The woman at the pharmacy was beyond a hot mess. She was more like a nuclear-meltdown mess.
If you had offered to bet me that she was there to pick up a forged prescription for OxyContin, I would not have taken your bet because I really, really hate to lose.
She was thin, tanned, tattooed, twitchy. Her hair was falling down around her face from a messy pile on her head, a style that might have been put up a few days ago and slept on ever since.
Or not slept. She had scary eyes that were simultaneously glassy, sleepy-lidded and yet still too bright and active.
She was wearing black bikini panties, which I can state for certain because her loose pants were so low that they fell somewhat below her crotch. She was standing in the busy pharmacy with underwear on full display, seemingly not bothered by that detail.
And there was a baby. Yes, of course, a baby. The man who was with her held the darling little brown-haired, blue-eyed boy as the woman danced to some internal music and tapped her hands on the counter.
She squatted down and clapped her hands as one might clap for a dog.
"Zander! Come here, Zander!"
The man put the baby down on the pharmacy floor. The little guy looked to be maybe seven or eight months old. He began to crawl around as the woman continued to clap and call.
When the baby didn't come to her, the woman said, irritated "What are you, a DUMB baby?"
My heart froze. Shattered. Fell into chunks around my feet. My ears began to pound and my vision went a little blurry.
A dumb baby. With that one horrible word, the danger that this child was in opened like a crevasse in my mind, black, yawning.
I knew before she said that that the woman was probably not Parent of the Year. But to call a tiny little guy, a crawler, DUMB with such disdain meant to me that she had no idea what the baby was capable of, what his needs were.
I didn't say anything. I didn't do anything. What could I do? I think even the gentlest of suggestions would have been rebuffed, and I was really too shocked to do anything but try and keep a horrified expression off my face.
I hope I am projecting too much, that I am terribly wrong, but I am afraid I'm not. I will keep those people in my prayers, because that is all I know to do.