Written by Jonah Kondro
One of the hardest tests of an individual’s psychology is how he or she behaves when encountering a solitary child.
I was getting a take-out pizza from a pub in strip mall in Red Deer. The storefronts reflected my image as I walked past. My mind was set on a two-topping ten inch. It would put me in a sufficient nap like coma before I started a weekend shift working security at a pair of night clubs. I was thinking Italian sausage and ham when my gaze peered into a bank’s ATM vestibule.
On the other side of the glass was a small boy sitting with his knees to his chest; he was absorbed in the screen of his mobile device. The boy’s clothing looked baggy on him: almost like he was wearing an older siblings hand me down clothes. His ball cap sunk down low enough to cover the tops of his ears. The boy looked up briefly from his device and our eyes met momentarily.
My mind shifted to Italian sausage and pepperoni — still hinged to the stream of consciousness I carried in the reflection of the storefronts. I ordered the pizza up at the bar; then my mind thought of the boy. The bank entrance was a curious place for any child to be sitting alone.
I couldn’t recollect if I saw an adult standing up at the ATM. No there wasn’t. In my mind I became sure of that. It was just the boy on the other side of the glass sitting like an exhibit. The cheese on the pizza I had ordered was likely already melting when I thought I should have opened the door and asked, “hey kid, you alright?”
I began to reason. The middle school across the street was probably done class for the day. The kid was probably waiting fora parent, guardian, or sibling to come pick him up. The bank has lots of security cameras. That device he was looking into could have been a phone. If he needed, he probably could have phoned someone—anyone. I thought about how small he looked in those big clothes.
I replayed my reasoning in my head a few times until the pizza I had ordered arrived. When I walked past the windows of the bank, the boy wasn’t there.
I opened the lock to my sister’s house, no one was home yet at that hour in the afternoon. My Italian sausage and pepperoni pizza was consumed in discomfort. A boy that small could be snatched up by a predator pretty quick.
Over the next few days I turned up the volume in my car when the FM radio channels broke the stream of music for a news brief. I was listening to hear if any recent kidnappings had occurred. If there wasn’t any reporting, my thoughts certainly weren’t relieved; or if there was an abduction, my thoughts certainly wouldn’t be relieved either.
No amount of reasoning can solve the equation in my head: should I or should I not have asked, “hey kid, you alright?”