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  • While waiting for the J Church train yesterday, I spotted two teenaged boys wearing bright blue soccer outfits attempting to part ways with a big swooping high-five. They kept missing and laughing, so eventually they barreled into each other for a big awkward hug. I was amused and looked down at my phone to type into my notes what I had just witnessed. As I was typing, the taller boy came over to wait for the train with me. He asked if I knew when the train was coming. I told him, and continued to type out my observation, with the participant by my side. He stood next to me kicking the gravel and I could tell he wanted to chat.

    He asked me my name and where I was from. I tucked my phone into my back pocket. He told me that he was born in Dublin, Ireland and raised there until he was six and the rest of the time he'd been in San Francisco. He told me how much he loved the diversity in the city. He told me about his dog Shirley that his mom found on the street on his birthday. I asked him why Shirley, and he said it was his girlfriend's idea. He told me that he wanted to be a footballer when he grew up and that he played forward for the best high school team in the city. He told me that his family just moved to a new house at the very end of two windy streets, and that he was just figuring out his new bus routes. We got on the train together, I thought we were going to wave and part ways, but he asked to sit next to me; this tall lanky tan 16 year-old, swishing his mesh shorts around with his black back pack on his lap and his spine all hunched over it. Me, with my cloth bag full of too many things clanking around and poking out of it. He told me that he loved computers and that he could build code. He told me that once he visited Ireland in the summer and it was 55 degrees. He kept confusing Celsius and Fahrenheit. Twice, he apologized when he interrupted his own story to let me know he needed to text his mom. He told me how much he loved scoring goals, and how much he liked restaurants where you can tell them what you like and they'll just make something up for you.

    We got off the train and waited for the same bus up the hill together. And again, he sat next to me all the way to work. His name was Cian. He told me that it meant "ancient." I got off the bus and he said he'd hope to see me around. I was so happy that in the whole time we talked, he didn't call me ma'am or miss. I was so happy he took me out of my routine. He swept me up from being the observer to participant with his curiosity.
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