I am standing in a long line at the TTC.
In a stroller a three year old girl is screaming and her four year old brother is hollering in harmony while their mother soothes the baby she’s carrying while taking apple slices out of a sandwich bag while lengthening the seatbelt on the stroller while explaining that apples are all they have while adults scowl and fidget and turn the music in their ears higher.
Clerks behind bulletproof glass drone in dialtones sorry sir those tickets are too old to turn in sorry sir well I know you saved them but they are not –
The girl twists in the stroller and her brother changes notes and achieves a perfect fifth, his shrieks soaring above hers and I keep wanting to offer to help – to hold something – the quiet baby for preference, but I am paralyzed with shyness.
And suddenly – THIS is a STORY – a tall long haired woman pronounces, and the two children fall silent and look up in wonder. She leans over the stroller and points to her smartphone which is playing tinny music.
THIS is a STORY about a frog, she says. Once upon a time, there was a frog who was very hungry. I get hungry sometimes, do you get hungry?
The girl blinks eyelashes matted with tears and gives a tiny nod.
The boy peers over to see the story too. Freed, the mother finishes every task in moments and her face relaxes. Every hunched shoulder unhunches. (- transferrable, now, if you have any tickets that have been purchased in the past six months sir -)
The tinny music fades. THE END, says the tall woman. Both children gaze at her with wide eyes and when she says, Another? they nod long and loudly.
And I don’t really think it takes a village to raise a child. Just one person to take off their headphones. To lean over the stroller. To tell a story.
Photo Aranya Sen