I was heading north on the el from Chicago and State about 4:15 on a Tuesday afternoon. Across the aisle a boy who looked about nine stood in front of his seat facing the window. Holding a pencil in one hand and a wide-ruled sheet of paper against the window with the other, he was writing something over and over again. Although his legs were spread to absorb the train’s sway, the boy couldn’t keep his balance. He had to apologize repeatedly to the woman in front of him for whacking her in the back of the head, and he often had to adjust his stance to keep writing. After a while the boy turned to a friend and said, “I’m going to do some easy homework now–decimals.” He set down the wide-ruled paper and, still standing and swaying and bumping the woman, began his math. As I left the train I caught a glimpse of the wide-ruled paper. Each line read, “I will learn to stay in my seat.”

–Jon Barrett

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