Thursday, September 11, 2014

Neighbourhood Imps

I'm cooling down after a run, walking through my neighborhood with headphones in and tired muscles protesting. My attention is drawn by two policemen, in black sweaters and trousers, using a scanner to check license plates- an easy way to tell who has paid for parking. And who hasn't.

The beeping continues behind me as I reach the next corner and am accosted by five excited kids. I've seen them before during runs; a mix of black and white, girls and boys. I'd guess their ages to be between five and eight. It's not unusual to see kids of all ethnicities out playing on the sidewalks in our neighborhood. Having grown up myself with a big yard and the beach 20 minutes away, I wonder if they even know what they're missing, limited to concrete sidewalks and a few parks . And I wonder if their parents ever worry about them, in our area where there's a high housing turnover rate and it's not uncommon to smell weed.

"Mevrouw, mevrouw!" the kids say excitedly, clustering around me. I pull my earphones out. "Ms., do you want to feel fire?" I wouldn't be surprised if one (or more) has a lighter. Or matches. "Do you have fire, then?" I ask cautiously. Suddenly several of them hold out their arms, crossed. "Can we show you?!" they ask eagerly.

It seems harmless. I imitate their gesture and smile. Two of the little girls promptly hold my arm as I extend it; one of the boys crosses his and makes a quick rubbing motion across mine. I can feel a light friction as they look at me expectantly. "Did you feel it? Did you feel the fire?" "How clever of you all to make fire!" I compliment them, and they beam back at me proudly.

I start to walk away, still smiling, as they continue to their next prospect. "Meneer, meneer! Mister, mister!" I turn around- sure enough, they're approaching the policemen. "No, I'm working right now," says the one, not unkindly, and keeps scanning as he walks. The second one is more receptive; maybe he has kids of his own, or remembers his own days of roaming the streets with friends.

The last I see of the little band of kids, they're happily clustered around a patient urban policeman, showing him how they can make a fire on his arm.

No comments:

Post a Comment