When I was eight and a half months pregnant with Westley, we moved out of our house in the 'burbs and into a finished basement in the city. With our new digs came a new commute for me on a bus that passes three schools on its way to downtown. I would sit near the back door and rest my heavy work bag on the seat beside me for the first part of the trip, watching the space around me slowly fill up with a rainbow of teenage flavors. Eventually, I'd have to move my bag onto my almost non-existent lap and share my seat with a girl doing permanent damage to her hearing with a too-loud iPod, or a guy who thought Axe Body Spray could take the place of a shower. And I would feel very grouchy and put upon because I was all pregnant and had to pee again and these damned teenagers were infringing upon my personal space. The ride home was similar. Some kid would inevitably ram his viola case or hockey equipment into my shins, and I would have a crotchety little "kids these days" moment in my head.
The week after Halloween, I was riding the bus home, hugely pregnant as usual and especially exhausted. Just as the bus was starting to clear out and I was feeling relieved that I could enjoy the rest of the ride home in a teen-free environment, a trio of high school freshmen boys boarded the bus. They were talking loudly, and they sprawled out on the seats in the front of the bus that are marked as being reserved for "elderly and disabled riders" and which I had decided were also the rightful property of pregnant women in need of some peace and quiet. I heaved a giant, annoyed internal sigh at the boys. One of them reached into his pocket for some M&Ms, and started eating them loudly, smacking as he talked. I wanted to throw something at him.
They were talking about basketball teams: who was good, who was really good. The smallest of the boys was sitting across from me. He made all of his comments in a sort shrill, insistent tone, like he was sure the other boys weren't going to let him talk. He noticed me looking at him, noticed my belly, smiled shyly for half a second, and then pointedly looked back at his friends.
"Adam’s the best," the biggest boy was saying. "But he's a sophomore." The other two agreed. "Joseph'll be in high school next year. Bet nobody'd score on his team." Agreement all around and continued candy-smacking.
"Bryan's good -- he's tall. Avery's good, too, for a girl."
"Whudda ya mean, for a girl? She's good for anyone," the smallest boy said, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
The conversation continued, with no real acknowledgement of this remark, but my mind stopped short. I had assumed that this was one of those macho posturing rituals, and hadn't expected that anyone would speak up for a female basketball player. It occurred to me that the smallest boy's attitude probably came from someone close to him -- like his mother. Then I thought about the baby inside me, and felt kind of sad. These boys weren't just teenagers -- they were each some mom's tiny baby. Someday, this baby in me might grow up to be an annoying, loud-talking, food-smacking bus rider.
Yesterday, I once again found myself annoyed by my fellow teenage passengers. I was tired, and the boys behind me were complaining loudly.
"Did you get a phone yet?"
"[Exasperated sigh.] No."
"Dude, you have to tell your dad you need a cell phone!"
Oh, you do not need a cell phone, I thought. The only people who need cell phones are people who have to be contacted about life and death situations. Doctors need phones. Midwives need phones. You do not need a phone.
Inside my head, I sounded like one of those out-of-touch parents who is like so totally uncool OMG. I thought about my little guy at home. He was probably asleep, with no way of knowing that his mother was already prepared to lecture his teenage self about why he didn't need a piece of technology. Then I thought for a minute about the boy with his basketball-playing friends. Tiny babies, I reminded myself. These boys were all once tiny babies.
When I got home, I scooped Westley up in my arms and kissed his milky, drooly cheeks. He suddenly looked much bigger to me. Not teenager-big, but close enough.