It catches my attention. The scream. The night market is a mass of movement and noise, so the scream of one child is not remarkable. Or shouldn’t be. But this child’s cry punctuates the buzz like an exclamation mark. Just for a moment everything stops. Even the cry. Then another scream follows. A wail. The keening of a woman.
As I turn, a woman in a yellow blouse is running with arms outstretched towards two dark figures zigzagging away through the throng. She’s wailing something in Chinese but her words need no translation. One of the men is holding something to his chest, not for protection but for speed. The child. The now silent child.
They’ve taken my baby – every sense tells me that’s what she’s screaming. But I seem to be the only one who’s heard her. Then I’m running too, keeping her bobbing yellow blouse in sight, past stalls lit by glaring fluorescent bulbs strung on wires across the lane like bunting, colliding with shoppers who barely react as I push past them.
The market ends in a busy road, where the jostling of cars mimics the human traffic.
Human traffic. The words stop me as I reach the curb. The men have disappeared but the woman has dodged the vehicles and is racing up the pavement on the other side. The phrase I’ve heard but never really thought about till now. Human traffic.