They skidded to a stop in front of the open doors. They looked fearful. Fearful. The older said, “No, you go.” We said we’d wait for their mother. He was more insistent now, “No, you go.” They had backed away and the older was holding on to the younger. I realized that they were afraid to get on with us. With me. Their mother came into view and saw us holding the elevator. She said, “We’ll wait.” Joe said, “We don’t mind there is lots of room” She said, looking at me but talking to Joe, “No I don’t want to expose my children to …” Then she was lost for words.
Joe let the door close.
I’m not sure how she thought I would respond to such a statement. I don’t know that she cared much about it either. But, I have to admit, it stung, badly. I had seen the fear on the boy’s faces and then I saw the source of their fear, they were being taught, systematically, that people like me were objects to be avoided, dangers to be stepped around. And all I was doing was sitting on an elevator.
We rode up, quietly. Just before the door open, Joe struggled with something to say. I put my hand on his arm. What was there to say? How do you respond?
We went about our day both of us tucking what happened away. I no longer want people to have the power to steal time from me, to steal my enjoyment of my day, to have the power to influence my ability to experience joy. There was nothing to do but let go.
We saw them later, all together, When I rolled by where they were the younger boy, who had not spoken was looking at me with curiosity. I was the thing he was supposed to fear, supposed to avoid. He wanted to know why, I could see it in his face. It took all the will in the world to risk doing what i did next. I waved to him. He glanced back at his mother and brother who were distracted by what they were doing.
Then he waved back.