Pedestrian Acts

By Susan Barr-Toman

May 30, 2022

Pedestrian Acts

We were late for an appointment. I wove through the afternoon crowd at a quick clip with my son and daughter, nine and six, following behind me like ducklings. Head down and shoulders bent, I had the posture of someone punched in the gut.

Days earlier my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and already surgeries, treatments, and scans scheduled. I lived on the verge of erupting. Then this—people lollygagging, meandering on the wrong side of the pavement, as if everything was okay and everything was most definitely not okay. I was late. We were late. I was never late.

As we crossed the intersection, I checked to make sure my children still followed in a row and noticed a woman coming at us through the crowd carelessly brandishing a cigarette. My kids were at the right height to take the burning ember in the arm or face, so I swerved to avoid her, looking over my shoulder to see they made it past safely. I tripped then, landing hard on my open palms and bare kneecaps. 

Before I knew it, I was weightless, floating above the concrete sidewalk. A group of people, strangers to me and possibly each other, had surrounded me, lifted me, and in one fluid movement placed me on my feet as though I were a prima ballerina. Then they dispersed, rushed off the stage, and I stood stunned, uncertain of my next step. 

My children called, “Mommy, Mom.”

And together we made our way forward.

Susan Barr-Toman
is a novelist, screenwriter, and essayist. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, The Citron Review, Zone 3, and Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, among others. She is an affiliated faculty member at Penn Mindfulness where she teaches her Mindful Writing workshops. Visit her at

Image courtesy of William87 via Adobe Stock

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