A few weeks ago a boy no older than twelve years old threw a bottle of Sprite at me. A full bottle. I'm just thankful it wasn't a can.
I was coming around a corner and we accidentally bumped into each other. I dropped my notebook. He dropped his cellphone.
"Watch where you're fucking going!" he said, and I quickly stepped back, not being used to strangers swearing and yelling at me.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"Better fucking be sorry," he said, and then I fully saw him. A little boy. Big baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt on a little boy. So I laughed and stood tall.
"Watch your mouth," I said. "You don't have to swear." I took a step closer, and the boy put his arms up, preparing to strike.
"Back the fuck up!" he said. "Back up!" And I should have. I should have left and gone home, but instead I moved closer. There was no reason for him to yell. People bump into each other. It happens. And for whatever reason I was infuriated the boy couldn't realize that. And I just imagined him getting older and bigger, yelling and swearing, more and more, at stupid, little, pointless things that didn't matter.
Nothing would change him, unless I made him change.
"I said watch your mouth," I said, and we stared at each other, both waiting for the the next move. Sweat dripped down my cheek, I clenched my teeth, and we paused, long enough for me to realize how ridiculous it all was. And that's when the boy threw a bottle of Sprite at my chest. POP! It bounced to the ground, obviously causing me no harm, but still making me retreat, since I have little experience with soft drinks ricocheting off my body.
"Fuck you!" the boy said, and he ran off. I bent over, then remained still, catching my breath and watching the big pants and hooded sweatshirt get smaller in the distance. I wanted to chase him, and I almost did. I wanted to throw him on the ground and say something that actually mattered and could change everything in his world, whatever it was. But I did nothing. Because even if I did catch him there was nothing for us to say, only more yelling and throwing.
So I stood tall and waved, though I know he couldn't see it.
And now I'm very careful walking around that corner.