A Philadelphia vignette.
Qyntell holds Mama's hand and stares into the display case of cell phones. He's eye level with the top shelf, and his eyes run across the black phones with floating cartoons, the gray phones with smiling white people and the red phones that just tell the time. Mama's boyfriend wants the orange phone with the floating clouds.
Mama is talking loudly to the man at the counter. The man at the counter is Chinese. He has little black hairs over his lip. His arms are crossed and his head is cocked back like a rooster's.
Mama is breathing heavily now, and the folds of skin on her arm jiggle when she waves at the man at the counter. Her belly shakes too. Her belly is big with the baby inside it.
Mama's boyfriend stands off to the side. He says nothing and looks down at his feet.
Qyntell curls himself into Mama's leg. His brown doe eyes peek out at the two girls by the window talking into their phones as if they're walkie-talkies. The girls are younger than Mama. And smaller too. The two of them combined probably make one Mama.
One of the girls wears a tank top with glittery words on the front. The other one has long crinkled hair with yellow and orange streaks.
The girl with the crinkled hair notices Qyntell.
"Ahh, look at the little cutie," she says in a singsong voice, and her friend giggles.
Qyntell smiles shyly and buries his head in Mama's leg.
Mama is still talking loudly with the man at the counter. Her voice doesn't sound angry anymore. It sounds sad, like she's pleading for something.
The man at the counter tells Mama she can't have the orange phone.
Mama's boyfriend's shoulders drop.
"Damn," he says.
Mama shakes her head and talks quietly to herself as she takes a $10 bill out of her purse. She needs change so she and her boyfriend and Qyntell can ride on the bus.
The man at the counter says he doesn't have any change for them to ride the bus.
The girls at the back of the store are watching now. The one with the crinkled hair offers Qyntell some coins as Mama drags him by the hand toward the door.
Mama seems embarrassed at the offer and pulls Qyntell close.
"We didn't ask you for nothing," she snaps at the girl.
The girl's face isn't nice anymore.