It was a busy and crowded day at work. I finally got on my first bus home and realized I’d missed a phone call from Emma; she’d called almost an hour earlier. There was no message. I’d planned on spending the first bus ride unwinding while scrolling idly through Facebook but really wanted to know why Emma had called. We ended up spending the whole trip chatting.
I got onto my next bus and figured that would be my unwinding time. I had my finger on the Facebook icon when a little kid plunked down beside me. Little kids like me when I’m on my way home from work. I probably smell like doughnuts.
The mother had three kids, multiple snacks, and a big stroller to navigate. She handled all of them well. The kid beside me had longish hair in a girl’s cut and a girl’s name but everything else screamed boy… from the large Spiderman action figure, clothes directly from the boy’s department, and dark blue and red Spiderman sandals. She bounced and fidgeted in her seat, flipping Spiderman around the seat-rest of the empty seat ahead of her then through the air, only pausing long enough to hold four fingers in the air when I asked her age.
“I have a Spiderman mask,” she commented. “I forgot it at home.”
I grabbed her arm as she swooped her toy a bit more enthusiastically and nearly tumbled out of the seat.
“My little boy wore a Spiderman costume one year,” I said idly, once she was upright again. “But he’s not very little anymore.”
I debated on showing her his photo. In one way it felt a bit like opening a can of worms and besides, little kids aren’t usually interested in looking at photos of a stranger’s kid. I threw caution to the wind and swiped my phone back on anyway.
“This is my boy,” I said as I flipped to Jeremy’s picture.
“He’s a boy?” she blurted. “He looks like a girl.” I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes get that wide before.
“Yes,” I replied. “He does look like a girl but he likes being called he.”
“He really looks like a girl though,” she said in amazement. She moved her head a bit closer and stared, absolutely entranced. “He looks like a girl.”
“Yes, he does,” I repeated. “Sometimes boys can look like girls and sometimes girls can look like boys.” I figured that was fairly safe to say.
“He got a purple cake,” she said, her eyes still glued to the screen. She’d been sitting almost motionless for about a minute by then. I had a feeling this might have the quietest she’d been all day, apart from sleeping. I flipped to another photo and showed her how his candle opened up and spun.
“He looks like a girl,” she said once more. That was when I showed her Mom Jeremy’s picture as well, figuring “the boy who looks like a girl” might feature prominently in the conversation once they were off the bus. Mom deserved to know what the heck she was talking about.
I turned the phone back to the kid while the Mom and I talked about long hair on boys. How her toddler’s hair had such cute ringlets but he didn’t like them lying hot and sticky on his neck.
Then it was their stop.
“Say goodbye to the nice lady,” her mother prompted. The kid turned and waved, her hand opening and closing into a fist, Spiderman clutched in her other hand, sailing through the air beside her. And then they were gone.