I observe a mother and young daughter heading towards me along the pavement. They are holding hands. A touching, intimate gesture when in such an innocent context. Usually a couple holding hands represents the money shot for me as a private investigator. The clinching image to present the cuckolded spouse back home. Of course, if they happen to leave the curtains of their bedroom undrawn, a high vantage and my telephoto proboscis yields me the most irrefutable of hard evidence. Love's irresistible objects, meet me, the unmovably faithful force. I do love an unhappy ending. It pays the bills.
The pair's movement is curiously serrated. Presumably the mother has a longer stride than the girl, unless she has consciously shortened it by way of compensation. Yet the daughter is not being dragged forward. Instead she appears to be bouncing up and down as much as propelling herself forward.
I straighten myself up from my low slung surveillance posture in the car's front seat. As I fiddle for the seat's hoisting mechanism beneath me, I now appreciate that she is skipping along, which accounts for her upward thrust. She appears not to be of sufficient mass to impact on her mother, as the level of their conjoined hands doesn't vary. The girl's face is beaming.
However the timing of finally grasping the lever and elevating myself into a fully upright position, coincided with her approaching level with the windscreen and might have appeared to be me fashioning a deliberate, lunging leer on my countenance. For the girl stops her movement and instantly her beam disappears. The mother hasn't noticed and is continuing to press on ahead. Since they are still connected at the hand, at a certain point they become fully-extended and the greater mass and momentum of the mother overwhelms the inertia of the girl, who was still staring at me, thus yanking her forward. She loses her balance and topples towards the pavement.
Her mother's reflexes are swift enough to pivot round and partially break her daughter's fall; clutching her like a rag doll, bracing the bulk of the girl's mass across the crook of her arm, so that only her knees scraped the pavement. The two stay like this Rodin sculpture, tension rippling through their bodies, until their mutual forces settled into equilibrium. The daughter relaxes and allows her mother to right her. Then she bursts into tears and directs her mother's gaze down to her knees and the skin scraped so red raw that even I could see from my couched vantage.
In among her tears and gesticulations, the girl flung an arm back in my direction. But it lacks precision and dangles amorphously at the empty road beyond my car. The mother is only intent on hauling her daughter's attention back to consider her own wounded frame. I snake my body back down into the bosom of my car seat and depressed the lever to tilt it towards the horizontal for good measure. Though excised from their vision, I continue watching them through my driver's mirror.
Eventually an equipoise of emotions must have been reinstated, as the girl was willing to vacate the site of her felling. The two rejoin hands and begin to march off, no skipping this time. I witness the girl snake her head beneath her armpit and launch a glower unmistakably back in my direction.
Once they were out of sight, I ponder the change in state I seem to have unwittingly rendered. From blithe smiling and skipping, through to blank (shocked?) stasis, finally to leaden trudge and shot daggers at me. I bob my head either side of my dashboard. From the three angles of projection, the speedometer needle either indicated less than zero, absolute naught or the first tinge of a measure above nullity. Which if any represented the default cast of the girl prior to my impact on her?
Hopeful to think that of course it would have been the happy, smiling face. But one had to admire the quiet surety with which the mother handled the fallout of the injuries, perhaps suggestive that this was far from the first time when she had to apply some emotional salve to her (neurotic) daughter? And why would some movement glanced at the fringes of her eye have stopped her up short anyway? Was she full of internalised stories of terror of strange and hostile intentions of men out in the big wide world? That round every corner lurked bogeymen and predators? In which case one has to raise the spectre of just who put such wild notions inside her head in the first place? Were they wilfully taught at her mother's knee, or just imbibed by inhaling the skittish and fretful air around the mother? Perhaps the mother may only be able to come to the fore when she can slip into a soothing of hurt mode, even if she was the one who directly or indirectly prompted the injury in the first place.
They were coming back, the same mother and little girl. The girl is brandishing an ice cream like the Olympic Torch, offering it up to her mother who demurely declines. Had that been why she was smiling in first place, or was this a later bargain to ameliorate her pain and discomfiture? If the ice cream was a reversion to an original itinerary, then she may well not even register me and my car. If it is compensation however... I notice that she's not skipping, but then she wouldn't if she is targeting the cone with sure, steady licks at the strawberry globe atop. I can see the hue of the ice cream has stained the tip of her lapping tongue. Clearly the temperature differential is itself slightly painful as she shudders and flinches each time her tongue contacts the frozen ice. Indeed she is taking a break from lapping at it just as she approaches the car. She exchanges hands around the cone and in doing so it brushes the chassis. The collision causes it to drop from her hand and plop to the ground. The girl wells up. The mother looks thunderous...
The observer distorts what he observes. I've been in my line too long. It has prejudiced me against people. I can only see relationships as between contesting forces.