Today D’Angelo asked me for a bearhug. “Bearhug!” is what he said, raising his arms up, waiting patiently while I struggled to put the rest of the Lego blocks and battered board games away in the closet. His mother was close by, combing through the damp smelling piles of sweatshirts in the Lost and Found metal shopping cart.

Finally I turned to face him and raised my arms up like an enemy surrendering. “Killer Bear Hug!” he said, smooshing his face into my chest, even though he’s only in 3rd grade.

Tall skinny D’Angelo, that’s D-apostrophe-Angelo, in his hot pink pants that his sister Caroline sometimes wears, as well as that crazy colorful sweatshirt of his, covered in anime cartoon characters that all the other kids covet desperately. “Can I have a turn wearing it? Please?” they ask, their skinny fingers extending pleadingly towards it.

He’ll leave it in a lump on the kickball court or the basketball pole with the peeling paint without a second’s thought. Once from I distance I saw it there, crumpled up on the blacktop, and I thought it was a kid, collapsed, hunched face –down on the ground.

D’Angelo and Caroline, brother and sister, Jade their half-sister (her dad needs to have their aunt present every time he visits because of the court order), and their kindergarten-aged cousin Constantinople, who looks Alaskan-Cambodian, running around in his red plastic fireman’s rainjacket.

All four of them live in their aunt’s house across the street from the school. I park my car in the gap between the tree out front and their blue plastic recycling bins.

We played hide and seek for an hour yesterday, running and racing and shrieking to make it back to homebase (the soccer goal post) before we were tagged out. Looking for them in the concrete savannah, in the hollow tubes of the slides, behind building corners, in the brick doorframes, always that little flicker of fear in my chest, that maybe this time it would really be it; this time, I would have really lost them, lost them all.

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Filed under fiction, kids, writing

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