"Oooooh! You have..."
Her voice trailed off, brown eyes sparkling as a small finger reached out to touch the back of my hand, where a recent run-in with a toaster oven had me sporting a Hello Kitty band-aid.
"...Hello Kitty!" She finished. "We have Hello Kitty too, but they're smaller, not big like that."
"Well there are lots of different kinds of Hello Kitty band-aids, I'm sure." I responded, smiling.
"What did you do?" Still running her finger over the band-aid.
"Well, I burnt my hand on a toaster oven and so now I'm wearing a band-aid."
"No no no! Tell me slowly! So first, you were trying to make toast...."
She settled back into her seat as if to concentrate as the train hurtled underground towards Brooklyn.
"And then you tried to stick your hand in the toaster..."
"No, it was a toaster oven."
"What's that?" A crinkled nose punctuating her confusion.
"It's like a little mini oven that sits on top of your counter."
"Ohhhh... and you were making toast?"
"I was making pizza. And it was very hot. And I burned myself."
"Did it hurt?"
"What did your mom say?"
I couldn't help but laugh.
"Well, I didn't actually tell her."
"Where does she live?"
"Where's that?" Nose crinkling once more.
"Wellll.... do you know where New Jersey is?"
A cautious nod.
"Well it's on the other side of New Jersey."
"Ohhh, and you live there too?"
"No, I live in Brooklyn."
"Why don't you live with your mom?"
"Because I'm old, and when you get old you don't live with your mom anymore. So I live by myself. When you get old you won't want to live with your mom anymore either."
"Shanti is the baby," changing subjects with the lightening speed that only small children can accomplish without appearing crazy, "she can't talk or walk or anything yet."
"Well then she definitely needs to live with her mom."
I smiled at my own cleverness.
She looked at me as though I were nuts.
"She lives with my auntie."
"Do you know my auntie? Her name is Monique, but I call her Auntie Mo..."
"No, I don't think I know her."
"She's my mama's sister, and her mama is my mama's mama so she's my grandma and I'm her grandchild..." and she was off on a series of observations that I could not reproduce if I tried.
I smiled and answered her questions as her small body leaned into me and she once again began to run her finger over the band-aid.
"Does it hurt?"
"Can I see it?"
"No, I don't think that's a good idea."
"Let me see it!"
"No, I need to keep it clean."
She leaned in farther and as I felt her press against me I wondered, when was the last time I could trust a stranger like that? When the world, big as it may be, still seemed so safe? So secure?
The train began rolling into my station.
"This is my stop."
"No it's not!" she said with a smile, as though I were only joking.
"Yes, it is. It was very nice talking to you. You be good for the rest of the ride, okay?"
As I stood up, shouldered my ridiculously heavy bag, and wandered across the platform to wait for my connecting train, I realized...
I was still smiling.
And just like that, the black cloud that had been hanging over me all week began to lift.
Who knew my salvation would come in the form of a five year old girl?
Saturday, March 8, 2008
"Oooooh! You have..."
Posted by the frog princess at 10:53 PM