Kids of the Night
My mom's then-boyfriend was driving my mom, me, and my siblings home late one night. My mom yelled at me for being too rowdy at one o'clock in the morning, setting a bad example for my siblings.
I was teary-eyed, looking down at the floorboard. When I won the window seat, I liked to make eye contact with anybody who was in the backseat of the car next to us on the road.
We hit a red light.
So I turned to look at the car beside us. It was a black sedan, There was a kid in the backseat there too. They looked sad and teary-eyed like me. We made eye contact just stared at each other for what seemed like forever.
The kid smiled and began to wave. I didn't know what to do. My kid-brain believed I would be committing to something and that that kid might possibly turn into a monster (for a reason I can't recall now) if I were to wave back. So I ducked under the window.
The light turned green.
I popped my head back up and I saw the kid staring back at me, smile gone.
I raised my hand to wave.
But their car turned left as we sped straight. I craned my neck to see if they saw that I tried or at least started to wave back, but their car was lost in the reddish-orange fog of the street lights.
I couldn't look out the window for the rest of the ride. I just stared at the floorboard. I could tell in my peripheral that other late-night kids were trying to communicate with me from their own backseats, but I wouldn't have been good to talk to. I couldn't wave back because I was a scaredy-cat.
I think about that moment, once in a blue moon, late at night when I dissociate. If that kid was okay and grew up okay. If they're still breathing and going about their life. And if they even remember that moment and me. And that I didn't wave back.