When I picked up Little Biker Boy, I could tell he was in a difficult mood. He stomped out of the little apartment where he lives with his mother without saying goodbye to her. Then he began telling me a fictional story about the life he’d had when he lived with his father. “I owned two snowmobiles. No, three snowmobiles, all to myself. And we used to race them.”
I’d planned to bring him home to my house to help decorate our Christmas tree, but I could see right away that his mood wasn’t a good fit for a living room filled musical instruments, boxes of fragile Christmas tree ornaments, and laptop computers balanced on small tables.
So instead, we went to the green bridge. It’s a pedestrian bridge that rises up three floors above the railroad tracks. To climb it, you walk up cage-like tunnels made of metal grates, first one, then another, and then a third. The fourth tunnel goes across the railroad tracks, high enough that even a double-decker train can pass underneath. When you run up and down, the metal shakes and rattles. The scariest part is that you can look down through the metal and get an incredible sensation of height.
Little Biker Boy ran ahead of me, yelling as he went up the metal ramps. He kicked metal grates and they rattled. At the very top, he stopped and looked down. “It’s so scary when you look down,” he said. He and I are both afraid of heights. We walked across cautiously, looking down whenever we wanted a shot of adrenaline. At the very middle we stopped. Five tracks lay beneath us, and when we walked, the metal bridge shook under our feet.
“Look!” Little Biker said. In this distance, we could see the light of an approaching train. It came rumbling and clanking toward us, moving fast through the big train yard and then swerving on the track that led right below our feet.
The whistle blew. Little Biker Boy yelled, but I couldn’t hear anything he was saying. We both jumped up and down on the rattling bridge. It felt like the whole town was shaking. The train whooshed by underneath us, car after car: yellow, orange, brown, red.
Little Biker Boy lay down on the grate and spit. His saliva landed on the top of the train. We could both see the mark as the train passed through. He laughed and stood up again, and we watched as the train kept coming, car after car.
After the train had gone through, we climbed down the other side of the bridge. “I spit on a train!” Little Biker Boy kept saying. That was apparently the accomplishment he needed to shift into a better mood.