I walked to the park and sat on a bench. I didn’t think there would be so many kids there but I was wrong. They were all over the place, and they were without their parents. One threw a chocolate milk at me. Another snuck up behind me and dumped a bag of Takis over my head, then ran off toward the tree line. I gave chase in my mind, because my body just froze, utterly dumfounded by the child’s cavalier and fearless attitude toward a full-grown strange man. What were they feeding these kids in school? I thought to myself. Could these kids be absorbing and, hyper-literally, reenacting the plot points of authoritarian narrative, absent accountability, and ethnocentric scapegoating they see performed on the internet and in their homes every day by those who are supposed to be their leaders? I thought about getting up from the bench and going home, but something told me to stay and observe. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something horribly wrong with this television show. One girl was giving this other girl the riot act for I don’t know what but I knew I didn’t want to get into it. I think I saw a toddler walking in a onesie by itself next to the swampy area. I told myself the parent had to be nearby, and probably waiting for some strange man to show up and try and talk to their child without any kind of consent. I thought maybe I was being set up by the neighborhood. Maybe they thought it was weird that I still wasn’t married and had no kids or pets. There was a group of boys jogging toward me like they just chucked a rock through a school window and got away with it. They split off into multiple directions but the one out front approached. “Hey old man,” he said. “I’m not that old,” I said. “What are you doing out here, old man?” he said. He clearly was performing for someone, like many of his ilk. I started to tell him I was just going for a walk in the park when mid-sentence he darted away and messed up the hair of another boy, who tried to punch him in the face, before running off and doing a little dance. The ring leader ran back over to continue his interrogation. “Are you going to grow that beard out?” he said. It was already like a foot long. “I thought it was grown out,” I said. “I mean, are you going to grow it longer?” he said. “I hadn’t really thought about it,” I said. “I think you should grow it longer,” he said. “Where are your parents?” I said. “They died,” he said. “I’m so sorry, when did they die?” I said. “Just kidding,” he said. “Are they invisible?” I said. “No, silly, he liked that one, the parents in the neighborhood all drop their kids off here on Saturdays like a giant playdate so they can go have coffee,” he said. “Well then who’s watching you?” I said. “Nobody,” he said. “The parents are willing to risk all of us being abducted so they can have their hour of coffee.” I felt so bad for the young guy. I didn’t know what to say. “Well, I guess I’ll stay here and watch you for the next few minutes, seeing how hundreds of you are alone,” I said. He put his hand on my shoulder and looked through me like the way my therapist does. “Don’t worry, things will get better, never give up,” he said. “I won’t,” I said.

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