Yesterday, I saw the future.
They piled out of a 274 million dollar building made of swooping steel waves, and poured onto Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd. They wore maroon and shiny white gowns with wide-brimmed caps, and tassels bobbing in their faces.
They were excited. There was whistling and pictures were being taken and everyone was so proud. Mudslides of mascara ran down mothers’ faces. Fathers in cowboy hats beamed with pride, though it was clear they were ready to leave. They ready to celebrate properly, not with hugs and tears and photos, but with tequila and tears and handshakes that last too long. Like a real familia.
In the future, for every fifty-three Hispanic children, there are two black kids and .50 white kids. There are no white parents and there are no black parents. Yesterday, the one or two white kids in attendance walked around disheveled and purposeless. No one took their pictures. No one wanted to document their sad and incredibly patchy beards, their pepperoni pocked faces.
The future is heavily tattooed. Of course, this is nothing new. But in a cap and gown, most tattoos can’t be seen, yet I saw plenty. The neck tattoo appears to be all the rage. Scrawled letters with boyfriends names or street names or set names. One kid had Stewie from Family Guy on his forearm with a message that was missing a comma. There were also the tattoos peeking out from their sleeves and lining their knuckles. The girls, who carried themselves much more professionally than the men/boys, all seemed to have some sort of image or word spilling out of their high heels, around their ankles, sliding down the front of their feet.
The mothers, who have given birth to the future, are my age. Or they look my age only they’ve been raising a child so maybe they’re younger and look worse for parenthood. If I were to guess, and I’m going to, the mothers were exactly ten years and six months older than their graduating sons and daughters.
While the fathers bestowed upon their sons mustaches, the mothers bequeathed their eyebrows. The lines are sharp. Paint on top of hair with incredible precision. There’s also a hint of purple everywhere: in the eyebrows, the lips, the hair. Or maybe it’s red, but it looks like a shade of eggplant to me.
The daughters of the future do not date the sons of the future. The daughters’ boyfriends are not wearing caps and gowns. Their mustaches are thicker, their tattoos are more prominent and they can’t be bothered to dress up. Yet they are proud. They wrap their arms around their girlfriend’s waist as if they were fending off an opposing team with their forearms.
The wearers of caps and gowns spotted me early on: a boyfriend handed me an Android and asked for a picture of him, his girl, Disney Concert Hall and the sunset. I got two out of four. After that, people just started handing me their phones. All sorts of phones that I’d never seen before. Some were the size of iPad minis or burner phones, some looked like a late nineties GameBoy. All I know is I got really into it.
Soon I was dropping on a knee, having people move out of shadows, asking mothers to drop their chins a little bit, asking cholo boyfriends to smile. I took fifteen, maybe twenty family portraits before I had to retire. I’d spent an hour trying to get from 1st to 2nd street. I made for the crosswalk, batting away the advances of potential subjects who wanted to trust me with their phones and their documentation. I had to decline.
As I reached crosswalk, I turned back to wave at all my adoring subjects, but they were not waiting to wave back. They had returned to smiling, to crying, to hugging and aggressively instagramming while the fathers waited patiently for permission to drink.