As my father and I stepped out of the crosswalk onto the curb, I looked up and saw John Doe. I didn’t realize who he was until we had already passed each other.
A baseball cap was on John’s head and a colorful satchel was slung across his torso. He had rolled up the cuffs of his jeans with care and his unbuttoned jacket revealed the bright sweater he wore underneath. He was looking down at the street.
My dad continued to talk to me; he didn’t hear me exhale with relief when John kept walking.
John had asked me to step closer to the door of his cell so he didn’t have to speak as loud.
“I didn’t break her windows, I didn’t set any fires, I didn’t kill her dog, I never said anything scary to her,” John said, his eyes fixed on mine. He smiled at me through the cell window. “You believe me, right?”
The police report stated that several witnesses had seen John smash her windows, set a small fire after he broke down her door, and attack her dog.
I said nothing.
“It doesn’t matter what she said,” he continued. “She lied. What goes around comes around.”
I followed my dad up the small set of stairs that led to the glass doors of the restaurant. When I glanced up, I saw John’s reflection in the glass: He was standing near the base of the stairs, his eyes fixed on me.
My dad looked over his shoulder at me as he approached one of the glass doors. “The food here is supposed to be good.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, my eyes still looking at the reflection in the glass. I placed a hand on my father’s back and gave him a gentle push. Go faster, go faster. John lingered for a few moments before he turned back to the sidewalk.
My dad opened a door and smiled at me. I smiled back. He didn’t hear me exhale with relief when John walked away.