Sometimes, the smallest things are the most heartbreaking.
They were sitting next to me on the commute home. She, clearly tired and irritable, packed in like a solitary sardine into the recesses of the sweaty, rexine seat, he, on her lap, fidgety and curious like most 5-year-olds on a day out can be.
The little one was mostly talking to himself, gabbing away, flitting from topic to topic, when he suddenly paused for a moment and went “H-O-R-N. Mom, what does that mean?”
“I don’t know…stop asking questions”
I don’t blame her. Wedged in as she was, between the cold metal and my not-inconsiderable bulk is not how I would choose to spend a quarter of an hour either. Add to that a squirming child who insisted on shoving his arm out of the moving vehicle like his life depended on getting his limbs sliced off, and I understand her lack of enthusiasm.
Nor was it the end of the world for the child. Clearly, this was familiar behaviour, and he immediately distracted himself by fishing out a coin from his pocket and scrutinising it in the faint light of the passing vehicles.
And there I sat, wondering if I should answer the question. Wondering if it was my place to. Wondering what they would think if I did. Acutely aware that every passing moment would make it even more awkward, out-of-place.
A child’s curiosity is a precious thing. A wonderful thing. To sate it and watch a face light up in the glow of comprehension – there’s something magical about that. And as I sat in the darkness, with the child next to me seemingly a million miles away, I wished I could ignore the voice whispering “it’s too late, don’t be weird, don’t interject, it’s a private question.” But I didn’t. I reached my stop, climbed out, paid my fare, and walked away. Knowing I missed out on something special.
Maybe next time, I’ll just answer the damn question.