A small boy with a kiddie-hawk haircut and holograph of happy cartoon mutants on his shirt gaped at Jerome. “Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?” he asked in innocent wonderment.
His mother, one of those high-strung yuppie sorts with a severe haircut, reluctantly looked up from her phone. “I’m so sorry,” she said automatically. Adding, grudgingly, because it was expected, “Would you like to sit down?”
As much as he enjoyed watching these sorts squirm, Jerome’s knee just couldn’t keep up with the train today. “Thank you. Yes, thanks.”
The woman tried her best to politely ignore him once he was settled on the seat, between a grumbling fat man in a heavy suit and a fatter woman who sniffed with indignation at Jerome, the train, and just the whole world in general. They all tried their passive aggressive best but the little boy just couldn’t let things go - “But what’s wrong with him? Why’s his skin look like that?” His little voice carried up and down the subway car, even over the squeal of the rusty tracks.
“Mason, stop it!” his mother hissed back. And again to Jerome, she said with repressed bitterness, “I’m so sorry. He knows better than this.”
He clearly didn’t but Jerome just chuckled. “It’s fine, really,” he assured her, making a magnanimous gesture with one gnarled hand. Then, addressing the little boy directly, “Hey Mason, want to know how my skin got like this?”
The boy answered with an excited "Yeah!" while his mother tittered "No he doesn't – No you don't!"
Ignoring her, Jerome told Mason with more than a hint of pride, "I let it happen! I let myself grow old!"
Learn Jerome's shameful secret here, exclusively at Eastern Iowa Review!