The thing was, she was in the way. That’s what started it. I was with my mother, and I must have been a very small child because I don’t know how old I was. It had begun to rain.
She wasn’t in the way like standing in the road. No, she was standing slightly close to the road on the sidewalk. Close enough that cabs kept slowing down to see if she was about to hail them.
Other people were hailing cabs, and they kept jostling her, trying to get close enough to the road to be seen.
My mother and I were getting off the bus at the stop and were waiting for the next bus.
It was pouring down rain, the wind buffeting it around the corners of the bus stop. Everyone was putting up hoods and opening up umbrellas.
My mother, God rest her soul, had me in her coat with a newspaper over her head, she was always careless about forgetting an umbrella. The woman had nothing. She stood in the rain.
She was on the very edge of the street now, her feet on the curb itself, balancing. Her head moved back and forth, and her fingers moved like she was typing frenetically.
Her face had an expression, like pure joy.
Still, she might not have been noticed if a cab driver hadn't stopped and asked her if she needed a ride. She stared at him, her mouth working, no sounds.
He got out of the car and approached her, hand reaching out to touch her. Suddenly he was screaming, holding his hand.
She said something to him then, you could see the panic in her eyes, as whatever it was tried desperately to work a way out of the situation.
It wasn’t as good at control back then, it was still experimenting with its own strength.
The mob emerged so organically that it seemed the very force of humanity swelled into a creature made of people. The shouting. Sirens. Being held even closer to my mother’s stomach.
The smell of her perfume. I pulled away and looked long enough to see one man, the cabbie, standing as if elected, people a ring around him and the woman. He was holding a bat.
The bat went crack and down she went. A brief glimpse of her face, open-mouthed and gaping like a fish, eyes wild, something somewhere still trying to process a way out.
Then a coat in front of my face and the smoothness of floating transition only a young child could experience, as I was swept up and into the bus by my mother.
She never let me look back, but over the bus, I could hear the bat swing down again, and then silence.
That was my first time seeing one of them. I never again saw anyone bump into one by accident. I never saw another one standing in the rain. Lessons it learned, and quickly.