Some friends and I went to the courts on Wythe and South First in Williamsburg to play basketball last night. We arrived at 7:30pm and started playing pick up ball with these two kids – one was a tough talking Puerto Rican 10 year old named Joe, the other was a miniscule, bespectacled seven year old named Jason. We split the kids up, one on each team with the big kids, and had a 45 minute game. They were very different in their approach – Joe was aggressive, never stopped talking and complained constantly about fouls; Jason hardly said a word and passed the ball as soon as it came to him. Joe went home at about 8:15pm, and we kept playing with Jason. It was dark by this stage. After a while we wanted to leave, so we asked him how he was going to get home. He told us his older brother was coming in five minutes to pick him up. We decided to hang out and wait for his brother to arrive, but 20 minutes later, there was no sign of him.
We asked if he wanted to use one of our cellphones to call his house, but he said he didn't know the number. We asked if he knew his brother's number, he said no. Every time we asked him a question, he insisted his brother was about to arrive. But an hour passed, and still no brother. We asked if we could walk him home and he said not to worry. 90 minutes passed and we were still at the court. Two hours later it was pitch black and cold, and this kid was only wearing a tee shirt and shorts, so we insisted that we take him home. He shrugged and said okay, and we asked him his address. He said he couldn't remember it, but he thought it was either North 6th or Bedford.
So we walked him to North 6th. He said he lived in the tall building. We walked him to the tall building (which just happens to be the newest, nicest building in Williamsburg). He said, yeap, this is it. So we asked him if he knew the code to get in. He said no, you just have to swipe a white card. We asked him if he had the white card, he said no. We asked him if he could buzz his Mum. He said he didn't know the apartment number. So we waited out the front until a lady walked into the lobby and let us in. We asked her if she knew him. She said no. We asked him if he knew which floor he lived on. He said, yeah, the top floor.
At this stage, I think we all kinda hoped the woman would take charge of the situation, but she just asked him if he was sure of his floor and when he said yes, she walked away. One of my friends and I said we thought we should take him up in the elevator to drop him off but the other two said they thought he'd be fine. We watched as Jason walked to the elevator, got in, pressed the button and went up. We never saw him again.
As soon as he left I got an overwhelming sense of regret that I hadn't followed through properly. My three friends and I range in age from 19 to 27, none of us have much experience with kids and I think we were all a bit out of our depth. To be honest I'm not even 100% sure that it was even his building.
The whole situation was bizarre from the get-go – I've run over a couple of possibilities ranging from him being a street kid (his outfit seemed far too expensive for that though), to his brother just being extremely useless but I don't really know what was going on. The weirdest thing was that he wasn't the least bit concerned. He would have stayed there all night if we hadn't made him go home.
I think it just goes to show that you should trust your gut instinct in these situations, and last night I failed on that count.
Who knows? Maybe we'll see him again.
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