We tumble along the sidewalk. Visitors, friends, kids, a flurry of bright winter coats and scarves on a Saturday quest for dumplings and video games and sweets. It’s cold, but the day is bright. A golden day. Our sons, nine years old, huddle together, conspirators trading in knock-knock jokes and trivia as we wander from the twisted alleys of Chinatown to the open dome of sky at the Chambers Street stop. Her daughter bounces from kid to kid and back to her. My smallest climbs every wall and shoos the birds from any place they perch as we walk.
At the corner they all make it to the other side, safe and waiting in front of City Hall, but I hold him back as the light turns. He is not city trained. The cars back up and gridlock, and, after a beat, I think we can move into the street. I have him carefully. My hand is on his shoulder, then my fingers are grabbing for his jacket as he slips through and darts, but I see, and he doesn’t, and I’ve told him before, thecar you don’t see is the one that runs you down, and I am screaming in the crowded street, and the Saturday tourists all turn, because they hear in the sound from the deepest place that the most important thing will be lost, and the car is coming quickly, trying to make time along the side of the stopped stream of traffic with a fare in the back who doesn’t even look up to notice the blonde head, just above the hood-line, hesitate in the middle of the street. The driver brakes fast, and the car stops hard, pushing him up against his steering wheel with the force. He, like any kind of angel in New York, is not from here. His car is white, and the bumper gleams, just touching my boy’s knee. Music from another place trickles nostalgically into the sudden silence of the street.
All the air I have been holding forever for ten seconds rushes out of me like a popped balloon. An audience has stopped, and someone yells, you’re lucky, kid, as I pull him across the street. The cars move on. The people scatter. He begins to cry. I’m sure he doesn’t know why, and I hug him tight and close to me, his small chest heaving, and luck isn’t even the word.
Anneke McEvoy is a writer, maker, and mother who teaches English as a second language at the State University of New York at Oswego.
Photo by Lily Banse.