He was sitting on the top step of the porch. He had no shirt on and his tan skin stood out in contrast to the stark white house. His jeans were dirty and he held a cigarette in one hand. His arms were crossed and he was leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. His blonde hair was sticking up in spots. His bare feet were on the step below him.
The light turned green and I stepped on the gas pedal. I took one last look at him and he lifted his face. Our eyes locked. It was just a second. Just one breath. I could feel tears in my eyes and I suddenly found it hard to breathe. The intensity and sadness of those blue eyes. The pain. The distress. I fought the urge to turn around and go to him.
“Mommy,” my girl said from the backseat.
“What?” I said swallowing hard and trying to concentrate on driving. Just a few more blocks and we would be to school.
“Did you see that man?” she said.
It was then that I looked back at her in the rearview mirror. She was clutching Panda, her protector bear, very tight. Her knees were drawn up and her eyes were wide.
“I did,” I replied trying to sound calm.
“That was so sad,” she said. I could hear the tears threatening to come.
“What man?” my son chimed up cheerfully. He had a bag of his sisters hair bands on his lap and was busy making bracelets for his friends.
“The sad man with no shirt,” my girl answered. “I hope he will be OK.”
“He will,” I told her.
“Good,” she said loosening her grip on Panda. Her head slumped to the side of her car seat.
“I’m tired now,” she said and yawned.
“Me too,” I said and reached for my coffee cup.
“What man?” my son said again and strained his neck to try to look behind us. Of course we were several blocks away now and almost to school.
“He’s gone,” my daughter replied. “But he will be OK.”
The rest of the ride to school was silent. We parked on the street and walked brother to class. After saying our good-byes and giving kisses we walked back to the car. Her kindergarten is at another school a few minutes drive away.
“Why do you think that man was sad?” my daughter asked as I started to drive.
“I have no idea,” I said.
“I think someone died,” she said. “But it will be OK. That person is in heaven and he will see them again.”
“Yes, that’s true,” I said.
“I love you mommy,” she said.
“I love you.”
We parked at her school and held hands as we walked to the play structure. She ran around happily showing Panda all the things she can do now.
Her teacher played the flute and she ran off. Panda and I both waved good-bye.
She is going to be OK.
I’m going to be OK.