Thursday, June 26, 2014

Southern Gothic

Yesterday I was sitting outside the Boys and Girls Club, waiting for Ayla to return from the recycling center so we could go home. The small school bus carrying Ayla pulled into the lot, driven by the very amazing young woman, we shall call her Ms. X, who runs the healthy living programs at the club. She is smart and fierce and I'm glad the girls have her around as a role model. As she pulled in, a man on a bike pulled up next to her, shouted "HEY!", and proceeded to harangue her for some incident that I had not witnessed. Ayla heard everything, including, she says, his threats to call the police if this happened again. I mostly heard the man yelling at a young woman driving a school bus full of kids. I heard Ms. X apologize and say, "You didn't signal." "I didn't have time to signal," the man yelled back.

I don't know who was in the right here, as far as the driving and cycling go. I didn't see any of it. But I did see the man continue to yell, in front of a school bus full of children, after Ms. X had calmly apologized. And I'm pretty ashamed of myself that I didn't stand up and walk over there and intervene on her behalf. My instinct--proof that instincts are sometimes wrong--was to look away, thinking that I didn't want to embarrass anyone by witnessing the incident. I'm embarrassed, actually, to type those words. After the biker started to ride away, a different mother called out to him, something along the lines of "No more, that's enough" and he said, "You weren't in that intersection."

Embarrassed of myself is a theme in my life lately. I seem to have lost a certain filter and have been too blunt (except of course when I need to be, as in the situation above). I say things I shouldn't. I don't feel safe blogging or having opinions on the internet--not that that was ever safe to begin with. People keep asking me for money. Twice at work, patrons have come in and tried to sell me things. It's so uncomfortable. I feel guilty and angry at once. Last week I drove to PetSmart to get heart worm preventative for my pet. I didn't know this was necessary as we don't worry about getting heart worm from mosquitoes in Colorado.  I'm such an amateur at insect borne diseases that I didn't even know that PetSmart doesn't sell heart worm preventative. You have to get it through a vet or online from Australia. As I was leaving a woman pulled up to me in her car. There was a child in the back and an old man who kept his gaze forward and his jaw stubborn as the woman asked me for gas money. "We've had a death in the family. We're trying to get to Sarasota. We have ten dollars." I was confounded and confused. Compassion warred with some form of street smarts. Be kind, don't get taken advantage of. "I'm so sorry," I lied. "I don't have any cash." The woman nodded, started to cry, and drove away. "Jesus," I said once I got into my car. "Jesus." It's my job to make our grocery money last two weeks and I don't always manage it. "Jesus." I drove through the parking lot, past the Michael's and the TJ Maxx until I found the same car in front of Target. I don't want to say how much I gave them. As I reached in the window and handed the cash to her, the woman knew I had lied. But she had known already, as soon as it happened. We'd seen it all in each other's eyes. Everything.


  1. This is part of being human. This is how it is. We try but we do not always manage to be the person we want to be. There are so many reasons. And let me just tell you- that "there's a death in the family, we're trying to get to..." is one of the oldest scams in the book. Does that mean these people do not need money? No. Probably not. But we have to consider all of this. Are we fools to believe the story? Are we being not compassionate to not give money even if we may feel foolish? It goes on and on. We all lie, we do. This, too, is human. We all hurt others saying things before we think. This too is human. I did it yesterday. Even as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was speaking selfishly and not compassionately. Do we all step forward when we witness that which is not right? No, we don't. Sometimes we have to think about it and go back later when our thoughts are more properly formed. Sometimes that's impossible but we can use the experience to inform our actions the next time.
    We are so flawed, we human beings. But some of us- we do think, we do try. And that is for the good.
    I love you for this post. I do.

  2. I find that most of my regrets are what I didn't do or say or give. It's not the worst thing to give some cash, look into the asker's eyes and realize they lied. Better than the reverse, maybe.

  3. I've had this vague seasicky feeling in my stomach all week -- an unease. Your post articulated it. I don't know how to stop sometimes, and I need to stop.

  4. I've had that feeling of not feeling "safe" blogging, and I haven't quite figured out where exactly the sense of jeopardy is coming from. But i am so grateful that you continue to write here, to share this humanness we all are snared by. I think we feel least safe when we are sharing the unfiltered truth. Why it that, I wonder? It is the unfiltered truth that makes me feel most healed, most accompanied, most forgiven. I love you dearly and I am glad you are here.


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