The Wilde Boy

Portrait of Baron Joseph Vialetes de Mortarieu – J.A.D. Ingres

The boy gets on the bus, a yellowed Penguin Classic in his hand. I’m drawn to notice him first because of the book and then because of his face. He looks like something from another era – dark, tousled curls, an open smiling face — patrician, like a 19th century painting.

He sits down in the sideways seat in front of me. He’s maybe in his late teens, yet he has no electronic device of any sort plugged anywhere into his person. He has no visible piercings or tattoos. His shoes are tied, his shorts fit.

He opens the book, the faded Penguin, his dark eyes fix instantly on the page. 

I wonder what he’s reading with such enthusiasm.  It all seems so incongruous. I strain to read the tiny print in the header. It’s too small. I want to know what this boy is reading.

I tilt my head to the side and downward to try to get a glimpse of the front cover. I can’t.

I fetch my reading glass from my bag and pretend to read a scrap of paper I also find there and then surreptitiously look over to read the the page header of the boy’s book:  The Importance of Being Ernest.

I stare at the boy in wonder.

He smiles to himself as he reads; chuckles once or twice, quietly.

He turns the page. His face lights up and he actually slaps his knee and laughs out loud.  Not too loud. No one else has noticed.  He looks up, face beaming with joy. He looks around as if seeking someone with whom to share what he has just experienced.

“You’re really enjoying that.” I state, obviously, smiling back.

“Oh, ya! It’s great!” He says, eagerly, in a soft, well-modulated voice.  He goes on to try to explain why he’s enjoying it. He stumbles all over his words as too many thoughts tumble out. He’s not very clear and seems to want to tell me, in one breath,  the entire story and how and why it has engaged him.

We chat briefly about Oscar Wilde; his blithe flippancy; his dark cynicism. The boy is too excited to get into much of a discussion, though. He longs to get back to the book.

 “Are you reading this for fun or for a class?” I have to know before he’s lost in the story again.

 “Oh, fun!” he answers, nodding his head enthusiastically.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a Penguin out in public.” I murmur, mostly to myself.  I watch him read until we get to his stop. He smiles and nods good-bye.

Kids these days.

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17 responses to “The Wilde Boy

  1. Oh I loved Oscar Wilde and I love your tale. I would have wanted to give him a hug! And then told him to check out “The Picture of Dorian Gray”!

  2. I love that you capture these moments and then give them to us. The stories you’ve told this week give me a curious flutter of hope; moments of grace that quietly illustrate the best in us.

  3. Geewits – the kids, they do surprise sometimes

    Missy – I never thought of Dorian Gray, but I did want to tell him about Somerset Maugham, with whom I used to be obsessed as a teenager

    LDG – Oh ya! Of course he could be completely insane, which might explain his oddity.

    Susan – I’m on vacation and done a lot of wandering around and had the time and attention to notice a lot more than I usually do. It IS nice.

    Mike – I almost hesitated to write it down because I figured no one would believe it. I had a hard time wrapping my head around it and I was there.

    Dr. M. – Do you think there might be more where he came from? When I was at university I had the biggest crush on this guy just because he had classical music in his Walkman instead of the usual crap everyone else had in their Walkmans

  4. What a great kid — I would have been tempted to move over beside him and read over his shoulder!

    Thank you for the little pieces of life you’ve shared with us. I like having a glimpse into your day!

  5. I want to kiss this boy and then hug his parents! Whomever he is, may he never EVER lose his ability to experience the deep and profound joy that comes from getting lost in a good book. (And may he always remain so uniquely and joyously his own person!)

  6. Debra – Ya, that might have been a bit creepy. (My days aren’t usually this interesting)

    LDG – Absolutely!

    Lesley – Amen to that — but no kissing of strange boys on busses. People tend to frown on stuff like that up here in Canada

    Ellie -You mean the kid on the bus was Dorian Gray???That would explain a lot.

  7. *sigh*

    exactly what I needed to read.

    I’ve been offline most of the summer and dropped in here after sending news to Zoom.

    It’s 3am and I can’t sleep MY BOY IS COMING TO LIVE WITH ME AGAIN!!! (His dad finally relented)

    My boy who bullied me into reading Margaret Atwood again (Oryx and Crake) and is overjoyed that he now at 15 gets to help read the classics aloud to his younger sibs (Peter Pan this fall we’ve decided)

  8. Ce tableau est un miroir de l’âme et de la vie.
    Un jeune homme de 35 ans, né riche, orphelin jeune ou presque, devenu pauvre à 23 ans, échappant à la mort à 25 ans, redevenu riche à 30 ans, puissant à 35 ans, en disgrâce à 46 ans, puis au sommet à 50 ans. Déchu à 61 ans. Oublié à 81.
    C’est un sourire pincé avec une tête inclinée, comme sa vie. Un jours oui et un autre non. Tu gagnes ou tu perds.
    Tu vois défiler les grands événements de l’histoire, tu y participes et à un moment, tu restes immobiles et tu les vois partir sans toi.
    La conclusion: “Ami profites de l’instant présent, demain sera tout autre”.
    Joseph Pierre Vialètes de Mortarieu