Monday, July 03, 2006

averting eyes

She could still see his angular face, his dark averting eyes, his one little bare foot, black on the bottom. On the other foot was a blue velcro runner. He looked about seven years old. He sat on the cement steps to a small low-rise apartment complex. His legs were crossed and he watched the cars go by.

At first she stood off to his left, waiting to see if there was someone with him. She scanned the sidewalk for his other shoe, for a parent, but couldn't find either.

She took a few steps toward him.

“Are you ok sweetie?”

No answer. She moved a little closer, careful not to frighten him.

“You ok?”

Nothing. She crouched down to about eye level. He averted her glance.

“Where’s Mommy? Mama? Where’s Papa?”

It was almost as though he was unable to make eye contact. She wondered if he was autistic. She sat down a few feet away. She waited for fifteen minutes. No adult came to check on him. She asked a couple of people nearby if they recognized the boy from the neighborhood. No one did. No one came to claim him. She stood up and turned away, dialing her cell.

After she made the call, she sat back down and waited.

“Don’t worry”, she told him. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

He just kept watching the cars.

And there they sat together, side by side, facing the street.

When the police arrived, they told her his father had called the police.

"Hey buddy, we've been looking for you", the policeman said. "Your Dad's been looking for you."

She waited as they took him by the hand and walked him to the squad car. She smiled and waived as they pulled away. As soon as they were gone, she burst into tears, and then pulled herself together and walked the rest of the way home.

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