Coolness, I have decided, must be a recessive gene. Matt and I, growing up, had our groups of friends, but neither of us would describe ourselves as one of the cool kids. But something must be there, because John, we are realizing with some awe, seems to be cool.
I got my first hint of it right after we moved up here. As someone who, at times growing up, was not only not cool but patently uncool, I try to sniff out any sign of John being bullied or made fun of. Some might point out that I'm setting him up for a nice little complex, but I am subtle. I asked him about the bus -- who he sat next to, what they talked about, if there was any funny stuff going on (because, ack, he rides the bus with high school kids).
He sat next to a sixth-grader who lives up the road and who, John told me, said John was cool. That threw me into a frenzy of intrigue worthy of 18th-century France. Was the sixth-grader kidding? Was he stringing John along to make himself cool? Did he mean it? I mean, *I* think John is cool, but does everyone else?
John also then told me about Bubba-on-the-bus (yeah, I know). Bubba, it turns out, is a high-school kid whose name is not really Bubba. Bubba would get on the bus and John would stand up and yell, "Big hug, Bubba!" with his arms wide open. Now, if that's not cause for huge mocking, what is? I ask you. But apparently Bubba would bob his head, or give a high-five, or, occasionally and God bless 'im, actually hug my son.
"What's his real name?" I asked.
John shrugged. "I dunno. I just call him Bubba, because he looks like one."
Then there was the other high-school kid who would get on the bus, look at John's golden tumble of locks and say, "Gawd, your hair is just so cool. I wish I had hair like that. Wanna trade? Can I have your hair?" And John would sit and beam.
And now there's soccer. John had a revelation worthy of hidden lights shining on his face and sparkles in his eyes the other day and realized that soccer is much like hockey, only without skates and sticks, and this knowledge has put him far ahead of his teammates. He ranges up and down the field and scored his first goal the other day. Matt said John looks like he knows what he's doing out there, and everyone else sees it too.
I have not been to a game because of work. But when Matt calls and tells me about the game, he says, "EVERYONE, all the parents and all the kids, knows John's name. He gets the ball and everyone hollers for him. It's really kind of amazing."
"I think it's his hair," I said. "People remember his hair."
"Maybe," Matt said. "I think he might be...cool."
He then told me something that happened that, if it had happened to Matt at the same age, "Someone would have threatened to kick my ass." And I said, if it had happened to me, "Someone would have gazed at me and said 'I am so...shurr' or, alternately, 'You are so...gay."
The other night after the game, as they were walking back to the truck ("See ya, John!" "Good game, John!" "Nice goal, John, keep it up!"), John said to a kid who looked about 12: "See you, Derrick!"
And Matt said that after they passed, Derrick turned to his mom and said, "That's John. He's really cool. He calls me Derrick -- I don't know why, but whatever, he's just...really cool."