It's a beautiful evening, starlit and quiet. Babe and I are walking, singing silly songs, having fun. We walk past a parked jeep and babe shouts Hi. I laugh.  Why did you do that, I ask him. It's a vehicle, it cannot talk back to you.
Then Amma, he shoots back, why do cars talk in cartoons.

What can I tell him, really. My all-knowing self is stumped. So I make a glib reply--cartoons are not real life, baby. Our little boy skips on, happy creature that he is. In my heart I quake, marvelling at this child, his insight. In my 35-odd years, such thoughts don't occur to me. Yet, being with this child, I learn something new every day.

This is a walk I'll always remember, I think. Such moment are what memories are made of, I tell myself, feeling a warm glow, feeling secure in my role as protector, as mother.

We come to a turning. It's particularly empty at this late-evening time. A teenage security guard is standing inside a small gate. Why is he staring fixedly at me, I wonder. Then I look closer. The boy-man is standing there masturbating, and he is looking to make sure I see what he is doing.

I swear involuntarily. Babe looks up. What happened, Amma, he asks. He is so attuned to my emotions, he senses that something is not right. I don't want him to see the pervert by the shadowy corner. But I am also burningly angry that this stranger with his mindless actions, is polluting what I thought was a magical, innocent moment.

I look for help, thinking maybe I can confront this man, get him roughed up, shout at him, anything, really, so I'll feel better about the whole thing, feel less humiliated, less degraded. But the only other person on the road is, ironically enough, another security guard. By the time I persuade the guard to accompany me, the stranger is no longer there. He has slipped away, like a thief into the darkening night. I don't even know what he looks like.

Now and then I think of that evening, how happy baby and I were when we started out. And how sullied I eventually felt. A part of me does feel some pity for that stranger--his desperation and his urges compelled him to do what he did. But a bigger part of me hates him still.

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