This is what happened to prompt my memory yesterday to write about something from twenty years ago.
On Sunday Husband and I went on a bike ride. The day was beautiful. Warm. Sunny. Breezy. It was like a gift. Though my head is telling me it should be cold and thoughts of holiday preparations should be taking up my time…. a bike ride was calling. What was I to do but go…
Husband and I knew we would be separated and made plans to meet for bagels for lunch. We did that. We enjoyed that. We also knew we would be separated on our return home. I was ahead of him and believed I would beat him home. But an unexpected neighborhood salute to veterans distracted me. I rode out of the way, up the street, and observed a neighborhood paying respect. Singing. Praying. And I joined in for the allegiance.
When I returned to the trail to head home I kept expecting to see Husband ahead of me. But I didn’t. I had half expected him to join me at the neighborhood rally but he didn’t. So I kept expecting to come across him lolligagging on the trail. He isn’t in a hurry on a bike anymore. He just rides for the fun of it.
When I rode in to the park that is less than half a mile from our home I witnessed something that literally stopped me. There was a “port-o-let” in the park. A little boy was standing in front of it, with the door opened. Holding the door. Right behind him was a white haired gentleman holding the door higher than the little boys hand could reach. So they both had their hand on the door. It was the size of a small “out-house”. Which is basically what they are. But made of green plastic. Smelly. And used by everyone who dares use them.
I slowed my bike down because I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing.
Because of life circumstances I do not trust anyone with a child.
Sad. But true.
I could hear them talking but had no idea what was being said. I had ear plugs in my ears for music. But when I first saw them, and knew I would be passing within less than 2 feet from the interior of that Port-o-let I had pulled them out of my ears and left them dangling. I slowed down as much as I could. I didn’t think either of them had seen me. Judging from his size I would say the little boy was eight years old, or less.
The little boy went in.
Then, to my horror, so did the older man.
The man was clean cut. Wearing jeans. Dressed clean. And appropriate. I scanned the area, no bicycles parked near by. No car parked along the side of the road at the park’s edge.
I slowly glided by the port-o-let and a picnic table came in to view on the other side of it. On it sat bags of fast food and two fast food drinks.
I couldn’t hear anything when I passed.
I went to the edge of the very small park and stopped.
And turned around.
And slowly glided past again. Coasting. I didn’t even want the noise of pedaling to block out any noise of anguish a child might make.
As I passed I heard the child’s voice. But not in a yell. Not in fear. But I didn’t know what he said. I stopped again. And turned around.
This entire episode, from seeing them at first, to it’s conclusion, lasted less than two minutes.
But it was two minutes too long. If I went past again and they had not exited I was stopping my bike at the door and knocking. Unless I heard something that would require me to rip the door off.
Don’t misunderstand this.
I was scared. I was scared for the child inside of that port-o-let. I was scared of having to confront something ugly and horrific. There was a time when I would have been too scared to even confront the fears. In my thoughts, let alone face to face. I was still scared, but I was willing to face it if it I had to.
And there was that Mamo part of me that thought if I had to send my young grand daughter in to a nasty port-0-let because she’s a child and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do-I would have gone in with her so she did not touch any disgusting inch of the inside of that port-o-let. That part of me would not want someone ripping off the plastic door and think I would ever hurt her.
But as a Mamo I would also have appreciated someone being that worried and observant.
I glided towards that green box again and both the child and the man came out, walking to the table. Not even aware of me. Rubbing their hands together as if they had used the hand sanitizer now conveniently hanging up in such accommodations.
I rode past and stopped, again, at the edge of the park and looked back. At two smiling, and at ease, people. Sitting down at a picnic table to enjoy a fast food picnic.
Part of me was relieved-relieved for the child. Part of me was angry-angry at the thoughts that I have every damn day about people and what they do to one another. Part of me is frustrated-frustrated that I can’t get away from the fears that lurk in my thoughts. Part of me wished-wished I had no reason to suspect such things and be prepared to act on them.
Part of me realized how far I have come. To fear something, and though fearing it, be willing to face it. Stop it. Intervene. When I rode that bike past that green box I wasn’t a fourth degree black belt. I wasn’t all powerful. I wasn’t invincible. I was that child of years ago who didn’t say “stop”. Who didn’t know her own value. Who let fear determine what happened. I was scared. To. Death. But I was willing to face it. Fear wasn’t going to stop me. It was going to motivate me.
I didn’t want that child to be me.