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I made it home with some heartbreakers

This post was originally published a year ago on whathannahmade; the precursor to Smallest Soul, but it's still one of my favourites and I wanted it to live here too. enjoy xx

I rode the bus home today. It's a trip I take almost every day, but tonight was different.
Tonight was a particularly cold and rainy Monday night, the kind that feels darker than most and the rain comes in sideways with the wind and everyone is sort of wincing. You know those nights?
People are running across wet roads and huddling under poor excuses for shelters and trying to be decent and patient with other passengers while actually just desperate to get on the bus.
The number one was late and sticky and people just kept piling in until we were all packed in there like sardines. Tight and touching and sort of damp.

I'm always amazed by my fellow commuters. How is it that we can be in such close proximity to one another yet be so good at avoiding eye contact and conversation. Close and yet so very distant.
I came face to face in the aisle with a young boy, about 11 or 12 would be my guess. This kid had a fluro rain coat on, backpack almost as big as him, thick glasses and a hat pushed so firmly down on his head that his eye brows were having a hard time keeping it off his eyes. I later observed that this was the fault of his mother; the lady (with an equally large bag) travelling with him.
And this kid was singing a song about the periodic table.
I shared a smile with a fellow passenger as we watched this kid recite the elements, in no particular order.
Hydrogen, Neon, Oxygen, Calcium, Arsenic.
Arsenic.
Giggle. Emphasis on the Arse.
More giggling.
I giggled too.
His mother shushed him. I asked him if that was his favourite, to which he nodded and continued to recite all the ones he knew.
The bus heaved to at the next stop, passengers moved down the aisle, people climbed on while the bus spat out others onto the wet pavement.
Carbon, Sodium, Iodine.
Polonium, Arsenic. More giggling.
More shushing from mother.
This was a particularly pleasant and chatty child. I overheard about his day, the things that had happened in his life, the way his teacher had spoken to their class, the things he was looking forward to about tomorrow.
His mother shushed him again. Push the hat down.
More shushing.
It soon became evident that this mother was rather embarrassed by her child's nattering. I listened to her interrupt her child over and over, urging him to speak quietly, to speak to her and not the whole bus.
If I'm honest, I started to dislike her a little.
I started to watch her and listen to her more than her delightful child. I watched as her eyes darted around the bus as her son spoke to her. I watched her shush him, again and again. I watched her hear her son's volume but not his words. Her child was not loud or obnoxious, and no one on the bus was bothered in the slightest. His arsenic routine had even garnered a few smiles from otherwise wet and miserable strangers.
More shushing. Are you getting annoyed now? I was.
Passengers shuffled. Breaks squeaked and rain continued to slush against the windows.
The bus emptied as we got closer to the Bay and I found myself sitting opposite these two characters.
And then they broke my heart.
I was staring out the window watching the lights make patterns on the glass when I tuned into their conversation once more. It had moved on from the elements.
I listened to this son tell his mother about how he was excited to one day be a fire fighter, but if he couldn't be a fire fighter, then he figured a paramedic would be okay too.
His mother told him to speak a little quieter.
And then she proceeded to tell him that both of those jobs require a person to be good under pressure, able to work in a team and to be able to listen to instructions, all of which he could not do.
I am not exaggerating. That's exactly what she said.
She then very helpfully suggested that if he wanted something with flashing lights he could consider the road marking team. "You know, those guys who use traffic cones and mark the roads?"
Her young son sighed exasperatedly.
"I'd never do that. I want to help people."
His mother shook her head. There are other ways to be a hero she said.

And then it was my stop.
And I couldn't stop thinking about this poor kid as I made the final walk home in the rain.
Arsenic.
Do you know how Arsenic kills a person? I didn't. I looked it up though.
In my limited understanding of anything scientific, I have learned that it's extremely poisonous.
It can be hidden in substances and consumed without knowledge. It does not take a lot, but it causes multiple organ failure. Arsenic poisoning is extremely painful and causes death unless detected in very early stages.
Not so much giggling.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8
My heart broke for this kid.
My siblings and I are fortunate to have parents who believed in the beauty of our dreams, blindly at times, but firmly in conviction. They instilled in us from a very young age that we could be and do whatever we wanted in life, as long as we worked hard at it and put our minds to it. They did not promise us that any dream was easily attainable, nor did they guarantee that things would be without challenges and obstacles. They did not promise us that life would come without failure, but they always encouraged us to pursue our dreams and goals.
They never suggested a lesser dream, or that we be content with a mediocre life.
There are times in your life when you wish you had spoken up.
I wish I had looked this kid in the eye and told him that I thought a paramedic was a great career choice. I wish I had told him that I could see his genuine heart to help people, and that I would want him driving the ambulance if I was in trouble.
I wanted to tell him that sometimes, exposure to poison is unavoidable, but if he detected it early, he could learn how to filter it out. I wanted to tell him to speak louder and not to be quiet about the causes that he cared about. I wanted to encourage him to live a life that embraced ideas and hopes and dreams and stories, a life lived out loud. I wanted to assure him there are worse things than being heard, and that he would continue to make strangers smile.
I wanted to thank his mother for challenging me. For reminding me that my words can be honey or poison, and that I can be a builder or a breaker. I wanted to ask her that if she may consider the effect that being a source of public embarrassment for her will have on her child. I wanted to thank her for reminding me that it does no harm to listen to children, for they often have incredible things to teach us.


Extra Small
Yay you made it to the very end. Here are some extra things you might want to know...
This post was originally published a year ago on whathannahmade; the precursor to Smallest Soul, but it's still one of my favourites and I wanted it to live here too.

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