Some expected pain


They saw us holding hands and made one sort of face or another. This man and a boy. A child without its mother. A father and a son walking around at midday downtown on a Wednesday. A man who wasn’t working regular business hours. Maybe tourists.

The heat as we walked across the sidewalk clamped into the air, fixing the humidity with a vaporous rigidity, giving each breath in and out a clammy form that seemed to widen the nostrils on its way into the body.

His palm was sweaty in mine and usually at the first touch of sweat he’d let go but he didn’t.

Inside a little restaurant it was so cold the vinyl cushions of the booth delivered a pleasant chill against the back of our legs. He smiled as I acted like I sat on an ice cube, then put his index finger in his mouth. His eyes went one way as he explored. And I remembered.

“It’s loose. Really loose.”

Twenty minutes later he asked if we could go to the bathroom so he could pull it out. He had it in his palm a few seconds after I locked the door behind us. I was amazed. Even though it was his seventh or eighth one, he did it as easily as wiping his mouth with a napkin.

He held a paper towel to his mouth. It grew a little red by the time we returned to our table. A few people we passed saw the blood and made eyes or stopped their martini mid-sip, but there was nothing I could do to prevent the interruption.

He sat down and sucked on a few pieces of ice as if awaiting some expected pain but it didn’t come. With that proven, he resumed eating his mac and cheese. Amazing child. He even hammed it up for a gap-toothed photo to text to his mom at work.

I walked around the rest of the afternoon with it in the pocket of my shorts, a piece of toilet paper folded over three times around his baby bicuspid.