Friday, May 31, 2013
She crossed South Salina Street, against traffic, looking over her shoulder, walking fast. Slung on her hip a curly-haired boy, maybe three years old, mixed race. He'd look beautiful in a cereal commercial, or on a box of Wheaties. She was young, white, skinny, harried, nervous. She darted diagonally, pausing for traffic on the double yellow line in the center only because she had to. She kept looking back. Reaching the bus kiosk on the other side, she averted dashing the kid's head into a metal column of the bus-passenger waiting area. If she did, you imagined, she'd just keep going. You silently compared her handling of the boy to lugging a sack of potatoes, carrying a package, a handbag. The child seemed an after-thought in every respect. A physical burden, for starters, but she was not about to let him slow her down. He did not complain, though he was awake. Her reckless rush began to irk you. This boy is going to get hurt. And this is just what the public sees. What are his chances? You began to generalize and fantasize in the extreme: what is it with everyone, nobody works, she's running to find cocaine, what a shithole. What a dampening of a sunny day in Syracuse, though too hot for your comfort. But something slowed you down. Grace or whatever you care to name it (or not name it) freeze-framed your observation as she moved out of sight. The conversation in your head shifted. Christ, she's scared. It's fear. Don't be mad at her. Maybe she's running for her life, both figuratively and literally. What would anger at her accomplish, anyway? Is someone chasing her? She's panicked. Off to your right and in her urban wake, maybe someone is flashing a gun or yelling threats at her on the other side of the window in front of where you safely and coolly sit, sipping iced black tea with wild berry. Refugees in America.