid shrugged me off without a moments hesitation after I told him no. I’m sure I was one of ten or fifteen people he had asked. Surely someone eventually obliged and bought him that pack of Parliaments that he was asking for.
City kids are just a different breed of human. They’re not like other kids their age that grow up riding their bikes around in suburban neighborhoods. They’re grittier and altogether more grown-up. I would not be surprised if that kid who asked me to bum a smoke was already having sex.
Have you ever seen the movie Kids? It’s a disturbing premise but worth a watch none the less. It’s about a group of teens (of various ages) that live in New York City in the ‘90s. They spend their days skateboarding around the city and trying to find an apartment where no parents are home so that they can smoke weed and drink alcohol that they’ve stolen from bodegas.
Up until like my twelfth birthday, I didn’t really enjoy staying over at other people’s homes. I would get uncomfortable being away from my parents for long periods of time and my home environment, which was smack dab in the middle of Suburbia – the farthest thing you could possibly get from the city.
And none of this commentary should be taken as me saying that we should be scared of city kids, it’s just interesting to see how they go about their everyday life in comparison to a suburban kid who wouldn’t be able to hack it for five minutes outside of the friendly confines of his or her suburb.
I’ve noticed since moving back to Chicago just how truly independent a kid who is born and raised in a city like this is. They’re not scared of anything and I get the feeling that they’re just introduced to adult vices at a much earlier age than their suburban counterparts. I don’t know if I find it uncomfortable, intriguing, or something in between – all I know is that city kids are odd birds..
Image via Dailymotion