I took my son to the mall the a few months ago to use up a gift card I got for my birthday or Christmas or some other holiday. The card's for a department store, so I figured I'd check out the small appliance section. I've been in the market for a carpet cleaner since, well, since we moved in years ago. I couldn't find anything, so maybe it changed my mood for the worse. Maybe what happened next didn't really happen at all. Maybe it was just the fact that I couldn't find what I was looking for. Maybe I started seeing ALL the things I wasn't looking for.
We went to eat lunch at one of those cool 1950's style burger joints. We tend to gravitate towards this same restaurant when we go to the mall, because it doesn't feel like we're in the mall anymore. My son loves putting nickels into the tabletop jukeboxes. He doesn't care that they don't work. He loves wearing the little paper soda jerk hats they always give him. He feels like a regular.
We ordered our lunch and played I Spy until the food came out. Then we focused on eating our jelly sandwich and hamburger. A couple of bites in, I glanced outside to the kiosks where they sell all the unnecessary hand lotions and Pillow Pets. I watched two guys talking and then it happened: The two guys shook hands.
It wasn't your normal handshake. It was the one that involved secrets. The one that you see in movies or dimly lit street corners. The one that contained substances other than skin on skin. The one that changed my whole day.
My eyes' focus changed from the far off view of a suspected drug deal back to the close up view of my little son's smiling jelly-covered face. He had been talking to me for probably a minute or so and I couldn't hear him. All I could do was stare at his beautiful face. If it were my daughter sitting across from me, she would've noticed my expression change and called me on it. My son is too young and self-absorbed to notice things like that. Thank God.
What could I do? There I sat with my innocent baby eating fries, feeling so distraught. Do I tell anyone? Who? Why? What did I really see? It was nothing. It happens all the time. Should I call mall security? My brain felt like a wave swell coming in. Up and down. Up and down.
The part of me that wanted to be a good citizen picked up my cell phone to call the police. The other part of me that wanted to protect my child from harm put the phone down. I struggled back and forth with myself until I finally decided on finishing up lunch and going home.
It has bothered me ever since - that one tiny moment when I didn't know what to do. It constantly sits in the forefront of my brain.
Maybe I was wrong. It could've just been a handshake. I will never know.
I'm curious... what would YOU have done?