I’m driving along Rosemead Boulevard in Arcadia, keeping pace behind a primer-grey 1970's van with rear frosted windows. A splash of red cuts across the glass on the right side and it looks like a face or blood. My stomach lurches because the more I stare at the streak, the more convinced I am that it is a child behind that glass, a stolen child. Sweat beads under my blouse and the silk sticks to my back. I press on the gas as the van picks up speed. My god, I think, I can’t see the license plate. I can’t read the letters. My god there is a child in there and he’s been kidnapped and it will be my fault if the child dies because I can’t focus on the letters and numbers.
Hell in a hand basket – this is where we’re going. I have to keep up with the van.
There were no less than five reports in our local newspaper today about local child molesters. The AP used a new term for them: seducers. The internet was the virtual alleyway where these men were caught seducing young things into watching pornography and exposing themselves using webcam. The internet is Satan’s playground and it should be shut down. Several years ago we had our very own Father Joseph arrested for fondling altar boys. He hanged himself before he got to trial. To think that a priest in our very own neighborhood was seducing young boys in front of our praying selves. On our knees we were and so were the boys.
I’m slamming on my brakes because the van has slammed on its brakes. Exhaust snakes upwards in this morning, rainy hour, wrapping itself around my car and I breathe hard with indecision. I could ram the van to open the rear doors and let the boy out. I wonder who is in there. The Smith boy? The Greenblatt boy? Maybe it’s a girl. A girl who looks like my daughter. Curly hair. Freckles across an innocent smile. Baby teeth. A beautiful, tragic package draped in a red Easter dress plastered on a photo, spread around the city.
The van turns right and I follow it, flooring it because the distance between us opened up too much. The van cuts across a lane, two lanes, and I’m right there, speeding along Foothill Boulevard and heading out of Arcadia into Monrovia. I’m missing a PTA emergency meeting on keeping children safe at the Mall. Last week’s meeting was about teenage sex. According to some parents, girls had taken to wearing short skirts, covering their laps with blankets, and letting boys touch them in class, right under the noses of teachers.
The van is stopped at a light. Following the rules. Obviously trying to avoid the police. Exhaust drifts into the traffic. I feel like honking my horn, screaming out of the window. I look at my neighbors, one putting lipstick on, another talking on a cell phone. Isn’t it obvious? The blood on the window, the child’s open mouth against the glass? They are being hauled away, torn away from mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Young lives a wreck.
Thank god I stopped that myspace thing. Thank god I stopped my son from hanging out with that kid. Horrible parents, letting their child put his picture up on myspace. Child molesters could have gotten a hold of them. Both of them. Picked up in a van and taken away forever.
The van is driving forward. I’m driving forward. We’re all driving forward. The traffic is heavy, congested. I can’t move to the side and the van, the van is caught suddenly in front of another car. I honk the horn. The old woman gets out of my way, scowling at me as I pass. She wouldn’t mind if she knew.
I honk the horn behind the van. I honk and honk. I roll down the window and point like a mad woman. I’m pointing and screaming that there is a child in the van. People at first don’t notice but then they do. Then there are several trucks nearby. Strong men in trucks. They hear me, thank god, they hear me.
I point and scream. I honk. The van pulls over, pulls into a gas station. He climbs out and he’s a Mexican. There are men on him and they drag him away from the van. Kick him. Kick him again. I’m there, screaming, demanding the van be opened. There are people all around. They are screaming that this is why we need walls on our borders. The children, they scream, the children.
The rear doors are opened at last.
The man is beaten and curled up in a corner, bloody. He deserves it – the seducer deserves it. I’m heaving with relief at having rescued the child, the boy, the girl, the young thing in a photograph.
The doors are pried open. There is nothing in the back except a bouquet of red flowers.
Red flowers pressed against glass.