This morning I was on my way to school - one of the few times I actually got up early for this task - and hopped on the bus without my daily dose of energy drink (go me!). I was feeling good: going to get to school on time, in a happy mood, freshly showered... my Tuesday best. It's always these types of days when something goes wrong. I just didn’t think I’d get accused of kidnapping and lose all faith in humanity.
On my bus was a child that I assumed to be the daughter of the man sitting across from her. They seemed to be having a family-esque conversation, so I thought nothing out of the ordinary. She was an adorable little thing: tiny asian girl, probably around 4 or 5, thin black hair in 2 pig-tails sticking straight up, wearing a yellow dress with pink flowers (even though it was freezing outside), and a hello kitty backpack. She basically had the sunshine beaming through her eyes and made me happy through her abundance cuteness.
The man she was talking to got off the bus, and she was alone sitting next to me. I thought this was very odd. 4 year olds don’t ride the bus alone; a public bus, no less! I asked her if she was alone and she stared at me blankly for the rest of the ride. Once we got to City College, the last stop, we were the only 2 left on the bus. I asked the driver if he saw the girl get on the bus with anyone but he brushed me away and informed me, “if I had a photographic memory do you think I’d be driving this damn bus as a fucking career? Go to school.” Good point, sir.
The little girl sat on a bench on the sidewalk, pulled her backpack around her body and clutched it like a life jacket. I sat next to her and asked if she had school today: blank stare. I asked her about if she liked Hello Kitty (it’s on her backpack, I’m not racist): blank stare. I asked her where she goes to school: blank stare. I asked her if she saw the last episode of Rugrats (granted, probably not the best question for anyone younger than 16): blank stare. Finally I just stood up and asked if she was hungry, to which she replied "I want Pizza."
I started to get really nervous. I don't know this child; she could be allergic to something, or directed by a parent to wait at the CCSF parking lot, or any number of things could be wrong with me hanging out with this little girl. I wanted to take her to a police station, but I didn't know where the closest one was. Was this an appropriate time to call 911? I don't know the phone number for the local police, so should I? I decided to take her across the street and buy her whatever she wanted from the cafe while I thought about what to do. My phone was dead, so calling anybody wasn't an option. Besides, I didn’t want to get police involved if this were an honest mistake of some sort. I tend to think the best of people, and I remained optimistic. My best bet was to continue trying to talk to her to figure out what she was doing alone.
While she ate her chicken fingers I tried again to get her talking, but nothing worked. Just blank staring. I stared back. She wasn't blinking, so I wasn't going to blink either. Her eyes widened, I made a funny face, she smiled and blinked. "Captain Underpants!" She chuckled, to which I shook my head and laughed. Now came the talking. The non. stop. talking.
"I know how to read, you know! Do you know how to read? You're big, so I think you know how to read. I read Captain Underpants a'cause it's really really funny. It's about a boy that wears his underwear over his pants! You're not a'spossed to wear your underpants over pants! [teeeheeeheeehee] What a silly boy. My name is Kiko but my friend calls me Bear a'cause she says I look like a care bear when I wear my shirt with the heart on it. You can call me bear too, if you wanted. I don't mind. I like your hat. Do you have a sister? I like big sisters a’cause they can give you ice cream when you’re not a’sposed to have any."
I asked her why she was on the bus all alone, where was she going? "To bring this to my sister a'cause she was sad." She went through her backpack to pull out a picture she drew of a bear hugging a flamingo, which actually looked more like a bear flossing it’s teeth with a fairly large pink string, but I treated it like the masterpiece it was intentioned to be. I asked her where her sister is and she stared at me blankly again, tears welling in her eyes. She didn’t know.
I asked her where she lives and she told me about all the soccer fields next to her house, and the big hill with a pond her dog likes to play in. I took her with me onto the next bus and we headed for McLaren, which wasn’t far. Once we found the soccer field she plays on, she led me back to her house where we found her mom sitting outside. She looked up at me and ran towards us, I imagined for a slow-motion type embrace with her once lost but now found child, but her face got increasingly tense as she passed Bear and came straight for me. I was dumbfounded when she began screaming at me, half in english, half in chinese. Bear was crying behind her mom with her dad holding her. I wanted to scream at her mom but I remained calm, even when she said she was going to call the police on me.
A neighbor crossed the street to asses the situation and I explained to him what had happened, and he translated to the mom. She accused me of kidnapping and I told her she was lucky I didn’t call the police and social services for negligence. She was lucky her daughter didn’t really get kidnapped, or worse. Any number of things could have happened to that adorable little girl. The neighbor thanked me and told me to leave. I waved goodbye to little Bear and went back to school.
I have a 5 year old little sister and I could not imagine her wandering around Ingleside alone, or even taking a bus alone. That’s insane. If something like this ever happens again, I am calling the police. I really hope Bear is ok because she is quite possibly the most adorable little girl I’ve ever encountered (aside from those I am related to, of course).
I am infuriated.