He can’t be more than 4.

Posted by Lena Charles; photos by Lena Charles



What do you know, the bus is stuck in traffic again.  Annoyed, I peer out the window to my right.



On the sidewalk, is a child no more than 4 years old puts on a show, blissfully ignorant of the audience.  Handstands against the wall, carwheels so fast I wonder if he will breakdance.  For me.  He wears a striped sweater and jeans as if it’s not 80 degrees.  a crumpled piece of paper, a treasure, is pulled through a loop in his jeans.

I am smiling now, the crowded bus and today’s upcoming quiz nonexistent.  The boy’s mother is young and beautiful, and content.  Her basket of goods to sell today sits to her right and her world, her son, is to her left.  I love them more because I think I know their story.  I think they travel everyday, hand-in-hand from their house far, far away to sell their goods.  How else would they afford to maintain their roof made of cardboard, or tin?

The boy decides it’s time to check on his paper treasure.  He pulls it out and smooths it with his tiny hands.  He is so proud.  Suddenly his eyes gaze upward and meet mine.  I want to share the moment, his world with him.  “Let me do cartwheels and handstands with you.  Let me look at your paper treasure, I swear, it’s so cool.”  My smile falters because he doesn’t smile back.  He has no reason to trust me.  I don’t know his story.  I have never spent my summers in jeans and a thick sweater on a dirty sidewalk, next to a busy street with nothing to play with but a stupid piece of paper.

He covers his face in shame and embarassment with what used to be a paper treasure, and my heart breaks.

What do you know, the traffic is all clear now.