Boy with a Tic

The boy with the tic sits beside me. I feel his tic, a jerk in his body, no facial distortions, just a jump, every few seconds like hiccups. The train is not crowded, but he sits right next to me. He picks at his fingernails and the skin around them. I do that too, but I can see he does it a lot more than me.

The boy with the tic looks up to the larger boy, his hands on the subway rail, over him, above him.

"What time does it start?" asks the boy with the tic.

"Five o'clock." The larger boy says.

The boy with the tic tics and looks away, "You are never on time, never. You are always, always late." He says.

The larger boy stares straight ahead.

I cannot see his reaction, the boy with the tic. I can't see his face, his eyes. It is impolite to stare, even more impolite to stare at a boy with a tic. The larger boy looks down.

"Here." He says and gives the boy with the tic a piece of gum.

The boy with the tic shoves the gum in his front pocket. He is wearing black pants and a black button down jacket over a T-shirt with some faded white writing. He is almost dressed a little punk rock and I wonder if he's still in high school. I wonder if the kids at school are nice to him. Would I have been nice to him if he had been a classmate of mine? I picture us in high school. I am very kind, I accept him, I date him. But it isn't true.

He would have scared me. I would have run away. The way I ran away from the boy in first grade, Carlo, who stopped me at the end of the baseball field on my way home, when kids still walked home from school, and said, "I love you."

I screamed and ran past the bike racks, looking behind me just in case he was after me with his lovingness. I sprinted all the way home. I told my mother I would never go back to the first grade.

And what if I become a mother, and my son had a tic? Would I love him as much as a child without one? Would I resent my husband for not relating to our defective son? Would I find him the best schools? Would I be patient? Would I be frustrated and tired?

The larger boy puts headphones on and moves with the rhythm of the train, steadying himself at the stops. The train is crowded now. The boy with the tic sits closer. We are shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. I feel devotion. I imagine I am a great comfort to him, that my acceptance is transdermal. His tic becomes less frequent. He has sensed and is processing my maternal nurturing. Slower and slower with less and less force, his tic almost stops. I see, from the corner of my eye, his head lazily falling toward me. I want to reach up my hand to smooth his hair, but I know he is totally unaware of me.

He has simply fallen asleep.

About the author:

Sarah is the author of the book "You Can Be Anything From A to Z - An Anti Inspirational Guide to Adulthood." Her short stories have appeared on pboz, 42Opus, and AJOP. Bla Bla Bla something funny....bla bla...bla.