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I can explain

were

And that’s why I never had kids.

It all makes sense now, right?

Oh shit! Is this out of context for you?

Allow me to clarify.

This is what I said to a woman last week who assumed the reason I didn’t have children was because I must have been traumatized or something. Like something horrible must have happened because I hadn’t procreated – and it’s WAY to late for me to even try – and the only reason it could be that way was because something was wrong. Very wrong. Scary wrong with me.

The thought that it had been my own choice never entered her mind.

Nope.

Something was wrong and she was bound and determined to find out what it was.

This amuses me. This is not the first time I had told this story but I was very surprised to see that such a young woman…

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Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

Posted: February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

This resonated with me for many reasons and then – I read the comments the writer had to deal with. Unfortunately, I was not at all surprised she had to put up with yet another man, explaining to her how she should be.

Some people just don’t get it and I have to give the author credit for her patience. If the topic had to do with racism, I am sure the commenters would have agreed with her blog.

But since it had to do with women, oh well then, we are still considered fair game on how we should think and respond and many men feel it is their obligation to explain that to us.

We still have a long ways to go.

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced…

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Best friends

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

1963

I didn’t expect for someone to be standing there as I climbed over my backyard fence. We had moved in a few months before but most of the houses in the new development were vacant. The Harris’ lived 3 doors down and I had met Jennifer. She and I were the same age and getting ready to start 3rd grade. Polly lived up the street at the top of the hill. Polly, Jennifer and I were friends by default. I liked them well enough, but Polly could be bossy and Jennifer liked to have tea parties in her bedroom with her toy troll dolls and talk baby talk to them.

“Hello. Who are you? My name is Rebecca,” I heard as I hoisted myself up the fence and straddled the middle in preparation of jumping down. I was planning on playing in the yard without the prying eyes of my older brother who had been left to babysit me while my Mom ran to the store. He thought this made him the boss of me. It didn’t but rather than have another argument about it, I decided to go play in what I considered my own personal backyard.

Now someone else was here and I didn’t know why. I looked at her for a moment and suddenly felt as if I had done something wrong.

“I’m Susan. What are you doing here?” I asked as I jumped down. I almost landed on her. She stepped back but continued to smile. She was about my height but thinner. Her hair was so blond it was yellow. She had enormous blue eyes with pale lashes. Her nose was large and her skin was so white it was almost translucent.

She was wearing a starched white blouse that was tucked into her pants. Her socks had lace on them and she was wearing white saddle shoes that didn’t have a mark on them. Her hair had a ribbon in it which matched her shirt

“I live here now,” she said. She began blinking rapidly and her eyes darted for a moment.

“What do you mean you live here now?” I asked. I quickly looked into the living room window. “I don’t see any furniture.”

Her smile got wider. “Oh, that’s because we haven’t actually moved in yet. The movers come on Saturday. We’re staying at a motel until then.”

“I see,” I said as I wiped my hands on my jeans. I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my feet were dirty. I tried to smooth my hair down but it was pointless. It was curly and stuck out everywhere. My Mom gave up trying to comb it so she cut it short and hoped it would somehow stay put.

“Do you live next door?” she asked.

“We moved in here a long time ago. I know everyone in the neighborhood,” I said as if that would mean something.

“Rebecca? Where are you?” I heard a man’s voice call out. Rebecca turned and I saw a man approach us.

“Hi Dad. This is Susan. She lives next door,” she said. He walked over the stuck his hand out. I shook it and hoped it was clean.

“Nice to meet you Susan,” he said. He was tall and younger than my parents. His hair was cut short and his teeth were so straight that I wasn’t sure if they were real or not and tried not to stare.

“Thanks, you too,” I said and pulled my hand away.

“How did you get in the yard? I didn’t see you go through the gate,” he asked and looked directly at me.

This was the second time in 2 minutes that I felt as if I had done something wrong. “I climbed over the fence like I always do,” I said.

“Oh well, please be sure not to do that anymore. This is our house and you should come to the front door from now on.” He turned and looked down at Rebecca and put his arm around her shoulder. He had spoken and I had been dismissed. “It’s time to go,” he said and turned her around. “It’s nice to have met you Susan,” he said as they walked away. Rebecca turned around, smiled and waved.

I waved and walked through the gate. I left it open. I figured if he had such a bug up his ass about it, he could close it himself.

                      1968

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning so I jumped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Rebecca’s house. I had so many things to tell her about my new crush that I couldn’t wait. We weren’t in the same classes anymore and had different schedules. Since she wasn’t allowed to use the phone during the week, the only time we had to talk was on the weekend. Sometimes we would catch each other in the cafeteria but she had new friends I didn’t like.

Rebecca’s mom opened the door. I had parked my bike exactly where they had told me. Everything in their house was always in the exact right place. It was spotless and I often felt that if I moved wrong, I would knock something over and they would banish me forever.

“Good morning Susan,” she said and just stood there. She always did this. I always had to tell her I was there to see Rebecca even though it was obvious.

“Hello Mrs. Monroe. How are you?” I asked and waited. This ritual was usually short.

“I’m well. Are you here to see Rebecca?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I wasn’t. I wanted to say I was there to visit with her even though I knew she didn’t like me and never had.

“Yes I am,” I said and continued to stand there and wait.

She looked me up and down. I automatically reached up and flattened down my hair.

“She’s upstairs in her bedroom,” she said and opened the door wider. I walked through it and started to go up the stairs.

“Thank you Mrs. Monroe,” I said.

I heard her close the door. “Rebecca has a lot to do tonight, so please be back here by 4:00,’ she said as she walked into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes but made sure she couldn’t see them. “No problem,” I said as I sprinted up the stairs and into Rebecca’s room.

She was sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged me. I closed the door and flopped down on her bed. I wanted to leave as soon as we could. I felt like I was in jail.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

She turned around and smiled. “Yep. Let me just grab my purse. You want to grab some food for our bike ride? We could ride up the trail and there’s a bunch of nice spots where we could stop. Angie lives somewhere near the lake. Maybe we could go over to her house…”

“No, I don’t like Angie. I know she’s your friend but I don’t think she likes me,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not true! She does like you,” Rebecca said. Rebecca only saw the goodness in people. She didn’t like it when I said something unkind or mean. She would always tell me something positive. It annoyed me at times but I had grown used to it. That was just the way she was.

Her door opened and her father was standing there. They never knocked. They just walked in. Rebecca never did anything wrong and I wondered if they were like that when I wasn’t around.

He stood there and I saw he was holding a book in his hand. He had a serious look on his face. I looked down at the book. It was “Soul on Ice” and right then I knew I was in trouble.

“Where did you get this book Rebecca?” he asked as he held the book in front of him. Rebecca looked at it and then immediately looked at me. She blushed when she realized that she had just answered his question without saying anything. She looked back at him and then down at her lap.

“Well? I asked you a question young lady,” he said.

“I gave it to her,” I said. She couldn’t lie to her father and didn’t want to get me into trouble. It was easier for her if I just told the truth.

He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “Did you…read this book?” he asked.

I nodded my head. I felt my face getting red. I knew what parts he was talking about. I looked down at my shoes. At 13 years old, much of the book I did not understand but the sex scenes were vivid enough.

“Do your parents know you read this book?”

“I have no idea. It was given to me. I read it. I gave it to Rebecca to read. It’s just a book and a popular one,” I said. I did not like anyone talking to me as if they were my parents.

“Well I may have to talk to them about. I’m sure they would not approve. I think you are both a bit too young for this type of…book. There are parts that are fine. I stapled the pages that you are not to read Rebecca, but you can read the rest of it,” he said and handed her the book. She took it and nodded and placed it on her desk.

He turned and looked at me. “But the next time you want Rebecca to read something you find so…interesting, please give it to me first,” he said and walked out. He left the door open. I got up and closed it.

I looked down at Rebecca. She was still red and was wringing her hands slightly. “Sorry I got you in trouble,” I said and took the book. I started to take the staples out of it. Rebecca reached over and took the book from me.

“You can’t do that! He said I couldn’t read those parts!”

“So what? It’s my book and he had no right to ruin it. If I want the staples out of my book, I’m taking them out!” I said. I snatched the book back and began to pull out the staples and sneered every time they tore a page.

“You can see the pages that had them and if you don’t want to read them, then don’t,” I said and handed her back the book.

She shook her head. “No, that’s OK. I’ll read something else,” she said and got up and picked up her purse.

I took the book with us. We found a place to eat. I read the parts he told her not to read. Technically, she didn’t read them. I just happened to be reading out loud while Rebecca was sitting there.

I never saw her blush so much for so long. It was worth it. From then on, anything I wanted her to read, I kept in my locker at school.

                     1973

I could hear her guitar as I came out of my last class for the day. Her last class for the day ended an hour before mine. She had taken up the guitar and would use that hour while she waited for me to practice. We took the same bus home and that gave us time to catch-up on the day. It was my most favorite time of day except my English class because Ted was in it. I had a crush on him since 6th grade and 6 years later, he still didn’t know I existed.

I found her sitting on the stairs near the girl’s gym. She was in her own world as she sat and strummed her guitar. Her hair was almost to her waist. She was wearing a long dress and boots with a headband and flowers pinned into it. The sun was hitting her back and her hair looked like corn silk. I tried to flatten my hair down and forgot for a moment that it was also long. I wore it pulled back most of the time and I could feel the long pony tail hit my waist as I jogged towards her.

She was practicing “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It had been the number one song on the charts for a few weeks.  I wasn’t sure if I liked them or not. No one would ever replace The Beatles for me. I walked up and stood in front of her and waited for her to stop.

She looked up and continued to strum her guitar. She was getting better and better. She taught herself much of what she played. She had taken lessons but she had a talent for it. I tried to learn but had no patience. I wanted to pick it up, play it perfectly and refused to practice.

“You ready? I want to have a smoke before the bus comes,” I said. She stood up and walked with me to the parking lot. That was where some of us went to in order to sneak a cigarette.

As we were walking, I heard someone crying. I looked around. “Did you hear that?” I asked Rebecca and stopped. She listened and then we heard it again. We looked around and followed the sound. It was subtle but someone was sobbing.

We saw a girl standing behind the partition in front of the girl’s gym. I had never seen her before. She had her face pressed against it with her hands covering her face. Her body was shaking as she sobbed and tried to be quiet. We looked at each other and walked over to her. Rebecca didn’t know who she was either.

“You OK?” I asked. She jumped back and a slight scream left her mouth. She quickly put her hands over her mouth and nodded her head. She was a mess. Her face was soaked from her tears and they had dripped onto her blouse. Her nose was running.

She was a large girl with hair worse than mine. Hers stood straight up as if she had stuck her finger in a light socket. Everything about her was wrong. She was wearing a pleated skirt that was plaid with a large sweater and knee high socks. She looked as if she had just been transported from the 50’s. I looked to see if there was a poodle on her skirt. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen and when she looked back and forth at us, only one of her eyes moved. Her left eye stared straight ahead.

Rebecca stepped forward and put her hand on her arm. “What’s your name?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to breathe. “Dawn,” she said and attempted to smile. All you could see was a mouthful of braces and she was wearing a head-gear.

“I’m Rebecca and this is Susan. Why are you crying?”

Dawn looked around and then stared at her shoes. She shrugged her shoulders.

I already had a good idea of what happened. She was near the girl’s gym when the cheerleaders came out. I hated those girls even though we had all been friends since 3rd grade. Something happened to some of them during the summer between Junior High School and starting our sophomore year. They had grown-up suddenly and were pretty and thin and popular. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to have lunch with them or talk to them. My greetings went unanswered or even laughed at as they flipped their hair and wiggled their butts as they walked away.

I didn’t want to hear what they had done. Those girls had turned into demon spawn. Dawn was a perfect target. I grabbed her hand and started walking. “Come with us and don’t worry about it,” I said as I headed towards the parking lot and began to pull my cigarettes out of my purse.

I found a spot to sit where I wouldn’t be seen and could hear if anyone was approaching. I had Dawn sit down between us and lit up. Her face was beginning to dry. She looked back and forth between us. Rebecca picked-up her guitar and started strumming. I leaned back, inhaled deeply and watched the smoke rise in the air.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked Dawn.

She looked at me and I saw a horrible memory pass over her face. I wasn’t trying to be mean or rude but it was like a huge elephant sitting in the middle of a living room and no one was saying anything.

“Some girls picked on me and bullied me for a long time where I used to live,” she said. Her hand went to her eye and she rubbed it. “We just moved here. My dad lost his job, so they haven’t had any money to get me a better eye.”

“A better eye? What does that mean?” I asked.

“This is a glass eye,” she said and pointed to it. “One day, those girls held me down and one of them stuck a needle into it. They laughed. They thought it was funny.”

Rebecca had stopped playing her guitar when Dawn started talking. I looked at her. Tears were in her eyes and her hand went to her mouth. I looked at Dawn as she looked out into the parking lot.

There wasn’t anything left for to say.

I watched the side of Dawn’s face as she gazed at the cars coming and going. Her jaw was tight and her bottom lip quivered. I put my hand over hers and squeezed it.

We were graduating in a couple of months. Rebecca was going off the college. She wanted to be a teacher. I had no plans. I didn’t want to go to school for a while. I wanted to write and be someone. Even then I knew that High School would have a memory that would never die. I sat there and felt the story Dawn had told go into my bones. I knew that it would stay there forever. I would never forget it. I saw what they did to her in my mind and I knew that memory would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was an adult and I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to sit in parking lots and smoke cigarettes and not have to think about what some people did to other people.

I saw our bus pull up. “What bus do you take?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t. My mom will pick me up in a few. I’m OK now. Thanks,” she said.

I held out my hand and helped her up.

“Rebecca and I meet for lunch under the tree in the courtyard everyday at noon. Be there or be square,” I said.

Dawn smiled and blushed. I chuckled that I now had two friends that randomly looked like beets.

  1977

“Would you like some more punch?” Mrs. Monroe asked me. She was smiling and her eyes were still judgmental. I concluded that she was born that way, had lived that way and would die that way. No matter how old I got, the lack of respect in her eyes when she looked at me would always make me feel inferior.

“No thanks. I’m good,” I said. She nodded her head and walked away. I took a deep breath and turned and watched Rebecca continue to open her presents and chat with the other women. She was getting married in a few weeks. She had not forgotten to invite me to her shower even though we had not seen each other for a few years. She had graduated with her degree. I was proud of her for doing what she wanted. Being a teacher was met with approval from her parents and her entire family.

She was doing what she wanted and would soon be married.

“Are you seeing anyone?” I heard someone ask. I looked around and saw it was Debbie who had asked me the question. She was Rebecca’s younger sister.

I felt my hackles go up. Once again I was about to be subjected to the third degree by women who I didn’t know but yet wanted to know all about my love life. I didn’t like Debbie and she didn’t like me. I remembered her as sneaky and quite often running to her parents to tell them something I had said.

“Yes, but no one you know,” I said. I decided it was easier to lie than explain why I wasn’t married.

“Oh, please, tell us all about him!” she said and moved her chair closer. “Rebecca said you weren’t seeing anyone. Is this someone new?”

I wanted to scratch her eyes out. She knew damn well I wasn’t seeing anyone but now was talking loud enough for everyone to hear. A few of Rebecca’s relatives stopped talking and began to listen.

Debbie had a smug look on her face. I wondered for the millionth time if Rebecca wasn’t adopted.

“What makes you think it’s a man?” I asked and batted my eyelashes.

Debbie looked confused for a moment and then she blushed. I could see the top of her head turn red where she had pulled back her hair. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. A few of the women looked at each other.

Mrs. Monroe stood up quickly. “Would anyone like some cake?” she said and told everyone to go into the kitchen. She glared at me and told Debbie to come help her.

I chuckled as I watched everyone leave the living room. Once they were gone, I leaned back against my chair and looked at Rebecca. She was blushing and shaking her head.

“What?” I asked and started to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said that! You would think that after all these years, I would get used to you, but I haven’t,” she said and laughed.

I knew our friendship was ending. She vowed that it wouldn’t, but she was getting married and moving away. I had met her fiancé Michael and I didn’t like him. He was rude and abrasive. Rebecca never stood up to anyone in her life. I had not been around for the last 4 years to stick up for her and speak for her when she couldn’t. I never told her I didn’t like Michael. She wasn’t going to teach. After all she had worked for, Michael wanted her to stay home. He wanted a family right away.

“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” I said and held her hand in mine. She still looked 8 years old to me even with the shorter hair and breasts. I looked down at her hand and back at her.

“What are you talking about? You’re not going anywhere,” she said.

I wasn’t going anywhere but Rebecca was. She didn’t understand how everything had changed over the last couple of years. We had grown up and gone our own way. She was on her way to start a new life and I was stuck in mine. I didn’t have much of a future but she did.

I no longer fit into her life.

“No, of course not. I’ll always be around,” I said. I stood up. “I have to go but I’ll see you at the wedding, OK?”

She hugged me and then stood back, held my hands and smiled. “Yep. I’ll see you at the wedding! I can hardly wait!”

She had a smile that lit up the room and I was the only one in her life that knew that.

“We do?” I asked. Such a direct statement from someone I barely knew.

“Yes,” he said as he leaned over and squeezed my hand. Sitting across from him, I wanted to pull away.

“Why?” I asked. It seemed like such a logical question to me. I mean, surely there must be a reason this man had suddenly become so concerned about my soul.

He looked at me as if I was a child. I was not.

“So you don’t go to hell for eternity.”

I had heard these words so many times in my life. I had searched for a very long time for myself. I had found what I wanted and what worked for me. I had worked at my church for many years and had continued as a volunteer. I was not in need of salvation.

I was in need of sanity.

I was in need of peace and quiet.

I was in need of solutions and not more problems.

“OK, if we save my soul, what happens to me?”

“You? What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, if I have a soul, than I must be separate from it, right? Sort of like having a car. I own a car but I am not the car. You understand or should I speak slower?”

I saw a brief moment of anger cross his face. This was fun.

He deserved what I was dishing out. I was at a class that I was taking at the local college. It had nothing to do with religion. It was a writing class.

But this man, who was a student, had stood up as class was ending and announced that we all needed to hold hands and pray. A few students complied but when he grabbed my hand and tried to pull me into the circle, I let go and stepped back.

Fortunately the teacher hadn’t left the room yet. He turned around and asked the man to do that off school premises. The man looked hurt and confused. But he stopped.

As I was gathering up my things, the man approached me and said he wanted to talk.

“No, what I mean is, you’ve obviously have some problem with praying…”

“No, I don’t have a problem with praying. I have a problem with someone grabbing me and trying to force me to pray. I don’t need your help and I don’t need you to be concerned about me or my soul. We’re both doing well,” I said and stood-up.

“Come with me to bible class some night,” he said.

I looked at him for a moment. I looked at his eyes and I did not like what I saw. They were cruel and righteous. They weren’t Christian eyes. I had known countless wonderful Christians and other people of different faiths. They either lived their faith or they didn’t.

It was all in the eyes and their actions.

If they were cruel and insane, that was on them.

If they were kind and giving, they were taking their religion to heart.

“I want to make something very clear to you,” I said and turned around and stood directly in front of him. “I know what I think. I know what I believe and I know what works for me. I also know that it’s personal and is between me, myself and I and I would no more go to your bible class than I would jump off a 6-story building. And do you know why?”

He stepped back and began to turn away. I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards me.

“No, you don’t get to run. You have to listen to what I have to say,” I said and held onto his hand a bit tighter.

He nodded.

I can be scary when I want to be.

“Do you know what the problem with religion is?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“None. It’s the people,” I said and let go of his hand. “I try to practice mine and that includes respecting and protecting all religions. I take what I want from each one and make my own decisions. You should try it sometime.”

“I’ll pray for you,” he said.

I liked that. I appreciated it. “That would be nice. Tell Jesus that Susan says hello. He’ll know who you’re talking about,” I said. “He and I are cool.”

I watched him wrestle with my words.

“But if you and he…”

“You do not need to concern yourself with me. You need to save yourself before you save others,” I said and walked out.

He never talked to me again.

There are always a few, in any group, that make it difficult for the rest. Pay them no attention. Decide what you think or believe. Decide what is true for you and explain or defend it to no one.

People know you by your actions. Make them above reproach.

Image

These words resonated with me yesterday. They are a comment someone left to me:

If you honestly think it is then you’re a far more horrible person than those men, and you should do some serious soul searching. (His response to a woman using pepper spray to deal with two men who were verbally abusive to us on a dark and deserted street).

This was in response to this blog post that caused quite a flurry of accusations and judgement of me: https://idisagreecompletely.com/2013/07/29/youre-bangable/

Now, I have no problem with anyone reading my writing and commenting. In fact, I enjoy it enormously, as any writer will attest to.

But there’s a big difference between disliking a story and attacking the character and mental health of the author.

But I would like to say to those who do judge me – please continue.

I won’t judge you for sitting in your ivory tower, looking down on those who are in the trenches, attempting to improve the human condition of those around them.

I won’t judge you for NOT helping me with human trafficking. I understand it is too difficult for you to get your hands dirty as you lift up a 8-year old child up who was sold into the sex slavery industry. You might get dirt on your Polo shirt and that would be a travesty.

I won’t judge you for not helping your woman neighbor who is getting beaten. It’s rude of her to disturb you while you watch TV at night.

I won’t judge you for walking past and ignoring the beating a dog is receiving or the one that has been tied up and starved in the backyard. It’s understandable that you would close your curtains and do nothing.

I am easy to judge. I can’t blame you. I write about my life for all to see. I write stories of courageous and horrible people. I spend time with convicted felons. Yes, there is something very wrong with me and I appreciate you taking the time to point it out.

You should also judge me for not being strong enough. For breaking down in the middle of the night when it gets to me. I should be braver and stop complaining when I just found out that the funding we were hoping for was cut. I should just take it on the chin and stop whining.

Judge me for not being able to sustain a long term relationship with a man and being middle-aged and alone. Judge me for my tears and heartbreak and tell me I need to do more.

And don’t forget to judge me for having cats. Yes. I have cats and we all know what that means, right?

I am glad you pointed out my imperfections as you sit behind your monitor. I look at your posts and have yet to see you reveal one interesting thing about yourself. But you are really good at re-sharing! You’ve brought that into an art form!

Am I mad? No. Not at all. I can hold my own and stand on my own two feet, all by myself.

I am sad for you. I am sad that you think it’s wrong for a woman to defend herself.

I am sad that you sit there and look down upon those that have the guts to try to do something with little or no money or time.

So please….continue to judge me and I’ll continue to write with the hopes that it will keep pissing you off.

“No! No, this isn’t happening,” I said out loud as my car suddenly lost all power and everything went dark. I felt myself start to panic and quickly talked myself out of it as I managed to pull over onto the shoulder. My car cruised for a few moments and then stopped.

I put it in park and tried to start it again. Nothing. Not a sound, not even the click of a dead battery. I had just filled up the tank about an hour ago but I checked again. It was pointless. There was no power and no lights.

I was in the middle on nowhere on my way to Los Angeles at 11:00 at night. I was 300 miles from home on a stretch of highway that was in the middle of thousands and thousands of acres of farmland. It was a long and lonely drive through flat land and fields of produce.

If I was lucky, the closest house would be down some road that went on for miles. But because it was night, there was no way to even find a road.

I sat back and tried not to cry. I hit the steering wheel with my hand a few times and tried to squelch the panic that kept slamming my chest.

This was years before cell phones or call boxes. I mentally calculated where the gas station was that I had used. If it had been an hour ago and I was cruising at 80 MPH, that meant I was totally screwed.

I looked out the windows and saw nothing but blackness. Every so often a car would speed by. I tried to turn on my flashers, but they didn’t work. I got out of the car and raised the hood. I knew to stay in the car and wait. I would be safer in case someone hit the car or tried to hurt me.

I cursed myself for reading so many Stephen King books and also for having recently watched “Night of the Living Dead.” Every time I looked around, I saw zombies, vampires and werewolves coming for me. I quickly jumped back in my car. I checked the glove compartment for a flashlight. I ran my hand through it several times and then remembered it was in the trunk. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel again.

I didn’t want to get out of the car and I didn’t want to stay in it. I wanted to be home in my bed where I would be safe. I took a deep breath, took the keys out of the ignition, opened the driver’s door and walked to the rear of my car.

Cars continued to speed by. They gave me a few brief seconds of light to find my way around. Once they passed, I couldn’t even see my feet.

I was in complete darkness and silence. I was terrified that someone would come to help and at the same time, scared that no one would.

I opened the trunk and rummaged around, trying to feel anything that could be a flashlight. I finally found it and tried to turn it on.

It was dead. I clicked the switch over and over, hoping that I could magically get it to work.

Suddenly there were lights behind me as a car pulled up.

My heart stopped.

I could hear banjos and immediately thought of Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty.

I looked up. The lights were blinding. I put my hand up to shield my eyes and stood still. I heard a car door open and someone walking towards me.

“Looks like you need some help,” a man said. He walked up to me.

He was tall and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He was about my age and good-looking and clean-cut.

“Yes, thanks. I’m not sure what happened, but my car just stopped suddenly and won’t start…”

He came closer. Too close. I stepped back.

“Well, let’s take a look, shall we?” he asked and smiled again.

“Oh, OK. Yeah, I appreciate it,” I said. I looked at his car as he walked by. “My flashlight isn’t working,” I said. I was starting to babble.

I always babble when I’m nervous.

He was alone. I was hoping to see a family in his car.

He went back to his car and found one. He looked under the hood. “You all alone?” he asked and looked up. He was still smiling.

My mind raced. What difference did it make if I was alone or not?

“Well, are you?” he asked. The smile had left his face and the way his headlights shined on us gave everything an even eerier feeling.

I began to sweat even though it was only 55 degrees. My mouth felt dry and my hands began to shake. Whatever was going on, my instinct was to run but I had nowhere to run to.

He slammed the hood down and came around the car. “I can’t imagine anyone letting you out of their sights,” he said and chuckled.

“Yeah, well…go figure. Anyway, I appreciate you stopping, but someone is on their way. They should be here any minute,” I said and opened the driver door.

He came around to my side quickly. “No need to be scared, little lady. I’ll drive you to the next gas station. You shouldn’t be alone on the side of the road. You never know who might come along,” he said. “It’s not safe.”

“I’ll be fine…” I said.

“Get in the car,” he said and moved closer.

“This is the day I die,” I thought. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. I still had so much to do. It wasn’t my time. It couldn’t be my time and not like this.

“No, I don’t want to…” I said.

He stopped. “If your car won’t start, then you’re going to be stuck out here all night. At least let me drive you somewhere. There’s no need to be afraid,” he said. But I was.

Bright lights shone on us again as a semitrailer was pulling over to the side of the road in front of us. We both watched as it slowed down and stopped. Once again I heard a car door slam and someone walking towards me.

Would this night ever end? Now I was about to get butchered by two men.

“Everything OK?” I heard a man ask.

“Yes.”

“No,” I said and walked towards the voice. Standing there was a man around my father’s age, wearing a baseball cap. He had a few days growth of  beard on his face and his hair was windblown and gray.

He looked at me for a moment and then at the man. The man was looking down at the ground.

“You need help, ma’am?” the truck driver asked me.

I nodded my head. He smiled and walked over towards the man.

“What seems to be the problem?” he asked him.

“Her car died. I was just going to give her a ride to the nearest gas station, so you don’t need to worry,” he said.

“Uh huh,” the truck driver said and walked back over to me. He didn’t even bother to look at the car.

“You want to go with him?” he asked me.

“No!” I said.

“Didn’t think so,” he said. “Grab your things and I’ll drive you.”

I grabbed my suitcase and purse out of my car. I thanked the man for stopping. He grunted, got into his car and speed away. He was pissed.

“I’m Bill” he said and shook my hand.

“I’m Susan,” I said. He took my suitcase and put it in his truck. He helped me up into the cab and fastened my seat belt for me. I figured the odds of two serial killers coming after me was one-in-a-million. I was still shaking and scared.

He got in and pulled onto the highway.

“I’m so glad you came when you did and I really appreciate you doing this and I pray to God you don’t kill me,” I said.

“No plans to,” he said.

The way he said it made me laugh.

“I drove past before and saw you were alone and came back. I’m glad I did.”

He had seen me as he drove past, went up to the next exit, turned around and came back.

“You can just drop me off at the nearest gas station. I’ll call my husband and he can come get me,” I said.

“How long will it take him to get here?” he asked.

It would take him a couple of hours, IF I could find him. That’s a whole other story for another time.

“A few hours,” I said. I don’t know why I told him the truth. I was still scared, but he was having a calming effect on me.

“It’s late and I don’t think you sitting at a gas station, in the middle of the night AND in the middle of nowhere is a good idea. If you were my daughter, I would not want that,” he said.

“I don’t want you to worry…”

“Well, I do. If you don’t mind going a little further, I can find a safe place for you to wait.”

I sighed and rubbed my forehead. We were driving down the road at a steady pace. It was pitch black out and I couldn’t see any lights. At least I was off the road and no longer felt like sitting prey.

“Well, that would be good,” I said.

“OK, then we’re agreed,” he said. He turned on the radio and we listened to jazz as his truck took me to somewhere. I had no idea of my ending point, but there I was, going down the highway with a stranger who had rescued me from another stranger.

About an hour later, I could see the lights of a city. As we got closer, I could see gas stations and fast food restaurants. My stomach growled. I felt relieved that I could sit in McDonald’s and eat cheeseburgers and drink Coke while waiting for my husband to arrive at some point.

He pulled in front of a motel and got out. “You wait right here and I’ll be right back,” he said as he locked his door and walked away.

There were lights everywhere. I saw people and cars. I wasn’t going to die. I was alive and I wanted to cry.

He came back and opened my door. He helped me out and took my suitcase. He held my hand as we crossed the street. His hand was warm and rough and comforting.

He walked me up to a room in the motel and put my suitcase down. He handed me a key. “I got this room for you. You get some sleep and the next time you decide to hit the road, make sure your car is in working order,” he said and started to walk away.

“Wait Bill!” I said. He stopped and turned around.

“You don’t have to do this. Let me pay you for it,” I said.

He held up his hand. “No, no need to. I’m happy to do it. I just wish someone had been there for my daughter when she needed it,” he said and walked away.

A sadness filled me as I watched him get into his truck and drive away.

He never looked back at me.

“What?” “What the hell is she talking about now?” was all I could think.

I looked up from the glass shelf I was cleaning. The manager of the store was suddenly jumping up from the stool she was sitting on behind the register. She briskly walked to the front of the little boutique I was working in and stared out into the parking lot through the glass where the mannequins were modeling our latest fashions for the season.

Yes. There were black people approaching the store.

There were 6 of them.

It was an entire herd of black people heading for our front door!

Two other employees looked up and then at each other. None of us knew why the manager was in such a tizzy. Granted, she was a lot older than us and moved a bit slower, but now she was acting as if she was Scarlet O’Hara and had just spotted Yankees on the front porch of Tara. I’d never seen her move so fast.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She was wringing her hands as she watched them come closer and closer.

She started to say something and then stopped. I still wasn’t sure I had heard her right.

“We need to keep an eye on them!” she whispered as the door opened and in they walked.

Black people. Right in front of me. At Stanford Shopping Center where all the “right” people shopped, including but not limited to celebrities, the wives and children of famous Stanford professors (who were some of the biggest shoplifters I had ever seen) and people who were too rich to shop so sent in their assistants to lower themselves to actually talk to the help, such as myself.

I said hello and smiled at them. There were 3 men and 3 women. They were dressed impeccably. They all smiled and walked over and each of them shook my hand.

“What can I do for you?” I asked as the manager gave them a tight smile and walked over and stood guard over the jewelry case.

“For Gods sake, it’s locked!” I thought.

“We are all going on a trip and since the ladies here love this store, we thought we would stop in here first and see what you have. They all need new clothes for the trip, so here we are,” said one of the men. The other two men nodded and rolled their eyes at their wives. The ladies were already looking around, pulling the clothes off the rack and commenting.

“OK, fair enough. Tell you guys what; sit down, be quiet and we’ll take care of them,” I said and started laughing.

“That’s what we’re afraid of,” one of them said and grinned. They did as they were told and soon we were all running in and out of the dressing rooms with clothes. Some were kept, some were discarded and some were put in a pile to be determined later.

It was one of the best afternoons could recall since working there. The shopping center was very prestigious, but to me it was just a job to make the money to pay my rent. I would leave every evening, walk across the expressway (in shoes that were amazing and I couldn’t afford but had to “look” the part) and sit in the dark and wait for the bus. I didn’t have a car and I had bills to pay. I learned how hard retail people work for the money they make.

I learned that too many people thought they were better than others because they made more money than them. I learned that people who don’t earn their money, don’t appreciate it or those who work hard for what they earn. I learned that some women thought themselves too good to have their delicate and precious bare feet touch the carpet in the dressing room and required that I find tissue to place on the floor for them to step on.

But these women had me in stitches. They were gracious and appreciative of all the hard work we were doing. They helped us haul the clothes in and out, place them back on the hangar and not throw them on the floor for us to pick-up. They hugged me, constantly thanked me and made all of us feel as if we were important.

The men sat quietly and waited. One nodded off but the manager never stopped watching them.

They were well aware of her and never said a word. They just smiled.

They were nicer than I would have been if the positions had been reversed.

By the end of the day, they had each purchased several outfits and many pieces of jewelry. The manager helped them with the jewelry. Her smile was false, her tone was clipped and she actually kept her glasses perched on her nose and looked down at them.

When it came time to pay, one of the gentlemen handed the manager his credit card. She checked it against the log (the Internet hadn’t arrived yet) and spent a long time checking and double checking his account. We all stood by and waited.

She asked him for some ID.

He smiled and handed it to her.

She inspected it for a few minutes and handed it back to him.

She asked for another piece of ID. He handed it to her and she again inspected it.

Our policy was to only ask for one valid form of ID. I looked at him. He smiled and shrugged and winked.

She hesitated as she handed it back to him. We had packed all of their clothes perfectly. We made sure they weren’t wrinkled. I asked them if they wanted hangars for a few of the pieces.

“No, we don’t give out hangars,” the manager said.

This was not true.

I looked at her for a moment. I wasn’t going to argue the point.

“We do now,” I said and began hanging up their clothes for them. The other employees pitched in. The manager glared at us and didn’t lift a finger to help.

I asked if they wanted help out to their car. They looked as if they had purchased the entire store.

“That would be great, but let me go get the car, OK?” one of the men asked. He left the store. We stood and chatted with them until he pulled up.

It was a gorgeous car. We all took an armful and placed everything in the trunk. They hugged us and waved as they drove away.

We walked back into the store. It looked like there had been a war, but it was fun. We started to clean-up and put things away. The women had offered but we wouldn’t let them. They had been kind enough.

“Why did you give them those hangars?” the manager asked me.

The room got quiet. I thought about it for a moment.

“Because I’m not a racist bitch like you,” I said. I figured I was about to get fired and couldn’t afford to lose my job, but the words just came out and there they were.

She turned around, grabbed her purse and left for the day.

I leaned against the counter. I felt sick and worried. The other employees came over and hugged me.

Three days later I got another job and quit. The manager never said a word to me when I gave her my notice.

One of the happiest moments of my life was when I walked out of there and never looked back.

“But I AM entitled!”

Posted: May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you just…lost it?

I don’t mean in a bad way, such as physically harming someone or being cruel.

I mean what would happen if you just looked people in the eye and told them EXACTLY how you felt and what you thought?

Pure and complete honesty without any concern for the fallout.

Well, I tried that experiment recently and it was liberating.

There is a bit of a back story (of course) that lead up to this.

It all began with getting a phone call from a friend who had, once again, gotten into a fight with her boyfriend. They have been going at it for as long as I can remember. Each time she would call, I would listen patiently and tenderly. “She’s my friend and I’m always there for my friends” is my train of thought.

“Well, come over here if you want,” I said one day. I have said this a few times before.

“No I can’t because of blah blah blah….”

“OK then. How about we go out to dinner…?”

“No, because of blah blah blah…”

“Where is he now?” I asked. He had quite a temper but had never hit her. He yells and throws things around. She yells back, runs out of the house, calls me and/or her mom, goes back to him, etc.

I realized that no matter what solution I came up with, she would reject it.

The light bulb went on.

She likes this problem.

“He’s in the living room, watching TV. He’s being such a dick tonight…”

“That’s because you let him,” I said. Enough was enough.

“WHAT?” she said. “What do you mean I let him?”

I had just finished a 7-day work week along with 15 hours of volunteer work. I had also worked with 25 inmates, listened and counselled them and did the best I could. I had dealt with a difficult client, been slammed by a few sales prospects here and there for good measure and had received some bad news about the health of a friend.

Not once, during the week or for months prior to that, did I ever raise my voice.

I never once remained anything other than professional and interested.

Never once did I complain even though I was dead tired and wanted to cry at night when I still had to write in order to hit a deadline.

Have you ever tried to write when your brain was mush? If not, you haven’t lived until you’ve done so.

I dealt with the trolls as best as possible online when I would get slammed for posting something positive or blogged something that I thought was great. What the hell was I thinking?

I looked at the phone in my hand and thought for a moment.

“You let him because….I don’t know why and I don’t care anymore! Do I LOOK like your whipping post? No? Didn’t think so…”

“Whoa Suz, are you OK?” she asked.

“I’m fine, but you know what?”

“What?” she asked very quietly.

“I AM entitled to a bad day! I God damn DESERVE A BAD DAY!” I said.

God that felt good. So good.

“I am sick and tired of remaining cool, calm and collected and dealing with crap, but you know why I do?”

Silence.

“I can’t HEAR you if you are shaking your head!” I said.

“No! No, I don’t know why,” she said rather quickly.

“Because I don’t run my life thinking I am ENTITLED to not pay my bills or not fulfill my responsibilities. It has never entered my mind that I am ENTITLED to break my word or not be there for someone. I am NOT ENTITLED to rip people off or do a lousy job.”

“No, of course not…”

“Stop talking. For once in your life, just shut-up,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

“From now on, you are going to start acting like an adult. I don’t give a rats ass if you two yell and scream at each other. It is no longer my problem. You need to start being accountable for your relationships and not me,” I said.

Silence again.

“I love you but I’m hanging-up and I don’t want to hear anymore of your whining. Buck-up, buttercup and start acting like an adult,” I said and hung-up.

Her complaining to me stopped. Life was better again. She likes the drama so she can keep it to herself. She later thanked me for being so…blunt.

I didn’t do it for her.

I did it for me.

Finally.

You ARE entitled to your emotions and if someone doesn’t like them, so what?

Who died and left them in charge of you?

“You said that to him?” I asked. My drink stopped midway to my mouth.

I was proud of her.

“Yes I did. And you know what happened after that?” Nancy asked.

I raised up my hand to tell her not to tell me yet. I needed another sip of my gin-and-tonic. I took a large sip, put it back down on the table and motioned for her that I was ready now.

“He looked at me as if there was something wrong with ME! As if I’M the one without a sense of humor!”

I shook my head. Yes, I had heard that too many times to count. I heard it when I told someone I didn’t think it was funny. I heard it when I cringed at racial slurs and then had it explained, in great detail, why it wasn’t really a slur and I just misunderstood them. I heard it when I had been told to “lighten up” about human trafficking.

I had also been told I was on my period or suffering from PMS.

Yes, of course, it’s always MY fault when I call out an asshole.

I know this and I’ll never get used to it.

“Then he said ‘What do you say to a woman who has two black eyes.?’

I waited.

“Nothing. Some man has already talked to her,” she said and then chuckled. “He actually said that and laughed.”

“I am assuming you left the date right about that time?” I asked and gave her a stern look.

“You KNOW I did, so lighten up. You must be on your period,” she said and started laughing.

It was good to hear her laugh. After all she had been through, to hear her laugh was beautiful

She had survived a gang rape by 6 men as a 13-year-old girl. She knew one of her attackers. He was a friend of her brothers. When he showed up at her house with 5 other boys, she let them in. She was home alone and he said her brother told them to come over.

Before she knew what was happening, a gun was pulled out and placed against her forehead. They dragged her into her bedroom and took turns for an hour. Over and over, they raped her, laughed at her, spit on her, ridiculed her and kicked her anytime she made a sound.

Fortunately her father came home. He heard them and peeked into her bedroom. When he saw what was happening, he grabbed his shotgun and busted into the bedroom.

Let’s just say, he handled it and she got out alive.

The judicial process was another gang rape for her, 6 more times.

Now sitting across from her, knowing how much that must have hurt to hear someone laugh about it, made me teary eyed and proud.

Her scars would never be gone and she knew that. But she dealt with it graciously and effectively. She would talk to me about it and I listened.

“Right! Every time a woman doesn’t laugh about rape or prostitution or a number of other crimes against us, it’s because we have no sense of humor or are on our periods. I forgot that scientifically proven fact,” I said.

She got quiet and I let the silence lay there and nibbled on the stale bar pretzels and looked around. It was a very nice bar in a beautiful hotel. Nancy and I would meet here every few months to catch-up and relax before going home from work. It was convenient and in a nice part of town.

We had attracted some degree of attention from the men, but it was as if we put up a shield around us that said “Approach at your own risk.” We were just two women who wanted to sit back and have a drink together. The fact that we were dressed conservatively didn’t seem to matter.

I made sure not to make any eye contact with anyone but our waitress. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but that was the reality of some. Two women in a bar = looking to get laid.

“I still hear them almost every morning as I wake-up,” she said.

“I know.” The same was true for me. The man who had attacked me was long gone but his face and voice was always in my mind. He seemed to appear between being asleep and starting to wake-up. I called it the “Twilight Zone.” That seemed to be my most mentally vulnerable time. Not quite asleep and not quite awake and disoriented.

“Their voices I can hear. But you know the worse part than their voices?”

“Their laughter,” I said.

“Yes, the laughter,” she said.

I reached over and squeezed her hand.

“I have a theory. It’s just a theory and may not be true, but I think it is for the most part. Want to hear it?”

“As if I could stop you,” she said and squeezed my hand.

“I think that men that joke about rape and hurting women have either done it in the past, and maybe continue to do so in the present, or want to do it.”

She thought about it for a moment. “It’s a good theory,” she said. “You might be right.”

“I don’t know if I’m right or not, but I’ll tell you this. Let them joke and be defensive when we call them out. Let them say whatever horrible things they want to say about us. It shines a light on them and then we know. We know and knowledge is power.”

“Knowledge IS power. You’re right,” she said.

“And you know what else I know?” I asked.

She shook her head.

” I KNOW we need more gin.”

She laughed. It was music to my ears

“Lewis, when you’re right, you’re right!” she said and called the waitress back over.

Billie Holiday and her dog, Mister — Happy birthday, Lady Day, born April 7th, 1915, in Philadelphia.

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