My son is already sleeping 2000 miles away as I sit here in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose watching boys be boys. The sky is dark outside Carlos’ window. He is tucked under the I Spy quilt, or maybe the zoo blanket. I imagine he’s wearing his “Beep Beep It’s Time to Sleep” pajamas but I don’t know because G has been putting him to bed while I’ve been at BlogHer. In the whirl of the conference, I had distractions to keep my mind from wandering to what I am missing at home. But today, there’s plenty of time to sit in the breezy sunshine of California and imagine my baby so much closer to dusk, closer to sleep.
I picked a bench in the shade of a sycamore tree, not knowing that I had a ringside seat to the show. One by one, the teenage boys arrived on their bikes. Knit hats pulled low, ear buds, skater shoes tucked into Velcro straps to hold their feet on the pedals. Like most teenage boys, they ached with cool detachment. They lined themselves up, taking turns at the wide open space of the plaza. I could sense that there was a pecking order that they knew as to who would go first and who got to ride alone and who had to share.
After the first boy flipped his bike in the air and nailed the landing, I gasped with delight and almost clapped. They eyed me and remembered not to smile. They started to preen when my camera came out. I asked one guy if I could take his picture and he nodded. He took his turn, attempted a mid-air twirl, and busted it. His friends pitched shit his way. One guy yelled, “Is the bike OK?” and they laughed quietly.
Their tricks grew ballsier as more people stopped to watch. Swooping and spinning then stopping en pointe. Hopping along the granite steps and riding backwards on one wheel. Weaving together and taking turns. A new guy showed up, going too fast and the coolest of the cool yelled, “Coming in hot!” Every rider braked for safety. When a little girl toddled across the plaza to her mother, every boy stopped his bike. It was sweet to see, how they maintained that teenage frisson and the gentleness of someone older and the joy of someone younger. These boys are masters of balance.
Then I heard an awful wet plop a few feet from me. With a mother’s reflexes, I assumed someone was barfing up slurpee after too much sun and fun. But no. A grizzled man in brown corduroy pants had taken off his shirt to bathe himself in the water fountain. He used a pine green wash cloth from the bundle of possessions in his cart. He took his time. The boys rode past the homeless man with the same gentle respect they had given the little girl–making room for everyone.
That’s when I thought about Carlos, tucked safe in his bed in Georgia. Which of these boys will my boy become? Will he be the teenager on the bike? The ringleader of the one coming in hot? The young father watching from the benches? The tired man pushing the ice cream cart or the homeless man bathing in the water fountain?