Christina Bebeau is a writer who hates red peppers and has no cats. She loves maps and running down hills. She occasionally has a small cult of people fascinated with her clothes. She lives in Washington Heights and on the internet at thisisbebeau.com.
Pathmark in the Bronx
I was in the Bronx in late October buying groceries and when I went outside, found that it was raining. There was a young boy outside, probably about 8, who asked me if he could help me get the bags to my car because he was trying to raise money for school supplies. We walked to the car (he would protest when I would hold my umbrella over him) and we had a short conversation; I asked him what school he went to (Theodore Roosevelt) and told him why I thought his school’s namesake was a cool president because he was a badass, and liked parks and trust busting (which I explained was similar to today’s debates over big business regulations). He then asked me if I was voting for Obama or Romney. This question struck me as strange at first because living in New York City, working in TV, and having attended an overwhelmingly liberal university, I tend to assume that everyone I meet here is liberal, and usually I am not wrong in this assumption. But upon being asked this question, I wondered about the demographics of this boy’s neighborhood, and if maybe he had the opposite assumption of me because I was white (still am), do not look destitute, and enjoy talking about Theodore Roosevelt and utilizing words like utilizing and destitute. I told him that I liked Obama, had voted for him four years ago, and I was going to vote for him again. He told me that he liked Obama because he was the only president who killed Osama bin Laden. While I thought this comment was adorable, I disagree slightly since I’m sure TR and many other presidents would have been able to kill bin Laden if given the chance. At this point we were both soaked. I handed him a dollar and told him that it was way less than what I should be giving him. As I started to drive away I realized that I had also had a twenty in my wallet. I needed to give it to him. Getting completely soaked to the bone with someone else’s groceries deserves more than a dollar. I couldn’t find him. He had disappeared, hopefully back home to change into some dry clothes so he wouldn’t catch pneumonia. I drove around the parking lot, went into the store, and scanned the streets for his red shirt but he was gone. I wanted to tell him that I respected him for standing out in the rain waiting for people to come out of the grocery store to raise a few dollars for school supplies, especially at his age. I wanted to take him to Staples and buy him all of the notebooks and pens and colorful 24 packs of Sharpies he could want. I wanted to tell him that if he continued his whole life with that attitude, someday he would grow up to be president and he could kill Osama bin Laden, too. Little boy in the Pathmark parking lot, I am sorry I didn’t give you that twenty, but I look forward to the day when you will kill the reanimated zombie robot corpse of Osama bin Laden.