I stepped off the bus in front of city hall: a circular atrium fronted the building and the walls ran off at 45-degree angles like a triangle embedded in a tin can and covered with white granite.
I noticed her across the entry road to city hall. She was standing at the edge of the basketball court, pulling a little boy, her son off the backboard supports. He stumbled to the ground and she took his hand. "Come on," she said in Korean. "Come on."
She hoisted a blue and white toy truck with a handle, the kind with a plastic seat on top and four small wheels so kids can scoot themselves along. She rested it against her thigh. The arm supporting the truck strained, her elbow jutted above her shoulder at a sharp right angle. The truck banged against her thigh and the wheels rattled with each stride.
The boy's skin was milky white and his eyes were almost circular ovals. His forehead was large and curved in below his hairline, a widow's peak. He was mixed: Asian and Caucasian. The boy stumbled behind her. He strained to keep up, almost fell repeatedly. "You're in trouble," she told him. She stopped in front of a police car guarding the city hall, parked at the entrance.
The police officer stood behind the opened door. One arm rested on the top, one foot in the car. "Officer," she called. He saw her and straightened up: dropped his hands to his sides, placed his feet squarely on the ground, and turned to her. "This boy is very naughty," she said. "He does not listen to his mother. He needs to be punished. I would like you to arrest him and take him to jail."
She wore a short, heavily worn denim skirt with frayed fringes. Her smooth white thighs glowed obscenely underneath and she wore dirty white canvas sneakers with three-inch platforms. The once-new, glossy white plastic was scuffed with black streaks and motor grease. Her top was a tight white spandex blend and the outline of her bra lace and straps shown. As she bent over holding her son's hand, dragging him, her low cut top exposed her expansive cleavage. Her breasts were fake. They did not move when she bent over. They remained unnaturally firm, round, unsagging.
The police officer studied her and then her son. He looked down at the boy. "You've been bad, huh?" He studied the boy's blank expression. "Okay, come on, I'm going to have to take you in." He reached his hand out to the boy and gestured toward the car with his head. The mother squatted, sat on her heels to look in the boy’s eyes. I looked intently at her closed knees, strained to see up her skirt. "You go with the man and maybe you can come home later if you're good," she said to her son. He stared blankly back at her.
The policeman took his hand, helped him into the passenger seat, and gently closed the door behind the boy. The mom waved from outside. "Bye, bye." The boy swung his head around slowly, struggled to take in the objects swimming across his field of vision. He stopped at the police officer as he settled into the driver's seat, contemplated him. The boy’s empty expression never changed.
Out of the corner of her eye, the woman caught me staring. She stood up, left the police officer talking to the small boy inside the car, and took a step toward me. I looked away and continued walking. "Are you American?" she called at me in slightly accented American English. I glanced toward her and away. "Yes," I said without breaking stride. She took two more quick steps toward me. "Come here. I want to talk to you." She said. "Where are you going?" I was passed her and did not turn. I shouted back louder than intended: "Home!"