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Cool Kid

March 29, 2009

I see this cool kid on the streetcar every morning. He’s pale and slightly built, with bird-wing shoulder blades and feathery blond hair. Two weeks ago, he dyed it turquoise–this drew the girls like a flock to a pile of birdseed. They plucked and pecked, chittering about how cute he looked, did he do his homework for French class, oh my god that test was so hard, doesn’t he agree it was so unfair? The cool kid was ringed by their huddle, dwarfed by girls with a four-inch head-start on puberty. Still, he was cool. He had coloured hair, he clutched the bar as the streetcar rounded the bend at Spadina Ave, let his backpack droop, shuffled his left foot then his right. Told the girls, yeah, the test was sort of ok.

He wasn’t showing off, wasn’t shy or uninterested. He just wasn’t into those girls. They were fine to talk with, but he could take or leave their attention. He has cute hair, now faded to a milky blue, he has his headphones and his pale cheeks. He has ok grades, judging by his opinion of the math test. Probably, he could have a crush on a few of the girls…if he felt like it…but he doesn’t. Feel like, that is.

He reminds me of Trevor, the boy my girlfriends and I loved through grade eight and the summer before grade nine. We had brand-new boobs, deliberate hair styles, braces, mascara. We wore all four terribly–ill-fitting training bras, too much Aqua Net, headgear, globs of black ringing our eyes. We flipped our hair and rolled our shoulders, rocked hand-on-hip. We gabbed about ridiculous things, intended to impress Trevor, to show him we were super-mature, definitely girlfriend material. Totally the one(s) for him.

But, he had his skateboard, he had Richard and Edmund, he had trackpants with a rip in the knee. Trackpants. Even surrounded by our drugstore perfume and petting hands, this kid wasn’t getting boners! If he was, surely he’d take precautions against popping evidence that we were getting to him. If there was a chance he liked us, he’d have upgraded to sturdy, restraining denim. But no. He was immune to our advances, content to chuck rocks and practice ollies and make armpit farts with Rich.

In grade nine, Trevor moved away, his dad was in the army and shunted his family from place to place. Turns out this was the kiss of death for his son’s coolness–by the time Trevor returned in grade ten, the girls had moved on. We had boyfriends a couple grades ahead of us, beginner driving permits, periods and proper handbags. We knew where to buy decent perfume, how to pull beer on Friday nights, where to gather and hang out–not at the skate park.

The blue-haired kid on the streetcar rides alone most mornings, the girls crowding around him when their transit schedules intersect. He reads and flicks the dial on his iPod, brushes his bangs from his eyes with the palm of his hand. Leans his head against the glass and shifts in his seat. I wonder how cool he’ll be after summer holidays, whether he’ll stay tiny or sprout taller, what’ll happen when the girls move on. Today, he looks like probably, he doesn’t give a crap about any of that. Mostly, he just thinks about getting to school.

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