On the street

At the corner of the wide, clattering commercial street there’s a huge man screaming at a woman, her shoulder shrugged slightly away. She’s holding hands with a small boy in a blue school blazer. The man’s long arms stab the air, his head vibrates from the force of his voice. Spit flies, or maybe it’s sweat.

“You are o-ffensive, you hear me. Offensive. That’s what you are.” He steps forward, leans down to her face, so close, his nose must be touching hers. She doesn’t flinch, she doesn’t lean back. He’s jamming his finger at her, still yelling. I walk past and then I turn around. I see her eyes are ringed with red. He’s got the boy’s hand now, leading him away, still yelling. She’s sobbing. The boy is sobbing.

“Miss, do you need help?” I don’t know if this will make it worse for her. It might. She calmly says no, thank you, without looking at me, without taking her eyes off the man and the boy.

“You get out of my business, you bitch. Mind your own.” His voice is so loud with rage, it’s shaking. “You’re nothing. You hear? Don’t you talk to her.” He takes a long, fast step at me, jerking the little boy with him. I keep walking, raise my hands palms out, submission. I keep walking past him, my back is to him now and I imagine him coming down on me, my head hitting the sidewalk. I’m terrified. And I wonder what she’s doing.

There’s a leggy man leaning against a street sign maybe ten feet in front of me. He’s got his phone out, idly scanning it. But he’s watching. A few houses down there are three men on a stoop, watching. There are eyes on the street here, on him, on her, on the boy, and on me. The sound of the man’s screaming starts to fade with the distance I put between us.

Farther down the block there’s a gorgeous, big woman shaking her head. I catch her eye and say, “You taking all that in?”

“Yeah. That shit awful. I feel for that boy, he gotta listen to it. I bet he’s listening to it every day.” We fall in step together. “That’s why I got nothing to do with all that. I’m like the MTA. Bus says NEXT BUS PLEASE. Me, I say, NEXT WOMB PLEASE. Nothing coming out of this womb, not ever. Unless I’m making seven figures, kids are expensive. And I'm not relying on no man, you just saw what that can come to, right? Gotta be ready to walk the hell away. Kids, they’re cute, but they’re a trap. You got a kid?”

I nod.

“Hmph. See, good luck honey.” We’ve reached the corner together and she turns to cross the other way. “You have a beautiful day now, nice talking with you.” She’s still muttering, next womb please, cracking herself up.