Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Time stands still

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Rhode Island Metro, Red Line. He pushes a stroller onto the metro, and a toddler boy in the stroller is wailing, screaming, very upset. "Dad" looks angry, too; he sits down at the 'priority seating' and seems far away, distant from this crying. The child wails, unconsoled, and Dad robotically takes his son from the stroller and holds him to his chest, patting his back. The boy continues to cry, but a little softer - yes, this is better. He wiggles away a bit, to sit beside Dad on the bench seat, still wailing.

What is this young father angry about?
What's on his mind, what burdens him?
Isn't hard to understand what a child needs?
How sweet that Dad manages to give a little love, in the midst of his frustration.

Diagonally across from Dad and baby, two young girls settle into a seat - they are maybe four and five years old. Their "Mom" sits down right behind them.

When did they get on the metro?
This same stop?
Just now?
Another young family.

Wait. The baby boy seems to be looking their way. Yup, they're together. Mom calls out - "Here. Stop crying. Take your bottle." Little guy jumps away from seat with Dad, runs to her, grabs bottle, back to seat with Dad, still crying. Sipping the bottle is soothing and the crying stops. Dad glares at Mom and then looks away, obviously fuming.

Why isn't this family sitting together?
How old are these parents? 20 years old?
Aren't their hands are full? Wow, three young children.
Aren't those girls precious - so quiet and happy, sitting together?

All of a sudden, Dad yells, "It was YOUR fault! You did it! He was with you, but you didn't ..." Mom yells back, "You full of it! It was YOUR fault!" And they start to argue loudly. The gist of the argument escapes me.

Something to do with the little boy?
Something else?
Don't they realize how inappropriate this is?
On a metro train, out in public?
In front of their young children?
Please don't argue here.

But they do, and the argument escalates. This is unbridled anger, frightening, out of control. These two know exactly how to needle each other.

I look up and around. There are maybe seven other passengers in the vicinity. Most have perked up as I have, looking around. We catch each others' eyes. We are all unsettled.

Next metro stop. NOMA Gallaudet. Argument continues. A couple passengers get on and, hearing the loud voices, they move to the opposite end of the car.

Dad pulls some papers from the stroller, rolled up tightly - "And what you want me to do with THIS! You don't take no responsibility for this, do YOU?! What about these papers, hunh?!" She argues back, "They ain't mine! That's on you!" And in the midst of these yelling voices, the little boy begins to cry again and runs to Mom and sits on her lap. Dad jumps up, holding the papers, angrily pushes the empty stroller to Mom (at Mom?), and yells - "I ain't taking any more of your &#%!  *%#&@ you!" and he storms off through the emergency exit at the end of the car into the next train car.

(Obviously ignoring the large sign STOP - EMERGENCY USE ONLY on these doors.)
(But, then again, maybe this is emergency use. I'm okay with it, at this point and time.)

Everything gets quiet. I meet the eyes of the gal sitting diagonally across from me, and I nod, thinking, whew. That's over. That was a close one.

What were those papers?
Is this a legal issue?
Maybe something to do with custody?
Or some sort of a summons?
Oh my, their hands are full; mistakes have been made; they need guidance.

Third metro stop. UNION STATION. Mom gets out of her seat, holding little boy by the hand, pushing his stroller, and beckons the little girls, "Come on, we're getting off here." She walks down to the far end of train to exit - opposite direction from the car that the Dad ran into. One gentleman enters and stands at the door, not moving to a seat; he looks like a military man - very fit and strong, military-style camouflage backpack, some sort of 'issued' pants with all those special pockets...

It's a new metro train, which means the doors stay propped open momentarily at this metro stop, as the robotic voice announces "This train is stopped for schedule adjustment."

Time stands still.

The platform has many passengers, coming and going. A couple other passengers enter our train car and sit down.

In a flash,
from my seat on the metro,
I see the Dad, race onto the platform from the other train car, up to the Mom and family, yelling, "I'm taking my son!," he grabs at the child, the woman in the seat behind me immediately calls Metro Police - and calmly says "I am on Red Line Train from Glenmont, stopped at Union Station, there is a domestic situation on the platform, police needed immediately," Mom screams, "Oh no you ain't!," Dad smacks her upside her face, Mom slugs him across his head, all the while holding onto her baby boy's hand, the two girls are screaming, Mr. Military goes flying off my train, as does a another young male, they grab the Dad, who fights and resists and curses, and they slam Dad to the floor, with Mr. Military yelling, "You have to calm down!" and Dad is pinned, with Mr. Military at his head/arms and the young man holding his feet, two other helpers are holding Mom back from Dad, she is screaming "Let me go! I need my kids!," another is holding the little boy, one screaming little girl separates from the others and runs in fear up the escalator, I jump from my seat on the train to run catch her and keep her safe, another woman is faster, ahead of me, enveloping her, comforting, bringing her back to her sister and brother, other helpers come from all directions, staying with the children, keeping them at a distance from the melee, Dad and Mom continue to scream at each other, the children are screaming, so many people daring to get involved,
a Metro policeman comes
down the escalator
too slowly for my liking
the bell chimes for the Metro doors to close
I know I am not needed
I go back onto the train

What was that?
What is happening?
How could so much happen in just a moment?
How did so many people know what to do?
I am incredulous at this calm emergency response.
So many Good Samaritans on the scene, helping, staying
insisting on peace,
preventing worse.

What about those dear children?

What's gone wrong in these young parents' lives?
How can things get better?
What's going to happen?
What support exists for them?
What is the cost of this anger?
How to make a better life?

What about those dear children?


  1. Oh my. Those poor kids. Good for all of you for helping them at that moment. I hope they, and their parents, have some support systems around them that will help them all.

    1. It all happened so quickly - and showed, I think, how powerful community can be...and how truly hard life is for many. Here's hoping there are support systems around them!

  2. I am proud of you and others for stepping up to help, yet these questions will be on your mind for a long, long time, I'm sure. How terrible for everyone, spectators, too, but especially for those young children. There are those things that happen our of our sight to our students that we never know. I heard some of the stories confidentially through my teaching years, and tried to help the students as much as I could. I hope this sharing helped a little, Maureen.

    1. I wanted to write about this simply because of how it continued to weigh on me - even though it was only few minutes long, in its entirety. We often hear about people not pitching in - and, here, everyone seemed to take action. I was impressed. Thanks for commenting, Linda!

    2. It does make one feel good that there will be others who will be there, stepping up with you. Courage is sometimes a lonely thing, or at least it feels like it. I'm glad you shared.

  3. WOW! I loved all the questions throughout this piece. I loved the familiar description of being on the Red Line Metro. The tension. You can write!!! I'll be looking for YOU on Tuesday! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you, Sally! As a local - you know what I'm talking about. Love that you enjoyed this!