It was brief and hard to understand. I was driving too fast - my attention focused on merging into traffic from a parking lot. My mind, juggling too much input and too many decisions, registered the scene as humourous. When I changed my mind, it was already too late.
A family walked together down the street. They looked young. The street was one of those places always dusted with grey leaves that sometimes take their breezy orders from passing trains. The tracks inevitably perch on a high embankment that marks boundaries for the neighbourhood of grey leaves. The boundary says this is a place for the dispossessed - relying on welfare, workfare, angry machismo, one more training course, too much rent, and too much time.
The family really wasn't walking. They moved first down the sidewalk and then across an expanse of scrubby grass . They moved forward together, but they moved as an ever changing swarm - the four of them.
Mother - blond and small and emotional - arms gesticulating wildly at Father as she struggles to remain in front of him, face to face. She keeps falling behind, though.
Father - tall with patchy facial hair and adorned with ball-cap and backpack - walks with deliberate strides. Paying no attention to Mother and eyes fixed ahead, he has Brother's arm and is drag-walking him to whatever objective he had set.
Brother - small and scared and probably 5 years old - hangs lop-sided from Father's grip as he stumbles to wherever he supposed to go. I knew he cried and screamed.
Sister - blond like Mother and a protector for her younger Brother - follows Father with angry screams dampening her face. She uses a long, thin stick to weakly hit Father's backpack, but to no real effect.
I had driven a few blocks before my brain put it all together. These were people in crisis and sorrow, and I could imagine many reasons. I remembered this feeling. It's been so many years, but I remember the Kid-Me and his fears.
At the next block I turned the van around. I needed to see this family again. Maybe I would do something, but I wasn't sure I could help. Maybe I just needed to see Brother and Sister. They could be alright now and I wouldn't even know it if I didn't see them. Kid-Me made that snide smile because he knew that all the years hadn't dulled the ability to justify and lie on the inside.
But they were gone already. It had only been a few minutes, and I'd missed them. Two weeks have passed and I'm still bothered by it all. I hope they're okay now, but I doubt they are.