I pull off near the zoo. The cars and trucks line up, creating usual traffic on this exit. Looking back into the rear view mirror, their heads bob to the music.
"I love Laurie" Mo yells. "It's the Goldfish, Mama, you're favorite".
Our newly purchased The Best of Laurie Berkner Band CD has been on steady rotation in our car for the past two weeks. The guitar strums as her voice continues to stream through the speakers,
"Let's go swimming, Let's go swimming, Hey Let's go swimming" she sings.
My foot releases the gas, as we creep forward.
My mind wanders.
I can't believe the gym didn't call me back. I really need to get the girls in swim lessons ASAP. Should I call again.
"Let's go swimming, at the bottom of the ocean".
Hitting the break again, we wait.
"Are we almost there?" Mo asks.
"Almost," I respond, as we move up, making it to the stop sign.
Cars zip past this intersection, as I wait for an opening. Carefully I inch forward, and pull out into the right hand lane. I pull the turn signal down, indicating our intention of turning right. In front of me, two cars sit, their flashers blinking the same.
"Why she standing there, mama?" Mo asks.
"Huh?" my response muffled as I look to check her sister. Safely secured in her car seat, I ask Mo, "What are you talking about?"
"That girl" she ask, "over there on the sidewalk. What she doing? Why she have water bottle in her hand? She thirsty?"
Standing at the corner, I see the girl.
No older then eight.
She stands immediately at the corner.
Her black hair plaited in rows, wearing brown flip flops, white tank top and pink shorts.
In each hand she holds a bottle, water in the left, orange Gatorade in the right.
Her face carries a purpose.
Like a tightrope, she balances her weight on the curb. Walking along, she bends her head. Her face meets each driver. She says nothing, but her eyes glimmer.
She gestures to her bottles, as the driver nods no. She offers a small smile and takes a few steps.
"She's selling drinks" I tell Mo. "She's making sure everyone has water or juice since it's hot".
I turn to the sidewalk and see an older woman. Perhaps her mother, I assume. Bending over two large coolers, she adjusts the ice. Picking up and replacing water bottles, in that moment she pays no mind to the girl.
Their roles are clear.
One foot crosses over the other, as she continues to balance on the curb as she comes closer. Her face peers in through the passenger window as my face meets her gaze. I nod no.
I want to pull her into the car with me.
I want to take her to the park with my girls.
I want her to play, run, laugh, and act the way I expect a child to act on a warm summer day.
I wish I had a few dollars to hand to her.
But in this moment, my wallet is empty.
I can offer her nothing but an apologetic nod.
The small smile comes across momentarily as she walks away.
I want to be able to tell Mo that this girl will be fine, but honestly I don't know.
The light turns green. The girl takes a few steps back from the curb, returning to the solace of coolers and the older woman.
My eyes stay transfixed, waiting.
A horn blows, and I press on the gas, watching the girl as I turn away.