Big Brown Eyes

A loud smash of bodies on glass jarred my nose out of the book I was reading, and I looked up to find chaos at the front of the gymnastics center. People were screaming, “call 911!” and I saw a man dressed all in black tear out the glass doors into the parking lot with a woman in a headlock.

Fear gripped me, and I thought that someone had been kidnapped, or that there had been a robbery.  Two women who were sitting close to the doors and witnessed the whole scene informed me that it was a domestic violence issue.

A man and woman had been arguing about who would bring their son home from the gymnastics lesson.  Somehow, these women knew that this couple was separated, and that cheating was involved.

The man was violent, and she had told him that he couldn’t come home with her and the boy.  He responded by slamming her into the glass door in a choke-hold.

The police were called, and my mind began racing with worries of whether or not this man would come back inside the gym wielding a gun and take us all out.  The coaches were trying to keep the children calm and distract them from the incident.

With one eye on the glass doors, I began to plot out my actions if he returned.   Estimating how quickly I could reach my daughter at the balance beam on the opposite side of the gym.  Calculating the number of steps, once I reach her, to the giant stack of mats we would use as a shield.  Scrutinizing the trajectory that bullets might take from the glass doors to various parts of the gym.

This is how my brain works now, because of the way things are.

I continued monitoring the glass doors, waiting for the reassurance of a siren and blue uniform, which finally arrived.  The woman had returned safely inside, thankfully, and she was crouched down with her arms wrapped tightly around a young boy. 

The son, caught in this crossfire.

The boy pulled out of her grasp and began to walk in my direction, the direction of the cubbies where the kids keep their shoes.  He stopped at a cubby right in front of me and reached in and grabbed his navy blue Crocs.

As he turned to go back to his mother, my eyes locked with his.  They were the Biggest, Brownest eyes I’ve ever seen on a child, and they were filled with fear, shame and tears.  I fought the urge to reach out and hug him, knowing that a touch from a stranger may do more harm than good, at this point.

But with that moment of eye contact, I poured out everything good my heart had in it:  love, understanding, empathy, sadness, peace, faith and hope.

I don’t know if that child felt any of it. 
I pray that he and his mother are safe tonight.
And I know those Big Brown Eyes will haunt me for quite some time.
 

Comments

  1. This breaks my heart. In some way, I truly believe your kindness and compassion was felt.

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    1. I hope so, Marianne. Thanks for reading.

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  2. I hope the police put her in a safehouse. That's terrifying for everyone involved. I hope you see her again at gymnastics so you can hug her and tell her you're glad to see her safe.

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    1. I know, I hope she & her son are there next week. And hope the guy is behind bars. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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  3. This was so hard to read! I sympathize with counting steps and planning escape routes, though. Very moving.

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    1. Thank you, Brie. It is a new way of thinking, for me, as for many, which is troubling, in and of itself.

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  4. This just breaks my heart, I hope that they are ok too. And this line is just so devastatingly true: "This is how my brain works now, because of the way things are."

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    1. Sad that this is the state of the world. Although I suppose it's always been filled with troubled people.

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  5. Must not cry at work.... I don't know how you sat there through that. I would have been up pulling that man off her whether or not I would have got hit in the process. That poor little boy...

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    1. There was a mob of people, including the owner of the gym, who intervened in the situation. It was mass chaos, and I don't know that I had (or would ever have) it in me to put myself in the middle.

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  6. Very well-written, Jen. Thanks for joining us this week.

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    1. Thanks, Erica! Love hanging out with you guys!

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  7. It just sucks when you know kids/people who are in those situations and there's not much you can do. Feeling helpless sucks. Let's hope Brown Eyes is doing better now.

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    1. Very true. There's so much pain out there, it's overwhelming sometimes.

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  8. I'm bawling. I can't believe that happened. I am so scared for all of them right now. Did your daughter see any of this? I hope Brown Eyes is in a good place now and if not then very soon.

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    1. She saw the commotion, but not what actually happened. But we did have to walk out past police cars, and I had to answer her questions. Sucks to have to explain to your kid that there are bad people in the world who do bad things. I have to keep it very baseline for her, because she is super sensitive and will have nightmares. I tried to focus on the positive of the police coming and keeping everyone safe.

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  9. Awful, so awful. I am sorry you and your daughter had to be there, but glad that it was not worse. Very well written.

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  10. Ohmiword - this is tragic and horrifying on so many levels. I hope this boy and his mother get the help that they need.

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    1. You and me both. I will be thinking about them for a long time.

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  11. I can't help but cry when I read this. How often kids are caught in the middle of adult disputes. I pray comfort and peace for this little boy and his mama!

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    1. It is really a tragedy that a child would witness his parents in that situation. Blows my mind.

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  12. That is so so very sad. I read this out to my mom on the phone. This brought tears to her eyes. Very touching and heart felt post. Praying that the mother and son are safe tonight.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Tuhina, and I am praying for them, too.

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  13. Oh, this essay gripped me and ripped my heart out. So scary and so sad. Thank you for pouring out your love to that little child and for sharing your big heart with us.

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    1. Thanks! Not sure if I did as much as I should have, but I did all I could at the moment.

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  14. So, so sad. :(

    The world can be such a harsh place sometimes. I hope that family gets all the help they need.

    This was a really amazing post. Great job!

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  15. This broke my heart. I hope that mother can protect her son physically, but those emotional scars will be harder to erase. Very well written!

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    1. Thanks very much, Dana. And I agree, the emotional scars are going to be tough for that little boy.

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  16. Wow - well written, powerful piece.

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  17. They will haunt me too. As the mom of a boy with big brown eyes it was so easy for me to relate. I applaud your quick thinking, but am sad you had to witness this.

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  18. My heart breaks for them and I hope they are safe. We all know that incidents like this, this extreme, are not the first time it's happened.

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  19. Heartbreaking. Such a violent world we live in and sadly it takes with it our peace of mind and any shred of innocence or feeling of security. It's horrible that we are left to plot our escape just in case. It makes me so sad for that little boy and his mother. I hope they're okay. You painted a raw, picture so eloquently Mama.

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  20. That brought tears to my eyes to read about that poor innocent little boy. It's one thing to read about this or see it on TV, but it's another thing to see this like right in front of us. I can totally understand why that one stayed with you.

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  21. Oh man-- the poor kids caught in the middle of these things!

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  22. What a scary thing to witness - both you and the boy. I'm sure the kindness in your eyes was felt by him. Sure of it.

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