Thursday, May 26, 2011

if you don't feel safe

On Monday Alice and I went to the grocery store. Oranges on sale, a few bananas...we walked lightly laden to the car. While we shopped, two large trucks had parked on either side of us--- making the squeeze to get Bean into her carseat that much more acrobatic.

Once she was in, I walked to the driver's side, feeling strangely edgy. The prompt to get in quickly felt deep in my gut. Once inside, I locked the doors and put on my seatbelt. The feeling didn't make sense since we were out in bright daylight: a busy grocery store parking lot, Monday morning shopping on people's minds. I sat for a short second, thinking about the nonsense I do when I caught movement outside my window--- a man approaching the car, mouth moving already as he walked closer. Don't roll down the window, came the voice deep inside of me, if you don't feel safe. He motioned to get my attention, roll down the window--- but I didn't. I wouldn't, shaking my head. His face was a mottled roadmap of hard living: deep wrinkles interspersed with a shaggy beard, teeth stained brown like shoe leather. My car needs a jump, he said squinting. Can you give me a jump? A hopeful stare, waiting.

The rational part of me seemed willing, a perfectly normal request, it said. But that voice, that voice rumbled quietly inside of me--- if you don't feel safe, you don't have to do anything.

I told him I was sorry, there's somewhere we need to be. He motioned again with his hand, roll down your window. His whole body leaned in, there was something in it that was much too insistent--- a desperate reach toward my Yes. I shook my head again: No, already pulling out and moving the car.

It was then that his face crumpled into anger--- the lines set deep around his mouth as he yelled. As we drove out of the parking lot I caught bits of his ranting: HOW DARE YOU, HOW CAN YOU NOT HELP ME, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

Later, telling Chip the story over the phone my hands started to shake, the quiet voice of warning reminding me, if you don't feel safe, if you don't feel safe, if you don't feel safe... you don't have to do anything.

It's possible that he was just having car trouble.
It's possible that he was just a stranded driver looking for help.
It's possible that nothing would have happened other than an exchange of car energy.
But that voice, the warning--- and the image of his leaning body into our space.
I consider it a near miss.

Near misses
-by Laura Kasischkee

The truck that swerved to miss the stroller in which I slept.

My mother turning from the laundry basket just in time to see me open the
third-story window to call to the cat.

In the car, on ice, something spinning and made of history snatched me back
from the guardrail and set me down between two gentle trees. And that time I
thought to look both ways on the one-way street.

And when the doorbell rang, and I didn't answer, and just before I slipped one
night into a drunken dream, I remembered to blow out the candle burning on
the table beside me.

It's a miracle, I tell you, this middle-aged woman scanning the cans on the
grocery store shelf. Hidden in the words of a mysterious clock are her many
deaths, and yet the whole world is piled up before her on a banquet table
again today. The timer, broken. The sunset smeared across the horizon in the
girlish cursive of the ocean, Forever, For You.

And still she can offer only her body as proof:

The way it moves a little slower every day. And the cells, ticking away. A crow
pecking at a sweater. The last hour waiting patiently on a tray for her
somewhere in the future. The spoon slipping quietly into the beautiful soup.


serenity now said...

Ohmygoodness. Cree-eepy story. Skin crawling . . . I'm so glad that little voice was there and you listened. Three cheers for the gut instinct!

I love the poems you post, by the way. Reading them reminds me how lame it is that I don't make much time to read poetry anymore. Sad, I know.

Jayme said...

So glad you went with your gut. Even if he did just need a jump, someone else can do it!

Sibley Saga .... said...

I'm glad you're safe friend. Trust your gut. It's served you well and will do so again I'm sure.

Sheesh. What a creepy wierdo! And isn't it always when your husband isn't present that most weirdos pop up? I hate that!

Andrea said...

You were completely correct to follow your instincts! I've done the same and that guilty feeling is nothing compared to what could have happened. Thanks for the poem.

Miss Sarah in Georgia said...

According to the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker, you saw something that prompted that fear you felt kept you safe, and you were right to follow it. (I highly recommend the book.) I think some of that fear may also be the Holy Ghost, but that is my opinion. And I am even saying all this as someone who needed their car jumped this week and was grateful for the stranger who helped us.

(Sometimes lurker and friend of M)

wandering nana said...

It is amazing how that inner voice tells us what to do and how many times people don't listen. I'm like you... I want to help but unfortunately so many who approach are not in need of help. I'm glad you listened.