Monday, June 15, 2009


I saw the little boy coming up the crowded blocked-off street. The street was lined with fruit stalls and vegetable vendors. Swarms of people gathered around the sample booths with their little bowls of toothpicks, others walked hurriedly with heavy bags on their shoulders, moving quickly to their waiting cars. I had seen the boy’s dad a little while earlier, a sweet man I had worked for during a summer of transition and pickle-making. We talked briefly when I waved to him, he told me his wife was teaching a pickling class on the other side of town and he was here with the kids. I saw a child on his back, a little girl with blonde hair I had never met. On the flickering out-reaches of my mind, while I nodded and smiled and asked more questions, I wondered where the little boy was, the one I had first met by chance in Mexico, at a bus station in Chiapas during the only time I was ever sick on the road. His mother had given me charcoal tablets to ease my stomach, but they did not work on the long, curvy road to the Mayan ruins. I had recognized them from Santa Cruz, and as I locked myself into the small bus bathroom and looked out the open window while beads of sweat dripped down my cheeks, I imagined myself working for them when we all returned to the place we called home. And so it happened, I had spent a summer cutting green beans and making strawberry lemonade and listening to the Spanish oldies station with the other workers in the kitchen.
Three years later, Todd, the man with the green eyes, one of which had a large brown fleck in it, and the little girl on his back, stood before me. We talked a little while longer and then they left, blending in with the crowd. Twenty minutes later, I saw the little boy. He appeared like Moses parting through a sea of adults. He was only as tall as the waist of the many adults that he passed, but he moved through them assuredly on the platform of a small scooter. He held the metal handle as his foot leisurely kicked the asphalt below for a little more speed. He rode with open eyes, looking in all directions at once, waiting for an energetic pulse to grab his attention. I stood behind my wooden table, laden with green soaps and incense, I watched as he approached and passed me. He stopped a couple feet away and watched an old white man in a wheelchair communicate with the black man that pushed him. The old man had had a stroke and spoke in long extended syllables and consonants that echoed through the market. The little boy watched the exchange. He watched with total attention, as though these two people were all that existed. The black man secured a bag of peaches onto the handle of the wheelchair, then began pushing it though the crowd. The little boy watched them go, he stared at their shrinking backs for about five seconds and then he got on his scooter and followed them. The wheelchair stopped in front of the ice cream booth and, through the crowd, I was just able to see the little boy standing a couple feet away from them, absorbed with curiosity. A couple grabbed my attention and I turned to talk to them about soap. Some minutes later, as I put six dollars in my black change purse, I looked up and saw the little boy approaching me once more. He looked at me and I waved.
“Don’t you remember me?” I asked. He shook his head. “Your name’s Rye, isn’t it.”
He smiled slightly, “yeah,” he said with curiosity, “how’d you know?”
“I used to work with your parents in the kitchen… actually, I first met you in Mexico, in the bus station, but you were even younger then. Do you remember going to Mexico?”
“Yeah, I remember Mexico, but I don’t remember you. I remember standing like this,” he stood with his arms at his sides and made his back very straight, like a wooden solider, “I was standing in the back of a truck like this,” he pointed to the truck behind me. “I was standing like this and I was smushed in between big plastic things filled with water.”
I nodded. He smiled slightly, then began to walk away. He walked his scooter to the sidewalk, just a couple steps behind me. There was no one on the sidewalk. I watched him ride away, a little boy totally open to the mystery surrounding him, engaging and disengaging as the impulses ran though him. He moved on, knowing no limits, lacking any hesitation.

No comments: