I watched a man walking toward me on the street today. He had a soft easy step with his hands in his pockets and arms akimbo. He seemed so loose and free moving. I noticed there was something wrapped around his neck. Scarf? Handkerchief? Hands! He had a child on his back. Legs slipped through his arms and arms wrapped around his neck. The child's face was pressed into his neck. I could almost hear the child breathing against him. As the man passed me by, he changed. The step which was so carefree and happy, slowed and became more of a shuffle. Jeans torn, layers of sweaters and the child was a backpack. The ends of the arm straps tucked into his front pockets with his hands. He looked at me solemnly. I felt so guilty, as if I broke his dream. By simply by seeing him, I brought him back to the reality where his child is gone. Gone somewhere he is unable to follow. I broke his gaze, and he continued moving on. In my rearview mirror, I saw him straighten. Saw the step grow easy and loose again. The bag shifted and the child murmured something in his ear.
We were both happier then.