Why I Left My Job

I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon yesterday, eating, walking, gossiping and sharing projects with Sister Writers, June Gillam and Leslie Rose.  For some reason I got started venting about an incident that happened a few years back–all part of the ongoing healing process, I guess.  So today I thought I would share a poem I wrote at the time.  It’s called:

Why I Left My Job

 The other driver and I

retreated to neutral corners

to wait for the police.

 

I had a cell phone

the size of a shoe box.

The other driver had a newer,

tinier model

that fit in the palm

of her hand. She stood

on her corner, talking,

talking, staring

at me, and flapping

her free hand.

 

My boyfriend didn’t

have a cell phone

so I couldn’t call him.

I called my Mom

on my shoe box.

She said she’d come

but I told her, no,

don’t be silly;

I was okay.

Neither of us mentioned

it was the anniversary

of my father’s death.

But each of us knew

the other was thinking

about it.

 

A police officer arrived

alone in a patrol car.

The other driver and I

both ventured toward him.

He said he’d speak to each

of us separately.

The other driver

stepped forward quickly

with narrowed eyes

glaring at me, clutching

her purse, as if

she expected me

to snatch it.

They went to her corner.

 

A man from the house

on my corner

came out and asked

if I was okay.

He had a spiked

dog collar

around his neck

and a ring

through his nose—

a big ring, like

the brass ring

on a merry-go-round.

I’m okay, I said.

Do you want a Pepsi?

he asked.

No, I’m okay, I repeated.

But it was nice of you

to ask.

 

The police officer came

to talk to me. He asked

my name and I gave him

my driver’s license.

He spent some time

writing on a pad.

He asked me what happened,

and I told him she’d run the stop sign.

I swerved, I said, I tried to miss her

but she pulled right out in front of me.

 

Just then the other driver sauntered over.

I called a tow truck, she said.

Her voice was cheerful,

almost lyrical.

“I can’t believe it, you know,

twenty years with a spotless

record, twenty years, and now this,

twenty years, what can I say?”

 

She laughed, shaking her head

so her long dark hair swayed

like in a shampoo commercial,

and in that moment I hated her.

She was at a dance club

or a country club,

coquettish and flirtatious,

on a sunny

patio drinking sangria.

Worse than that:

she was just like me,

seeking some kind of approval

as if the officer should tell her

it was okay that she pulled out in front of me,

no big deal, don’t worry

about it, Ma’am, happens all the time.

 

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through my nose.

 

The police officer turned to her.

“We need some privacy, Ma’am.

You had your turn.”

 

“Oh. Of course.” She sashayed away.

 

“How fast were you going?” he asked me.

 

“I don’t know,” I said, “but

I couldn’t have been going

more than 15 or 20 miles an hour.

This is my neighborhood.

This is where I live.

I wouldn’t speed in my own neighborhood.”

 

The officer nodded and smiled a little.

“You should know: the other lady

admitted she was in the wrong.”

 

“She did?” I was stunned.

“She didn’t say anything to me.”

I was batting back tears now.

I didn’t tell him she’d been rude

to me; had demanded to see

my license, had even reached into

my wallet trying to grab

my insurance card.

I looked down

at my hands, fingering the zipper

on my purse. “I wanted her

to apologize,” I admitted.

 

He looked down at his pad.

“She’s not going to apologize,”

he said curtly.

 

He had me sign his report,

told me I could go.

So I did; I didn’t call

a tow truck. My car

looked fine. But it wasn’t fine.

The damage was

so extensive

the insurance company

refused to fix it.

The car was totaled.

 

This happened well over a decade ago.

But what happened this year

at my work place—the circumstances

were very similar:

it was my own neighborhood.

My classroom was totaled.

No one apologized to me.

 

 

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