Michaela Merz

The youngster from Oerlikon

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It was an incredibly beautiful warm afternoon in late May. I was walking home slowly. A luxury. Normally I rush to get home on time, but today my youngest had gone swimming with colleagues and I knew he would come home late. There was no need to hurry. No-one was waiting for me.

I crossed the market square and observed the blossoming trees in all their glory. The air smelled of a mixture of lime blossom, grasses and slightly sweet. It wasn’t at all overpowering, but inviting and soothing. My soul and my body were in wonderful harmony and I was enjoying the moment of peace of mind.

This unique harmony was suddenly interrupted by a scolding, childish voice. The tone was lecturing, bossy and almost aggressive. The words were rough, harmful and some even vulgar.

I was disturbed. I turned round to identify the source of the aggression. Very quickly I saw to my left a boy about 12-years old. He was tall and corpulent. His belly that swelled out under his T-shirt betrayed his weakness for too much (or wrong) food. He rode on his scooter beside a young woman, mid-20s, who was pushing a baby in a pram. The woman wore a headscarf and, while the boy harried her with his words, one could see how she lowered her head ever deeper between her shoulders. She appeared unsure and unhappy. I couldn’t understand everything the boy said, in fact only the swearing was in dialect, the rest in a language I didn’t understand. The boy raised his voice once again and the young woman looked as if any minute she could break into tears. But the baby, perhaps disturbed in its sleep by the boy’s voice, began to cry. She tried to calm the child, but that was a difficult task because the boy didn’t stop shouting at her.

Perhaps it would have been better not to get involved, but I simply couldn’t keep quiet. I turned to him and in a loud voice said:
“Wouldn’t it be better, if you were a bit quieter and nicer? Then perhaps the baby could go to sleep again“ I added.
Both he and the young woman looked at me in astonishment. In her eyes there was something soft and thankful, in him only anger could be seen. For a moment he was quiet and probably considering how he should answer me.
Then he said: “It’s none of your business. That is the wife of my brother and, when he’s not there, I have to watch her.
If she acts as stupidly as she just did, I have to stop it.”

Now I was surprised. I couldn’t even imagine what impropriety a delicate young mother could commit in the middle of Oerlikon that would justify a 12-year cursing her so vulgarly.

I was aware that, whatever I were to say, it wouldn’t change the situation for long, but I didn’t want him to to bask in his victorious arrogance and continue to harry the young woman.

“You know, I am not even sure you are in the right. It’s not about her, but about you. If the child protection agency finds out how you swear and mistreat her, they could put you in a reform school. But perhaps you don’t care”, I added.

He looked at me with a scowl, but he was obviously uncertain. He said nothing, I received from him only a contemptuous head movement.

He said something to the young woman, which I didn’t understand, and then they moved on. He was no longer swearing and became quiet.
The baby stopped crying. Perhaps I gave the woman only a short break, but it was worth it.

Image source: Gisela Peter / pixelio.de

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