There were booths and stalls selling soaps and granola and candles and jewelry rings bangles earrings necklaces chokers with chunky stones and ropes and beads performers juggling rainbow colored balls or tossing rings that disappeared. I had the boys with me and I told them to stay close and they did they were close the whole time we rounded corners and weaved through the crowd and we found the puppet man and we found the popsicle man and we found the vegetable stall that had our kale and tomatoes and basil for dinner we doubled back and crisscrossed and I kept seeing this boy not my boy but definitely the same boy and he always seemed to be alone. Finally I stopped across the way and people passed between us and my boys sucked at their popsicles they didn’t ask questions they didn’t see him did anyone else see him? He looked maybe five or maybe older if he was small for his age he looked all around him but not like he was looking for someone or like he was lost but also not like he was curious or like he knew what he was doing there. I told my boys to stick close again harsher than I meant to and they followed as I crossed the expanse between us getting clipped by an overlarge pocketbook and nearly trampled by a mess of kids possibly all belonging to the same family and I wondered as I always wonder how do you do it. When we reached him I knelt and my boys were on either side of me and we were all the same height and for a moment it was quiet we were in our own little bubble and he didn’t seem scared at all so I thought maybe I was wrong maybe he was alright. Are you here with your mom or dad I said and he just stared at me my name is Sasha I said and these are my kids Antonio and Micah and he just stared at us my boys were staring too and I felt bad I didn’t have a popsicle to give the boy. Who are you here with I tried again he shrugged and I looked down trying to think what to say and then I saw blood smeared on his shin on his ankle or maybe it was just dirt. Are you hurt I asked and his eyes widened now he was paying attention and I realized my mistake that you have to come at little boys from the side. No no I said what’s your name but it was too many questions it was too late he didn’t say anything. He never said anything. We just moved here I said I thought maybe I would just talk awhile and maybe hit on a subject that would get him talking get him talking the way my boys sometimes talked and couldn’t stop. We don’t know too many people I said Antonio just started school he has Miss Caderra in room 202 what about you. But he didn’t answer and Antonio hung on to my shirt like he wished I would stop like duh ma we don’t know him no one knows him but Antonio has always been cautious. These popsicles are pretty good they’re made out of lime and what else I said to my boys and Micah yelled booberries but they weren’t blueberries they were huckleberries or maybe just strawberries big chunks of them I’ll buy you one I said and the boy ran away so fast and around a vendor’s stall and into a crowd I lost sight of him. I stood up because my knees and the scar from my c-section ached even though it had been four years some people say it never goes away. I found a police officer and told him about the boy he looked around like he might be able to find him without moving at all he nodded he said he’d keep an eye out he said thank you, thank you for caring, or maybe I just imagined that last part. Micah complained he was hungry Antonio complained he was hungry we left the police officer we all held hands and found the car. Before they were born I never would have noticed that little boy and sometimes now when I ask Micah and Antonio how their days were or what they did in school and they say I don’t remember I want to shake them are you okay are you okay just answer me but instead I say it’s okay try harder tomorrow.
The Farmers’ Market
Art by Hank Pfeifle