It was mean.
It was unnecessary.
We were driving home from the movie laughing and talking about what we had just seen. The sky was darkening and a storm looked like it would hit. It felt cosy in the car and we looked out at people scurrying to get home.
The light in front of us went red and we pulled to a stop. It was at a stop light that is almost constantly red. It is right in front of a little mall that has a convienience store and a ice cream shop that is popular with kids. The light is one of those that is activated for pedestrians and goes red to stop the flow of traffic so that people can pass.
During the summer it is common to see hundreds of kids pass to and fro as they head over to the small plaza to hang with or to leave their group of friends. Pulling into the parking lot to shop there is like driving into one of Gulliver's travels - the land of children - it's a place where adults are looked at with annoyance. This is their ground.
We watched as three kids crossed. Each with a bike, each in a helmet, each rushing across the street. I smiled as I remembered being young and learning to cross a busy street. Cars seem dangerous, ominous, to me and my heart always sped up as it seemed that they could suddenly dart out and smash into me.
The two in front were boys. I'm bad at ages but maybe 11 or 12. Their faces were grim with determination to get by us and back onto the safety of the sidewalk. Immediately behind them was a girl also with her bike glancing back and waving to her mom, who had stopped to say hello to someone, to hurry along. Then her eyes swept by us in the car and she smiled. She had Down Syndrome and with that extra chromosone often comes an openness that the boys, her peers in age, had outgrown.
I don't know why I did it but I did. I waved. I know I shouldn't have. I slap my hand for doing it. I encouraged her to wave to a stranger which she did. The boys noticed and thus I smiled at them too. They said something which I couldn't hear so pressed the button to roll the window down.
"She's not with us," he said wanting to make it clear that though they were crossing together, they weren't part of the same group weren't friends.
Her face registered hurt. She hadn't pretended to be with them but she was suddenly shoved away. Not part of the group, not a member of the team, not wanted on the voyage.
I called back to them, "Why would she want to be?"
They looked startled. Like they expected to be immediately understood. Like they had talked 'normal' to 'normal' with implicit understanding of the desire to be separate from one of those. Like they had been funny. They saw in my face anger. They didn't notice her hurt, she was inconsequential to them. They rushed away from me.
Mom, seeing the light about to change, dashed across the street and saw her daughter crying. "I wouldn't have left you here alone," mom reassured her. She grabbed her mom and hugged her.
"But she is here alone," I thought.
The light turned and we drove home into the storm.