Last night, my son disappeared. And I had no idea he’d even left the house. In and out of flu-induced sleep, I lay on my bed as the youngest blasted Masha and the Bear from my phone.
Ya had just been in to talk to me — at least it seemed like only minutes had passed. “Some guy threw rocks at Jojo and me. And he tried to take my scooter. He said it was broken and he’d fix it. I said no. I told the lady at the center.” He inquired about dinner, having too much knowledge of the pantry contents to not to have already searched out what he wanted. Taking my fries as a temporary fix, he bounced down the stairs and the television clicked on. I never heard it click off.
My phone rang. A Florida number. No one I know lives there. It went to voicemail. The noise, however, broke my sleep. Chi comes in next, body shaking in uncontrolled tremors , tears streaming down her face. She babbled on incoherently. I comprehend few key words: front door unlocked, he’s not here, can’t find him.
I’m disheveled, barely understanding what’s going on. A search. The many adults – most barely home from work – are canvassing the neighborhood. My child is no where to be found. The friend he was with is no where to be found.
I go outside. On the porch I realize I can’t go looking. Ri is asleep. No one is here to watch her. I linger, feeling equal parts embarrassment and foreboding. Should I panic like Chi? Do I call someone? Who?
A woman stands near her car, clarifies the “missing” report. She assures me they’re looking for my son. The gate has been notified. The scooter is also being sought. She’s reading my face. I’m not concerned enough, I think she determines. Clearly, I haven’t a clue and my parenting is lacking.
I still don’t know how I’ve lost my son. Where could he be? Why are his shoes in the foyer? Isn’t it raining? I thought he was eating French fries in the kitchen…
And then, a shirtless, shoeless Ya walks up breathy and unconcerned. He’s oblivious to the commotion. Chi hugs him, even more emotionally charged as she kisses his face, hugs his confused frame. A man in his work clothes, drags up behind, handing over the scooter and nodding toward where he found it abandoned. The neighborhood girls rattle off where they’d looked before nonchalant Ya walked up on them and inquired about Jojo and the scooter. The lady climbs into her car, satisfied all is as normal as can be, “Well, he’s here. Thankfully. I’ll let the others know.” She asks the questions expected, “Are you hurt? Did the guy with the rocks touch you? Is all okay?” He answers, “No, no, yes.”
I survey my son. “When did you go back out? Where are your clothes? Where were you? Do you know how dangerous it is to be outside when no one knows where you are? You actually thought you should confront the kid throwing rocks?” I left no space for answers.
From JoJo’s sister, I hear the “guy” with special interest in the scooter and a hand with rocks is a sixth grader. He picks on people often. He lives nearby. He likes to taunt, tease and take. I file the information away, as Jojo walks up with one shoe on and no shirt.
I’m drained. My head is throbbing. I’m barely following the scenario I’ve been thrust into. We walk into the house, locking the door.
“Please don’t ever leave the house without telling me where you are going and who with.” He nods.