The bus, low to the ground, jostled its passengers with each pothole driven over. The wintery streets and generally poor driving conditions made the ride unpleasant for most of the occupants. The heat and humanity crushed inside the shuffling box was mostly silent, each individual wanting to get to their destination sooner rather than later.
The only thing disrupting the noise were two mothers. Between the two sat a man reading a book. Its contents spread wide, one hand holding down an edge, the other curled around his bookmark. He didn't seem bothered by the noise or the turbulent scene outside his window. To the outside world it seemed like another bookworm lost in a boook.
The mother behind him cooed to her daughter, asking if she wanted Goldfish or an apple. The child responded, her voice filled with the high pitch happiness of someone getting what they wanted. From behind the man came shuffling noises, and soon enough the pleased smackings of food being eaten. Asking her daughter about playtime with a friend, she praised her daughter for being so intelligent and clever as each tale was told.
The situation in front of him, however, was a different story. Obviously tired and frustrated, the mother sighed and looked out the window. Her son kicking his boots in the air and turning to face the people around him. Reaching out, he placed his hand on one of the men nearby and looked, wide eyed, upwards at him. Surprised, the large man looked down at the child and pursed his lips. Glancing over, apologies were ushered and a raised voice met the boys curiousity. The miffed tone of voice telling him not to touch grown ups and their things. For a moment, the child stayed still in his seat.
Glancing upwards from his book, a small hand pointing at a word on the page snagged the book-reading man's gaze. Tracing its origin, the two males eyes met. Amused, the man smiled: encouraged the young boy posed his question:
"Is this a grown-up thing?"
The smile still on his face, the man nodded. Eyes alight, the child shifted in his seat to face him better. His mouth working up and down as he looked for the words to say. Just as the child found his place and smiled the mother descended. Telling him to leave the man alone, seeing his furrowed brow at her words, she pulled her son back onto his seat and chatised him once more.
Brows slightly drawn together, the man found himself in thought. Observing the two children and their parents actions and words. The girl behind him, complimented and encouraged as she told her story and sat with her mother. The boy in front of him, disciplined with angry words at his curiousity. The man sighed slightly, wondering how different the two parents days might have been like, if today was simply a bad day for the mother in front of him and a good one for the one behind. He thought to himself how he might have spoken to the lad in front of him if he was his own, minding his tone of voice and explaining why without yelling. Much like the woman behind him, who, as her daughter asked her a million questions, answered calmly, answering each question with a full explanation so the child would understand.
At these thoughts, he turned the page and shifted in his seat. But soon enough the aggravated voice in front of him was scolding the boy again. His crime this time asking if he could have an apple as well, his eyes peering over the book-reading man's shoulder at the girl behind. Unable to focus on his book anymore, the man watched the eyes of the child. So wide, so innocent, and full of wanting! So ready to explore and see what was out there! That unashamed curiousity, the lack of social pressure to not just reach out and tap someone for their attention. It made him inwardly cringe slightly as the mother raised her voice again, stamping on that sense of adventure in an attempt to force him to behave.
The man packed his book away as his bus stop creeped closer. Sadly, watching the mother stand and scold the child and haul him out at the next stop. Looking down at the paper in front of him, he hoped for the best for both of the mothers he had seen. Closing his bag and shifting it onto his shoulder he thought of the child's questions.
"Is this a grown up thing?"