We were walking down the midway after Elliot and Audrey put on their game faces and tried the roller coaster. Isaac was looking for a ride that better suited his disposition and had settled on bumper boats. No twists, turns, or unexpected whirling. As we walked I noticed a woman ahead of us and about eight feet behind her trailed a little boy. She was walking in a way that suggested too much alcohol or some sort of physical disability. Her gait was awkward enough to catch my eye, but what she did next kept me glued to her.
She whirled around to face the little boy, jean shorts, t-shirt, brown hair, and only 4 or 5 years old and sneered at him as her arms flailed, "You. Ruin. Everything." She didn't shout it or scream uncontrollably, but somehow her controlled voice and obvious disgust made her wretched words even more difficult to hear. As an innocent bystander I was horrified that she would say that to this boy and couldn't imagine the pain he felt. Or maybe he'd heard it, or something like it, so often that it didn't register anymore unless it got even worse.
I was so upset by this that I followed along behind them. She alternated between walking too fast for him to catch up and walking back to drag him along. The fear he felt at her hands on his arms was obvious. I didn't know what to do. So I just kept following. I could never hear what she said, but I could read disgust and hate in her face and hear it in her voice.
We got to the bumper boats and Isaac, Audrey, and Jim got on. By now the woman and small boy had turned back and were headed back toward the roller coaster. She was dragging him along again, his little feet struggling to catch up and his hands trying to get away. I was holding Asher and told Elliot to come with me. At this point she left the fairgrounds by walking out between two of the rides and the boy was following her a few steps behind. I noticed two men watching her as well and when I got closer I realized that they were State Fair employees. I asked if they were monitoring this situation and told them what I had seen. They were concerned that she might be drunk or high on drugs and that they were heading toward a busy intersection. I asked if they could use their walkie talkies to call for police help because that boy needed help. One of the men started following her off of the grounds and used his walkie talkie to call for more help.
Then I left.
I left for two reasons. 1-I wanted to get back to enjoy the fair as a family and to watch Isaac and Audrey enjoy the end of their ride. 2-I didn't want to be there if the police couldn't stop her. I didn't think I could handle seeing that boy leave with her.
What I wanted to do was get the little boy to bring him home and love him forever. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but no one, I repeat no one, deserves to be talked to in that manner even once, but it was obvious that this boy heard this and a whole lot more every day. And that's not even considering the physical abuse I'm almost certain he endures.
I'm still angry that anyone thinks it's okay to treat a child this way. I still cry thinking about this. I still cry for that little boy and the pain and fear he feels at the hands of someone that should make him feel loved and protected.
I don't know if I am a coward for not confronting her. I don't know if it would have been safe to do it with my kids present. I don't know if that's what I tell myself to let myself think I did enough for a little boy who needs people on his side to step up and protect him from the woman who should be the one doing the protecting. I don't know.
I wish I'd done more. I wish I'd call the police myself and stayed to see what happened. I wish I could change a piece of his story. Catch his eye and tell him he's someone special. There are so many things I wish.
But I just don't know.