Our Sunday morning family outing took an unexpected twist yesterday as we were trying to catch a cab on Ping’an Dadao just east of Nanluoguxiang.
A young boy, about ten years old, was standing in the middle of the lane trying to hail a taxi. The driver screeched to a sudden stop to avoid hitting him, and then sped off as soon as he got around. Other cars were doing the same, honking angrily as they circumvented the scene. By now, the usual crowd of gawkers had gathered to stare in befuddlement.
Dumbfounded, we watched as the boy tried to do the same to an approaching bus as the driver slammed the brakes; and it was only then that I had gathered enough wits to run out into the traffic and haul him to the curb.
The boys’ parents were nowhere in sight, and it wasn’t long before we figured out that he had run away from home. The bystanders, mostly old Beijing folk, circled around and assailed the boy with questions. “Where are your parents?” “Where do you live?” “What were you doing running out into the street like that?”
It was clear from the boy’s expression and responses that he was mentally disturbed and had been abused – bruises, scars and cigarette burns covered his arms, neck and back (“Who’s been beating you?” asked a young woman in the crowd. “My mother and grandmother,” shot back the boy). The owner of the adjacent liquor and cigarette shop offered him a coke, but the boy refused, saying “My grandmother doesn’t let me drink coke – she says I’m bad and I get into fights.” He accepted a bottle of water and some cookies and then proclaimed “I’m going to Fatou to find my dad, Wang XX!”
The police arrived soon-after and the bystanders explained the situation to the officer, who appeared sympathetic, if not somewhat bemused. “They’re going to send him straight back to his mother,” muttered a voice in the crowd. “Tell him where your father lives!” piped up another.
Within moments they were off to the station, where the boy’s mother would presumably be notified and she would come to collect him. What was to become of him afterwards was anyone’s guess.
We lingered on for a bit more, unsure of what else there was to do, and finally caught our own cab home feeling thankful for our fortunes, but deeply disturbed by what we had just witnessed.