There was nowhere left to go. Every movement was co-opted. The only way to go was back into the mouth of the beast and so the kids in our town started wearing polos with company logos on them and loitered in the aisles of those stores. Staying underfoot.
“Do you know where I can find office chairs?”
A contemptuously curled lip. “Sure, man. I’ll show you.” And they’d lead the customer around the store until they found it, like a real employee, the irony so understated that the only way you’d be able to tell is when the teen never drew a paycheck.
A prom full of young men wearing bright vests, pins on them declaring sales, all the girls with nametags and magnetic keys.
Gang graffiti at the commuter train station. Groups like The 401Ks. The Weekend Crew. Shipping and Receiving. A gang hideout decorated with the clipped neckties of rival crews and pamphlets about retirement communities. The teens filling binders with cut out pictures of toddlers, calling them The Grandkids, comparing them like trading card collections, like statements from a diversified portfolio.
We asked the teens why.
“I’m always happy to help a member of the media,” they said.
“Is there any chance I could get back to you after my shift,” they said, straightening shelves of product.
“I will live in any suburb,” they said, “and drive any vehicle that can hold an entire soccer team. I have sliced oranges in the back. For a snack at half-time.”
Teens teens teens. Why do we ever talk to them. Why do they do anything. When we were teens, it was different. And what are we now? At some point, we changed.
“Can we help you?” asked the teens, but they don’t mean it. They’ll grow out of it.