The Little One

(Part 12 of the Europe Collection. In Caen I stayed with my mom’s old college friend, Tita Marilyn, and she has a son named Raphael. This post is for him! It’s not exactly slam poetry, but consider it slam poetry.)

In the small store back home I found exactly what I was looking for– a small yellow jeepney toy. Mom said you’d like it. And, as I picked it up and spun the wheels, I thought, who wouldn’t? Jeepneys. No other car in the world comes close.

“Hello!” That was the first thing he said to me. Little Rafi– a small, small boy with a smile that made me want to smile.

Watching him play with his friends is amusing.

At a young age, the little guy knows the meaning of bromance.


Every night I would take a shower and collapse on the inflatable bed in a stupor enhanced by exhaustion and homesickness, and every night in the milliseconds between sleeping and waking I was aware of a small, solid presence getting into the other bed and switching off the light.

On the way home your mom let you hold the house key, but she took it back when you started playing with it.
“Can you hold the key? He might lose it,” she told me.

I pocketed the key during the whole walk to the bus station, where your mom put us on the bus for the next stop nearest home while she ran an errand.

I had never been on the bus alone before, so I was anxious, but you weren’t. You clearly knew your stuff.

And when we got off at the bus stop I gave the key back to you and said “Don’t tell Mom.”

Together we walked through the garden and the secret passage that led to the house. And you didn’t lose the key.

Rolling a ball across the carpeted floor in the flat in Paris, is just like tossing a ball to each other in the grass in front of the museum, is just like batting the shuttlecock to each other in the backyard.

That look on his face when I showed him that it’s possible to erase one’s browser history on the computer.

When the shuttlecock flew out of reach and landed in the hedge, we thought it was gone forever. You had this grin on your face that seemed to say ‘Oh, we’re screwed.’

I’ve been in worse trouble.

All you need is a little difference in perspective and a longer arm, and you’ll realize the shuttlecock was never out of reach at all.

A little boy who plays music, learns self-defense and enjoys reading comics at 11:00 pm under soft, creamy yellow lamplight. That’s a little boy after my own heart.

“We’re going to Paris! Are you excited?”

“Yes, I’m excited to ride the train!”

I gave him a high-five, and during the long ride to the inter-city train station he and I were sitting in the back of his parents’ car grinning like idiots because we were going to Paris.

I’ve erased my browser history, made sure I didn’t leave a thing. Only the yellow jeepney on your mom’s bookshelf indicates that I was ever there.

If we meet again, by that time you might not remember much of what happened. In any case, you’ll be old enough to take the bus by yourself, you’ll have earned another belt in karate, you’ll have memorized more complicated violin pieces, you’ll be reading longer comic books, you’ll be tall enough to reach for a shuttlecock when it falls on the hedge.

Till then, every pain au chocolat, every time I pass by a sushi bar, every shuttlecock on the floor, and every jeepney will remind me of you–the little one.



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