He walked in holding a retractable hula hoop and immediately moved a chair to fit in around the table. Just barely over five feet tall and all skin and bones he was a munchkin, complete with red and black hair.
“Is this new?” Laura asks, pointing to his septum piercing.
“Oh yeah,” he says, practically shouting. “Sorry, I am so high.”
Seconds later he is sharing stories, making banana and French bread sandwiches and excusing his tardiness.
“I had play rehearsal earlier and sorry, but I can’t stay long” he says. “I’m teaching some people how to hula hoop.”
For the first time since he breezed in, there is a second of silence and I steal it.
“Who are you teaching?”
“Just some high schoolers,” he says. Quietly adding that he, too, is in high school.
I’m the only one at the table who doesn’t know him, so I ask for his name and a hula hoop show.
Slowly, he stands up and asks for music.
“I can’t do it without music, that’s too awkward.”
I introduce myself and he smiles as Reece leaves the room to find his iPod and speakers.
“Oh, I’m dealing now,” he says to no one in particular, shouting again. This time he doesn’t apologize. “I figured I needed some source of income and I’m tired of being the middle man.”
I don’t know what to say, so I tell him congratulations, making sure to lift the last consonant and tilt my head in confusion.
Daft Punk’s “Technologic” starts from the other room and he shakes out his legs in his skin-tight jeans and begins to sway his hips.
His moves are in sync with the quick techno beat as he rocks the hula hoop. It spins faster and faster, travelling up and down his limbs and as he stretches and contorts his body his oversized sweater rises up, revealing his petite waist.
He catches the hula hoop and stops, ready to move on to the next subject. He tells us that he wants to get certified to teach hula hooping, that it’s a new fad and it’s going to be big.
Meg, the dance instructor, agrees. Munchkin is the little brother of her ex-boyfriend.
He peppers his speech with old words and new meanings: what was wasted or drunk is swamped, urban is urbz and everybody as “dude” is cool again. I can’t take my eyes off him and I want to brush his long hair back and tell him not to hide his face. Suddenly, I want to be old enough to give advice and important opinions.
I want to ask about his play, his hula-hooping, his friends, his family. I want to know everything in-depth.
Instead, I pass him the tray of fruit and a plate of skewers for the chocolate fondue pot.
Excitedly, he picks out the green skewer and piles bread and meat on his plate, despite the absence of the cheese pot.
Nobody stops him and somehow the conversation veers away from the delicate little boy and his teaching aspirations and back to college and work and lives that exist somewhere in between plans and memories.
I leave early and when I get home I forego homework and look up hula hoops on the Internet. I stop and remember sixteen and write him a list of questions that I never end up asking anyone but myself.