The Kids On The Street have been around longer than you have, and will exist longer than you ever will. They change, but they never leave. That’s how it works. When your mother was a teenager, they were all pale. Neat little slices of white bread straight out of the package, with eyes like blueberries and capped acorns they’d find in the woods. They were outside more back then, your mother would tell you, but she would be wrong. The Kids On The Street are always outside; they operate on a schedule that does not make sense, that goes backwards. Your mother would not believe that, though. Your father was not there. He grew up with The Teens With A Car. They always had somewhere to be, a place to haunt for the night with their cool, luminescent skin and rib cages full of fireflies. But The Kids, they couldn’t imagine anywhere else to exist than here, than now. They run on sweet-cut grass; they run on prickly cement; they run on shushing sand and warm-butter paved roads and rocky-road dirt. Their feet have scars shaped like the universe on them. Those feet are tougher than the finest diamonds, because they exist solely to run with.
The Kids play games because that is what Kids are supposed to do. When the summer comes around, they stay out dawn till dusk, carving warm slices out of the sunset with their curved sticks and plastic frisbees. After school in fall, The Kids run off the bus, out of the car, across the street to drop their bag and join the others. When they have breaks from work, they kick around a soccer ball outside of the factory, the family restaurant. When you were there, they played House, painting themselves like dreams in chalk dust, chalk beds. Now they play hockey, hitting pucks with plastic sticks with a sound like the strokes of a clock in the dark. You feel a little sad when you watch them, remembering how you used to be part of their world, but you are merely a departed loved one to them: regretted, forgotten as children always forget. Besides, they are not the same as when you knew them: now on your street, they are mostly little boys. One is named Todd, your closest neighbor, the one with a newly-acquired eyepatch that looks like a black hole if you watch too closely; the little girl, Marvin, who doesn’t want to talk about her name; Jack, The Kid who holds the hockey stick like he could split the earth with it; Ben and Caleb too, the twins of silence and unearthly presence. When you walk by them, they watch you with quiet eyes, or so you feel; truthfully, they don’t have enough time for you. They only have time for the game, because they know that the sun rises for them, sets when they tell it to.
You find them so curious now, The Kids. You can’t understand why they love to be outside so much, why they want to do nothing but walk through life pretending. Sometimes you wish you could return to them, but they are different in ways you do not know. You are plagued with the problems of adulthood: no matter how far away from adulthood you are, this will always be true. In fact, you may be one of those aimless Teens With A Car, barely around to see The Kids at all. In that case, they may seem just as much a ghost to you as you are to the world, tiny fading lights in a side mirror. You think they can’t see you, but you’re wrong. They’ve seen you many times before, stared at the piercing headlights as you growled by. But now, they just don’t have time for you, like everything else. Unlike most scenery, they are not there for your enjoyment. They just exist. That is the purpose of most scenery, actually, but only The Kids will let you know it. Adults are just adults. There is nothing certain within adulthood, and there never will be. The Kids On The Street are certain because it is just simply the way the world works. So they play. They pretend, because they can only control their world in the imagination. They can only be in control when the ball is speeding toward them, wobbling on its axis like a wayward planet, and the universe is calling out for them to change the game.
Now your brother, your sister has joined them. You watch as she solemnly takes a stick, as he grips it tightly between his faulty fingers. It’s like she trained all her life for this, eyes cut into paper slits for the fire to glow through. He plays roughly, jabbing his stick into the puck like an offense. Other times, she passes it lightly, laughs loosely through goals as her voice winds through the foggy clear bright dark weather. He belongs with them, those other Kids. No--she is a Kid now. A Kid On The Street, a child of darkness and the thirteenth hour. No time matters for her now, no schoolwork or sports for him. It’s all a waiting game, a distraction from their real duty. They exist solely to play in the street. To be a piece of scenery as immortal as a waving tree, a nervously fluttering bird. All things that change, all things that never leave. Soon, Marvin will be Jackie, Ben and Caleb will be Benny and Kayla, Jack will be Will, T odd will be Brian. Soon, your sister, your brother will be looking over their shoulder all the time, trying for the life of them to understand how the world can move on without them. Without you. But the earth moves on as it always has, and thus, so must The Kids On The Street. You’ve known them before, and you’ll know them again. They will live at the edge of your consciousness, down a quicksand road of abandoned memories with sullen faces. They will haunt you at night, to the point where you will find yourself waking up to make sure nobody is outside. They will cut away at you with those smooth, street-hockey sticks, making you lean like a crescent moon in your bed, like a starless sky. Like a phase that ends, a simple phase. Like a piece of the backdrop that changes, that changes, but never leaves.