I watch from my second-floor office window as a woman grips a stroller with one hand and brings a cigarette to her lips with the other. She takes a drag then exhales over her shoulder. Swirling leaves put everything in motion.
The stroller’s seat balloons under the child’s weight. A little boy, I assume. His blue shoes squish together on the footrest, his knees bend at chin-level. He sits with his gloved hands in his lap while watching traffic speed by. The woman nudges the stroller’s front wheels into the gutter, looks to the left, then crosses the lane as it empties. With one arm she wheelies the stroller onto the median. Cars approach from the right then brake to a crawl as they pass. I suck air through my teeth and make my mom’s near-miss sound. The woman puts the cigarette between her teeth and waves the cars on like an exhausted traffic cop. I turn away.
When I look back, the woman is screaming at the child. She’s let go of the stroller and is standing in front of him, hollering and waving her arms. She makes like she’s walking away then doubles back after he tries desperately to undo his straps. She flicks away her cigarette, grabs the stroller and bolts into the lane. An SUV has to lock up its brakes to stop. The woman gives the driver the finger and takes her sweet time reaching the opposite curb. She pushes stroller down the sidewalk. The boy’s face is wet and red. His mouth wide open, filled with teeth.