Walking the dog and the girls this morning before setting the day into motion:
A spotlight of sunlight falling through the leafy canopy overhead finds a boy between the ages of four and five, with a mop of dark curly hair framing plump cheeks, dark eyes and rosy lips. He stands on a square of thick green grass, his arms lifting and holding a girl not older than two. His back arches with the effort. She hangs long below his arms, her feet barely off the ground. Her hair is also dark and curly; her eyes study some point in deep space and drool strings out of her bemused mouth, highlighted as a backlit spider web in a garden. Her yellow sundress rides up as he adjusts her in his arms.
There is noise, but it is like watching them through a window -- or a frame somehow. It is idyllic and silent. They glow.
As we draw closer the boy awkwardly twists his body this way and that to walk across the sidewalk toward a car parked on the street. He is laughing. The girl has noticed us and keeps her eyes on us, her head slowly rotating to keep us in sight as they move jerkily forward.
Shortly behind them comes a father, overloaded with briefcase, lunch bags, a diaper bag, his suit jacket and a steaming travel mug.
"I can't carry her anymore. I can't carry her anymore," the boy says, his voice still full of play, as he continues to move toward the street.
"Well, don't, DON'T," the dad's voice is not playful, grows more urgent as the boy walks across the last of the mat of thick grass, approaching the street curb. He has his hand out as far as he can extend it without dropping anything.
And then, at the last minute, dad sloughs off everything and reaches for the girl just as the boy lets go. She clutches him, and he sighs.
As we pass the boy finally sees us. He laughs and points at the dog.
Dropping my children off with my mom before coming here to write:
I pull up in my VW Passat wagon on the opposite side of the street. This is a Monday morning inconvenience. My mother's side of the street is closed for cleaning. But at least there is parking available, I think; and so is the inconvenience of crossing one of Midtown's arterials with two small children, purse, and laptop in arms mitigated.
At my first pass, I have inadvertently parked the car so that Kay's door is blocked by a historic marker. With a sigh of exasperation, I buckle Dee back into her car seat and open my door. Without closing it, I start the car and pull a few feet forward.
As I sat, I saw a woman across the street begin to cross. I look up now and realize she is not just crossing the street, but approaching me.
She is disheveled, wearing a dark t-shirt washed so many times it is threadbare, its pronouncement or design now lost to time, with navy pants that are far too big for her -- and she is large. Her hair has not been brushed today. But her face is clean, open and sincere, and she stays at an appropriate distance. Though I sense impending discomfort, I am without anxiety.
"Hey lady," she says, holding out a cell phone and charger, cupped in her hands like a buddhist monk's alms bowl. "Can you take me to the nearest Verizon store? My phone, it's not working. I know you don't know me, but I just don't have... I just don't have..."
She slowly looks down at the phone and the charger and then lifts her eyes back to me. Her voice is barely audible. "I just don't have."
I cock my head to the side. I think I am considering this and then find myself saying, "I'm so sorry. I don't even know where the Verizon store is, and I..."
And she turns before I can finish, dropping her hands by her sides, the phone and charger still in them. For a second I consider running after her, but the logistics of this swamp me. I have my children with me. I leave my car with my mom on Monday mornings so that she can get them to a class they all take together. I really don't know where the Verizon store is.
By the time I have both girls out of the car, she is no where in sight. I am wondering how long she -- and my response to her -- will haunt me.