Look down, here I go, I am the little girl. I'm so sad, I'm so bad, I'm unloved, unworthy, alone. Why does this always happen to me, why is mommy so mean? Why can't we be happy?
A flick of my eyes to the right, I zoom into the stressed-out mother. I'm so goddamn tired of taking care of this kid, she's being such a little brat and I'm not going to take it. Kids should be respectful, someone's got to teach them. Someone taught me.
Eyes shift left, a tall salesclerk with a kind face and terror in her eyes, that's who I am. I tell the mother it's okay, her daughter is just a little child. I'm so upset, I see this all the time—these angry, cruel women who yell at their kids. Sometimes I just can't handle my job because of it.
I come back to myself to find my hand reaching out to pat the mother on the back. To what end? To distract, to console, to de-escalate her abuse towards her child. I tell her it's okay, she's just a little kid. She angrily tells me it’s not okay for kids to misbehave.
I want to reach out, I want to prostrate myself across her path and tell her to calm the fuck down. I want to hire a babysitter so she can get a break. I want to take her child away from her. I want to teach her how to be soft and kind; show her how to discipline without cruelty, and teach with love. I want to surround her in community so she doesn't have to go it alone, so she never reaches her breaking point and lashes out at the vulnerable child at her feet. I want to hug and hold her daughter, look deep into her lovely young eyes, and tell her that she's wonderful, tell her it's not okay for anyone to hurt her. I want to protect her from her mother, and I want to protect her mother from herself.
All I can do is nothing at all.
The mother storms off out of the store with her crying child in tow. My hand is at my heart. I try to hold it together but it's too late. Oh, my fragile heart, you're no good to anyone. My feelings won't change a thing. I'm helpless. It's hopeless.
The salesclerk and I make eye contact, lean into one another and hold hugging each other for a moment. We've bonded over our joint fears and hopes for a little girl who doesn't know how much we care. I hope she's okay. I hope she'll be okay. My tears fall, but they don't cleanse me. I have no relief, and I'll never know. I have no connection to her. I will always feel the acute disconnect of not being able to really help her. It's not enough, and there is no more.