I’m at the Laundromat, just north of Greenway and 32nd street. I’ve loaded the clothes, it’s slow today.
Tired of the same old magazines on the counter, I’ve purchased a crisp copy of Motortrend to brush up on cars I can’t afford.
It’s just me in here, until I sense someone small beside me.
I ignore it, keeping to myself. Then the little person moves closer, I can smell him. He smells like Juicy Juice.
I glance over a moment, and see him studying the cover of my magazine. He’s small even for his age, maybe four years old. Big brown eyes, with thick dark hair, wearing light up shoes and a t-shirt with speeding cars all over it.
He smiles bashfully then hides behind my bench seat.
So I go back to reading about how the Volkswagen GTI’s interior compares to those inside the pricier Evolution and STI, when I smell him again.
I look up and he’s right in front of me this time.
“You want to read this to me?”
His eyes widen with a silly grin.
“Here go ahead. I’ll scoot over.”
He takes the magazine carefully in his tiny grip. Where normally a kid his age would tear the pages with careless sticky hands, this boy is different. He holds the Motortrend as if it were the Holy Grail, the only one on Earth.
“What’s that say?” I ask him, pointing to an Audi A7.
“This car is for mommies. Mommies like this car,” he says, following the article with his finger and translating it. His voice is thoughtful, he’s certain of every word he’s saying.
Satisfied with that, he slowly turns pages. He meticulously studies every picture on every page, pondering deeply about each one.
Then he stops on a big shot of a green Range Rover Evoque.
“This one is a fast car for daddies. Daddies like fast cars. If my daddy were still here... he would buy this,” he reads.
“Which car is for you?” I ask him.
He smiles at me, then hurriedly flips back a few pages.
“THIS one is for Anthonys. I’m a Anthony. This car is for me.”
“The Ferrari 458 Spyder, smart choice,” I tell him.
He keeps his big eyes on the bright red 458 for a while, taking in every detail.
“I’m gonna show mommy!”
“Okay, I’ll wait here.”
He puts the magazine down gingerly with the correct page open, climbs off the bench seat, then takes the magazine again. Anthony stares at the 458 a moment longer while he stands there. With a firm nod, he hops over to his mother, absolutely sure she’ll love it as much as he does.
She’s packing up the last of the folded clothes from the dryer.
“Mommy. Look. It’s a furry fourfitty ate!”
She ignores him.
“Mommy, lookit. It says here this car’s made just for me,” he’s turned the magazine spread up to her, and is desperate to show her the miracle he’s discovered.
Clothes ready to go, she finally looks down at him.
“Oh no, WHERE did you get that? It’s not yours!”
His eyes drop, his lip quivers a second but he’s trying to stay strong.
“I… I’m just… I’m just-”
She snatches the magazine from him and his little body flinches.
He looks much smaller now, without the Ferrari in his hands. He’s crumbling, like a part of him just died.
“I don’t have time for this shit,” she mutters, tossing my Motortrend on the dryer beside her.
I walk over to the Motortrend and pick it up.
“It’s all right. It’s for him. I don’t need it anymore,” I hold out the magazine to Anthony, who hesitates.
His eyes change between his mother and the magazine, unsure of which he loves more.
“No really, this is just for you, Anthony.”
“Fine, just stop bothering me about your cars all day,” Mommy says to Anthony.
He’s okay with those demands, taking the Ferrari in his tiny hands again.
“Come on we’re leaving!” Mommy says, grabbing the clothes basket, “What did I say about NEVER talking to strangers!”
He follows her, hugging the magazine tightly to his chest, and looking at the floor like he’s in trouble.
I watch her walk out the door, then see him stop a moment behind her.
He gives a little wave to me, making sure Mommy doesn’t see, smiles again then hurries after her.