I pointed at the man with a hand covered in the sticky blue syrup of a melted sno-cone. I remember it was hot. It's always hot.
"He's talking to himself," I said. Mother pulled me closer.
"Turn around. Watch the fireworks." She looked at the man sitting on the sidewalk. Torn clothes hung loose on his small frame, his hair was matted. He leaned against a large duffel type bag, his legs splayed in front of him, his arms crossed over his chest. She handed me a plastic flag on a cheap wooden stick.
A burst of red and green exploded in the air then dripped down the black canvas of sky before fading into gray trails. It was followed by another boom, then another, then another. Mother sang along to America the Beautiful. I waved my flag and turned again to look at the man behind me. He had drawn his legs to his chest, clutching his knees, and rocked back and forth.
"He's still talking to himself," I whispered to Mother.
"What? The fireworks are this way." She put one hand on top of my head, rotating it in the direction of the display. "I don't know why they don't clear those people out before," she whispered to a woman beside her that she did not know. Both women shook their heads and turned back to the celebration.
Several stolen glances between bursts, the man's body jerked with each discharge. By the end of the display, he had his hands clasped over his ears, his eyes tightly shut. I moved my mouth in sync with him, trying to discover what he was saying. 'ah. ah.' Hot?
It's always hot. A thin, cotton bandana protects my face from the sand. My arms are crossed over my head. Mother's hand. Look the other way. I hear gunfire, followed by a boom, then another, then another. The ground shakes beneath me.
I move my lips and recognize the familiarity of the motion.
Stop. He had said. Make it stop.