Don't Worry, I'll Catch You

A kid at a park

I'm stopped at a red light somewhere along a path I've driven countless times, when I look out my passenger window and see a little boy standing on a wall on the edge of a park. The boy is looking down at his daddy and he's crying, begging his daddy to help him down. The boy's daddy is shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand and waving his son down with the other. But the boy makes no attempt to get down. He only cries and asks his daddy to fix it, to get him down from this position he wishes he had never climbed up to. The daddy waves the boy down again and he tells the boy to jump down and the boy shakes his head and the daddy keeps on waving and he pleads with his son again.

Jump down, I can hear the daddy say even though I can't hear him at all from my car. I'll catch you.

The boy stares into his daddy's eyes and then shakes his head again.

I'll catch you, the daddy tells the boy. I promise.

The boy stares into his daddy's eyes again, but he doesn't shake his head this time. Instead the boy squats and looks back to his daddy for reassurance that his daddy will in fact catch him. The daddy stops shielding his eyes and reaches both arms toward his son. The daddy is praying he can see well enough to prepare for the boy's fall. The boy remains frozen in his squat and the daddy keeps telling him Jump—jump, I'll catch you until the boy drops from the wall and into his daddy's arms and the daddy swoops the boy into a hug. The boy rests his face against his daddy's and the daddy whispers into his son's ear that he'll always be there to catch him. From my car I can see the boy's wide smile. He's safe and secure in his daddy's promise he'll always have someone stronger to depend on.

How long until the boy realizes that his daddy has made a promise that he cannot keep? How long until the son has to accept one of life's greatest disappointments?

The driver behind me lays down on the horn. The traffic light has turned green and the cars in front of me have gone through. I make it through the light, but the car behind me gets stuck at the light again and a left hand with its extended middle finger bolts out the window and shakes at me. I wave back in the rear view. I'm not sure the act defuses the situation, but it's the only response I can think of. I drive on and my gaze flashes between the road ahead and the park in the rear the rear view, as the father and son moment fades away.

#vignettes