I parked and approached to find an officer engaged in loud conversation with two women, both of whom cried and made big gestures with their hands and arms. Then, I saw one of my students, Gabriel, seated on the curb out front, with his little cap pulled low over the eyes, coat zipped to the top, and brand new sneakers tapping a puddle of run-off water at his feet. He watched as the officer and the two women talked. When the boy saw me, he made a tiny wave.
What’s going on, Gabriel?
Just the facts: Mom (now chatting with officer) dropped him off at 8AM. She left. He tried to get in, found the door locked, and returned to the curb. Time now: 12 Noon. Events that transpired between 8:00 and Noon, thus far, unknown. Any of us might fill in the blanks with our best guesses. Both mom and aunt were now on scene.
So, I sat next to him on the curb. We didn’t talk for a few minutes. I scanned the street to the east and the west. On the guard rail in front of Hilltop Market, three guys stood and watched. Down the hill the other way, parked cars, an empty street, and the freeway roaring by. One guy across the street slept on a bench. Quite a cast.
I asked Gabriel, what have you been doing all this time?
He clapped his hands twice, looked up at me, then to his mom who continued to cry and chat with the officer. Those two seemed to be hitting it off. So Gabriel turned his chilled nose my way again.
I watched cars and waited. A lady came to talk to me and ask me for money. I gave her a dollar. Then she left and I talked to some birds. Those big ones up there.
He pointed to the wire overhead. Five shiny black crows sat above both of us, beaks turned. They can see us, the boy explained, but they have to look with one eye.
Gabriel closed his right eye, angled his head a quarter turn clockwise, and gave me the one-eyed crow look.
What happens next after a morning like this? I had nothing to compare his experience to in my life. . .getting dumped on a curbside. I know that five year-olds are pure potential. Some kids go places and others crash early. Some get everything and make nothing of it. But how can others build great things from next-to-nothing?
I have heard the many stories: Of the man who sat beneath a tree for forty-nine days, returning from his dreaming to a full moon and the power to see things as they are. Or the man who disappeared for thirty years to return curing the sick and raising the dead. Or the guy who got knocked from his horse by a bolt of lightening and woke up talking to angels? Or even Saint Francis who talked to birds all the time.
Then comes Gabriel who sat for hours on this gritted curb and now talks to crows. What did they tell him? At this moment, as his mom chats and crows watch, he has changed. My wish for the boy: May that which is unforgettable prove beneficial in the end.