We were living in Italy at the time and had become rather accustomed to the thieving ways of gypsies, and sadly, this included children. In the larger cities of that beautiful country especially, packs of roaming children were reason for caution, as they learned quite young the art of distract and grab. This little girl reminded me very much of a young boy I encountered in Rome in 2006, a tiny but scrappy looking child who, in the face of being caught with his hand in a Dutch tourist's backpack, spat in my face upon retreat.
The girl in the park watched the adults around her like the boy in Rome watched the tourist. Her eyes held something older than herself, but it didn't strike me as wisdom or evidence of an old soul; her eyes looked weathered by contempt. It sounds awful to say that about a child, but that's what I saw, and when she caught me watching her, she didn't shy away or wave hello. She stared me down, she didn't crack a smile, and she kind of scared me a little.
I'd managed to snap a few shots of her, this being the first. And even though the last shot I got captured the moment she discovered me, this one remains my favorite. Maybe it's the inquisitive way she's looking at the hair-tie wrapped around her finger, momentarily fascinated by the purpling of her skin (didn't we all do that at some point?). In all the time we walked from speaker to speaker, snapping photos and listening to various opinions as they were shouted out to the masses, I never once saw an adult with the children. They were clearly on their own, and seemingly on the prowl, and it just made me sad.
But for a moment, she looked innocent.