Small World

A glasses-wearing, grey-haired gent in a brown peaked hat sits next to a wiry, teenaged lad with dark, close-cut curly hair. Mismatched twins, each is clad in a heavy navy coat and trainers. I search their faces for bloodline traces, but discern no physical resemblance.

A gorgeous, smooth-skinned, black-eyed boy, of around three, boards the bus. He is dressed for the weather—snow boots and a cream woolly hat with ear muff plaits. It has a red zig-zag pattern across the brow. When he takes it off, he reveals dead straight, dark glossy hair with a tufty crown. This boy is stunning.

His mother wrestles with the pushchair, tries to settle the baby. The boy sits himself on one of the fold-down seats. Both men, young and old, share obvious delight at the sight of this child. They are all crinkled eyes and easy grins.

The bus pulls away—the boy jolts.

The mismatched twins instinctively move as one. Hands outstretched, ready to steady the black-eyed beauty should he need it.

My eyes pool. The beauty of the moment catches in my throat.

The whole world is suddenly contained in this moving metal machine.

On the surface, the mother, her child, the young lad and the elderly gent have little in common. They span generations; cross genders, cultures and countries.

It is easy to imagine them being wary in a different context. I imagine the mother and the teen crossing paths in a dark alleyway. How her heart might quicken and her mouth go dry at the sight of him. But this kind of thinking only serves to tighten us up. Stops us from seeing a soul. Leads us to do, or say, things we would never dream of otherwise. It strips us of our human kindness, makes us judge. It closes our eyes to the beauty of diversity. Of natural human variance. Difference is something we learn to see. Once seen, we separate.

As I watch the scene unfold like acts in a play, all I can think is “remember the child in you”. Grown, or growing, we are all still children of the universe. Connected to life. Full of innocence and joy, curiosity and compassion. Beneath the make-believe of our minds we are but love.

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