Reposted from Farmer John Cheese and Other Joy, October 2009:
Pinprick slanted rain spears serve as a smoky filter, not exactly obscuring view, but at least smudging the edges of forms. After picking Addie up from school, we are close to home at an odd intersection at the end of a triangular shaped block. Pedestrians and drivers alike have an extra direction to monitor before proceeding here.
I pull up to my stop sign and make out through the rain a striped hat on the head of a young girl. Her backpack and lack of umbrella lead me to assume she is a high school student heading home, too cool for protective rain gear. The rain spears let up a little. Her striped hat is a woolly home-knit look, extra bunches of material piled and folded on top, her ears fold downward under the band. She holds her curly-haired head perched on a bowed neck, the way tall people sometimes do so as to not appear as tall. I can see her lips moving. She might be talking, but no one is with her. Maybe it's because of the rain, but her clothes don't seem to fit quite right. They hang as if she left before completely finishing all fasteners.
On her round, pale face, her eyebrows strain to meet each other, apparently knit with concern or concentration. I had never seen her before, so maybe this is a natural expression. The girl pivots her head from side to side while her lips move. I think she is checking to safely cross, but the consistency and repetition of the pivot inspire some doubt as to a functional purpose for the movement.
I wait for her to make eye contact so I can assure her that I would not blow the stop sign, that she is safe to cross. She stops. Seemingly without even noticing my car nearby, she turns in a slow circle. Did she drop something? When the circle is complete, she takes a step into the street, only then realizing my idling and still car in front of her. I smile and wave her through, carefully cheerful to make it quite clear that no impatience is intended.
She stops again, right in front of the car. Just past the hood of my car, her back straightens, neck extends, her eyebrows release themselves, with her eyes meeting mine for a moment. Her hand begins to reach up, but she swiftly brings it back to her side and completes her street crossing in front of me. I watch her until she arrives at the other curb.
As I begin to turn my attention to my own safe crossing, the girl turns back a number of times, shifting her head and craning to get a good look in the car. At me. She wants to see me. I don't know if Addie is watching from her car seat. She cannot tell me as her communication device battery is drained from school and I have not be glancing back to check for sign language. As if on cue, she kicks the back of my seat, shooting the gangly tough roots of another painful truth through my understanding.
This girl in the striped hat - a young woman that should be on the cusp believing that the future belongs to her, that the possibilities are endless, without a gray hair on her head, without a line on her face, without a failure under her belt - she is already accustomed to moving through the world unseen. I surprised her with the simple act of acknowledging that she requires the courtesy of a safe crossing, with this small connection. She did not know what to make of it.
There are humans among us bearing, adapting to, and accepting a state of invisibility. I am deeply ashamed of all the hundreds of times I have could have witnessed, acknowledged, heeded, times I could have extended my human-ness to meet another's...but because I could not readily accommodate the differences, I did not. I chose instead, not to see.
I am sorry. I will choose it.
I want to see.