My other new friend is a little more mysterious, evocative of the past for me. I do not yet know his name. (It is not the sort of thing that one can always just ask.) He is, I would guess, 3. I see him, every night, bundled into his heavy coat, a serious black coat meant to last the winter and beyond. It has room to grow, it is down to his knees. When he is done with it, no doubt it will go to his sister-- who is a soundless wrapped bundle in the stroller. Their mother gets off at Stillwell too, so they ride with me all the way. She is limp with exhaustion, her dark brown face slack, She leans against the wall, boneless in her own heavy coat. Her hand is on him, making sure of him, every night. Her foot is against the locked wheel of the stroller. But she forces an eye open every night, to check on him, to check on the baby. She can doze but that is all.
Most nights he is asleep against her side. Most nights he is so out that she has to steer him when they leave. Small child's sleep is flexible, he walks at her instruction, with his eyes shut.
But last night he was awake. I sat down next to him. He was playing some game with his hands, pretending, making that little voice that little kids make when they are doing characters. I think I must have made my near hand a character too and said something in that 'nnnr-nnr' not really voice.
"I think you should take me to Chuckee-Cheese," He said. "We would have fun."
"You like Chuckee-Cheese?" I said.
"It is my best place!" His fingers spread out stiff with excitement as he said this. His mouth opened in a big smile, showing all his baby teeth.
"What do you like about it?" I said.
This was too much-- he shook his head, eyes wide.
"I bet I know," I said. "You like the games, and the lights, and the pizza, and you can run and make lots of noise?"
His mother opened one eye, wearily. She gave me a slight nod.
"When I get home I am going to eat lolipops!" He said. This did not seem likely.
"Lolipops are great," I said. "But more for the middle of the day. At night they make your teeth all sticky." His mother gave a slight smile.
So we talked, a few more minutes, and it was time to go. He held his hand out to me. His fingers made a curved shape in the air. I held my hand out cupped. He set the imaginary something into my hand. Not knowing what he intended, I ate it.
"It is a blessing," he said. "It tastes like bananas."
Tonight I may ask his name.