I felt it was almost poetic, the sight I saw that day. A little Chinese boy, head bent, his uniform flapping slightly in the breeze coming from the rush of cars on the busy street a foot and a half from him. He pulled a small roller backpack behind him, and he did not look up from his feet. His pace was steady, his backpack went bump-bump-bump on the uncrushed gravel he trod upon. Bump-bump-bump went the backpack, bump-bump-bump. He did not look up from his feet as he walked, one foot in front of the other. He did not look up as the man on the corner sold fresh strawberries in cardboard crates, offering his wares to the busy people as they drove past. He did not look up as he passed the hot-dog vendor, protecting his dogs with a thin glass shield from the storm of dust that the fast cars kicked up. The little Chinese boy just kept walking, walking, one foot in front of the other, crossing that busy street, ignored by the world around him. He got to the bus stop, and he sat, shoulders slumped, head down, watching his feet. But then he stopped, and he looked up. His gaze was steady, though his slanted shoulders made him seem meek. My brother lowered the window and waved to him as we drove by, and I watched as he waved back, mouth in a line, his eyes steady on the passing car as his friend left. I asked my brother, “Should we give him a ride home,” and my brother said, “If you want.” But by then we were past the bus stop, and it seemed a waste of gas to turn all the way around, drive back, pick up the boy, and drive him past our home to his. So we drove home, and the image of this little boy, hunched like a turtle, was stuck in my mind. I could not forget the steadiness of his gaze as we drove by.
The Little Chinese Boy
November 8, 2009