He appeared one day on the street corner to sell newspapers with his father. He caught your attention, and you studied him. He was a gangly boy of about 13 with arms and legs he hadn’t quite grown into. His face was open and fresh, his eyes were bright, and he had that exuberance that you only see with youth. He walked side by side with his father, both of them wearing baseball caps, and in between running to cars to deliver papers, they conversed and laughed and smiled. You wondered what they talked about. You smiled when they smiled. It was his innocence that attracted you.
There was no other innocence on that street corner. The same beggars asked you for money every day, the same vendors tried to sell you trinkets, the same performers would do their tricks then ask for money. All the faces were weary with the weight of life, and everyone competed for the few pesos that were given out.
But he was fresh, and young, and happy. You bought papers from him. He was the bright spot of your morning commute. You wondered what his life was like. Would he ever get an education? There was an intelligence that gleamed from behind those eyes. Would he spend his life on that corner? And you wondered what twist of fate had kept you from a life like his. What fine distinction kept you from living on the street or in abject poverty? What separated you from him?
Then one day he was gone. Perhaps he was in school. You liked that idea, but you missed his smile. A few weeks went by and he reappeared on that corner. Your heart thudded in your chest when you saw that his arm was in a cast. What had happened to him? You felt a bit of nausea when you saw his face. The smile, the light, the joy was gone, replaced by hardened eyes and bruises. His jaw was set as he hawked his papers. He did not laugh and talk with his father or with anyone else. He simply existed, a shell of the boy you had seen before, and you wanted to cry for his loss of innocence.
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