May was holding her mother’s hand and then she wasn’t. The moment May removed her mitten to reach for a cookie in her pocket, they slipped away from each other like water slips through fingers. They had been watching the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center.
May wondered if her mother was looking for her.
She sat down on a bench and watched buses roll up Fifth Avenue.
Maybe she got on a bus without me.
An old man sat beside her.
May looked upwards. She saw a row of red flowers on a windowsill, the same that decorated her house at Christmas.
She imagined that’s where the old man lived. She could picture him watering the flowers. Then she imagined herself doing the same.
May thought that if her mother didn’t find her, the old man might take her home. She wondered what it would be like growing up with him. He probably didn’t have any toys.
The old man asked May if she was lost.
“I think so,” she said.
“Who are you with?” he asked.
“My mother,” May said
“What does she look like?”
May said her mother was tall and had a baby inside. May’s mother was pregnant. She didn’t know how to describe that.
The old man said not to worry because if they sat there she would find her.
May wasn’t worrying. She was just getting hungry and cold.
She stared at the giant Christmas tree that stood over the ice-skating rink. A twinkling star sat at the tippy-top.
The old man was quiet. His coat was gray. The fabric looked itchy. He wore a hat but no gloves. He tucked his hands in his pockets.
May still had her one mitten. Was her mother still holding the other one?
Many people passed by. Some smiled. May wondered if they thought she was the old man’s little girl. She inched a little closer to him.
The sky was darkening but the Christmas tree glittered.
Her fingertips found cookie crumbs inside her pocket. Her mother had given her sugar cookies on the train. She licked the little bits that remained.
May stayed very still. She watched the mothers and fathers with their children. She wondered where her mother went.
She had to use a bathroom. She squirmed on the cold bench.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” she said quietly.
The old man looked at her. “I don’t know where the bathrooms are around here, miss.”
“Okay,” May said. “But my name is May.”
“Maybe you can wait until your momma finds you?”
“Okay,” May said.
The sky grew darker. The old man said if they stayed in one place, her mother would find her.
She couldn’t hold her pee anymore. She started to cry.
The old man took May’s hand and they walked up to a policeman.
“This child is lost,” May heard the man say. “I’ve sat with her for near two hours in one place, figuring the parent would find her but I have to go.”
“I’ll take it from here,” the policeman said.
The old man crouched down to meet May’s eyes. “You’re a brave little girl, May. Thank you for keeping me company on this cold day.”
May watched him walk off, his hands stuffed in his pockets.
May wished she’d shared her sugar cookie crumbs with him.
Sara H. Wenger, MFA, writes from Ambler, PA. where she teaches creative writing to first-year college students, senior citizens and adults with developmental disabilities. Wife, mother, grandmother, Wenger has been writing since the age of six when she told her mother she wanted to write a note to a neighbor who had lost their wife. Not knowing how to write the note, Wenger’s mother offered advice that she has never forgotten. “Write from the heart and it will be true.”