Saturday morning, after picking up my kid from his art class, I was walking with him on East 11th Street, across from St. Mark’s Church, when we came upon a boy, looked to be about ten years old, lying on the sidewalk. His eyes were closed, and though I could see him breathing, for a moment, I wondered whether something bad had happened—whether I would have to call 911, and whether my own kid was about to witness something much heavier than I would ever want for him to witness. Three guys walking in front of us had fanned out to step around around him, slowing to inspect the scene. As my kid, who is six, and I did the same, I scanned the street for clues as to what was going on. Twenty feet away, standing in a doorway to a building, I saw two man standing and talking and looking toward the prone boy. “I don’t know, it’s like some kind of performance art or something,” one of them said, and they both chuckled and shook their heads in a way that told me that the speaker was the dad.
So, phew, I thought. But also, I judged the guy for allowing this kind of “performance art” to take place on his watch. It was a crowded sidewalk. The guys in front of me had almost tripped over the boy. I had come close to doing the same myself. Even more than that, I didn’t appreciate the moment of worry and fright. Had this boy heard the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Hadn’t his father?
“Daddy,” my kid asked once we out of earshot. “Why was that boy lying down on the sidewalk?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“He shouldn’t lie there like that. I almost kicked him.”
“I agree,” I said.
Even worse news? Now the kids are starting pillaring.