She had on hot pink shorts two sizes too small, and a bikini top over breasts two sizes too big. Across her back and on her arms and legs were tattoos; her ample girth jiggled as she walked. Even more interesting was her hair. Pixie length and bleach-blonde, her “locks” were pulled into pigtails that looked like sprouts coming out of the sides of her head. Earrings glistened from her ears.
Most noticeable, though, were her eyes. They were dark and masked by makeup and . . . bruises?
She was toting a three-year-old.
“Mommy, look! I’m watching TV!” the child called from a couch on the side of the room. Her voice was high-pitched and sweet. She was licking a lollipop. She too was wearing a swimsuit, with flip-flops and a floppy hat.
“Good, honey.” Her mother wasn’t listening.
“Mommy, I don’t like this lollipop,” the little girl said. She hopped off the couch and held it out towards her mother who was perusing a clothing rack nearby.
“You picked it.”
“I don’t want it. I want another one.”
“Too bad.” Her voice was gravelly. I was surprised by its harshness.
“But . . .”
“Go sit down. Mommy’s busy.”
“Look, Mommy! I’m Harry Potter!”
Her mommy said nothing. A moment passed.
“Mommy, can we go outside?”
No response. The woman was pawing at a pile of tank tops on a table.
“What?!” the woman suddenly exploded. She whirled around to face the child, her breasts and stomach flopping freely as she did. “What? Yes, fine. Go outside and sit on that picnic table.” She pointed to a bench through the window. “Mommy will be there in a minute.”
The little girl’s lip quivered; I thought for sure she would start to cry. But she was brave. “Okay,” she said in a small voice, but she stood at the door and waited while her mommy paid for a t-shirt. She wasn’t big enough to open the door by herself.
Outside, the mother and child sat down at the table. The woman lit a cigarette. The little girl began rolling her lollipop across the table and then stuck it between two fingers and popped it into her mouth. When she pulled it out, she blew out—just like mommy.
I waited for the woman to say something.
She never did.