Rain teased and fizzed my bangs into a ruffle-knotted mound of ugly across my forehead. The baby chose the tampon aisle as the setting for a dazzling display of toddler will. He grunted and kicked chunky sneakers which translated quite clearly into “Take your grubby paws off this cart, witch!”. And so it was that a quick trip to Target spiraled furiously out of control: just a lady, her prayer-worthy hair, and an immobile cart housing a fairly hostile Man Child.
I would adapt, unwillingly but forging ahead all the same, and manuever the cart with my feet and belly. Approaching the checkout lane, I yanked my foot from the cart’s bottom rung, fumbling backwards on my rear still sore from a modest attempt at jogging. Another mother gasped as my son giggled in delight at the sight of The Large Tumbling Lady. I couldn’t muster a thank you for the stranger, offering instead a slightly more positive-toned grunt as I watched her wheel away, three angelic children in color-coordinated jumpers gracing her side. The girl behind the register smiled and cheerily asked how old my “darling boy” was. “18 months,” I barked at her, failing to explain that he was closer to 44 years, if you cared to count the time he spent training in Hell.My grandmother’s calm voice rang in my ears. Be nice or leave, I think it said. To which I said “I’m trying… to leave. Nice can suck the proverbial it.” This was the no good, very bad day I’d read about in
horror stories children’s books. Right shoe hooked, left love handle nudging, I headed towards the door desperate for sun to shine or Baby to forget the manipulative powers of The Shriek-N-Holler or maybe for those automatic doors to swing open to tomorrow.
I settled into the car reciting positive affirmations to cut through the cloud of poop the day had swirled around me. They went along the lines of “Eff your couch, World” and “Wine will heal all wounds”. Mid way through the third cycle of “Don’t make me cut you, Universe” I noticed something stuck between windshield wipers. I huffed, and puffed, and pulled the card down.
I ran around the car with a vengeance. The fact that the poor of parking was decent enough to leave a kind note, the fact that I could see no real damage to my car even with my face pressed against the door, the fact that this was proof that people are mostly good and honest seemed not to matter.
My head swirled with vicious thoughts:
– I will kick your car. I’d kick your dog, too, if he were here.
– May your Nissan feel the blow of a thousand Hummer doors a swingin’.
– I hate you…. and also everything.
I drove breathless in my fury. How dare he accidentally hit my car and leave no mark and a nice card! Doesn’t he know my hair is playing horrible head games? Has he no pity for the mother of a freshly fanged ball of fussiness? At a red light I glanced at the card again, no doubt searching for more places to put blame for an awful day. The stranger wrote the note on the backside of a business card… for a church… where he worked… as a pastor. WWJD? Ugh. He’d probably have left a business note with an honest admission and a genuine apology and an offer to help mend the broken. I was quickly seeing the light through the dark heap of wiry bangs.
Once home, I fluctuated between high-moral thoughts of kindness and dirt-lurking schemes of lashing out. I could meet nice with nice, or I could meet nice with the god awful wrath of all that is mean. The latter had served as my modus operandi for longer than I could remember. It took an invisible scratch on a car door to point out the various ways in which I constantly force my bad days onto others.
-I threw a milkshake at my sister once. The hair of a biracial girl is no joke, rarely touched with water, and certainly never the sugary paste of a dairy treat. I believe my boyfriend had dumped me, so logically, I took to hurling soft serve through the air with the rage of a woman scorned.
– Crashing around the office at eight months pregnant gave me the insecurity of a Weeble told not to Wobble. I felt ridiculous, a beach ball perched atop chicken legs clanking around on high heels too thin to carry this mother’s load. One particularly clumsy day, I stumbled into a table, sending a lamp flying and shattering and crashing like my confidence in furnished form. I felt like crying. So I turned around to meet the concerned gaze of a co-worker with a spiteful “Shut your mouth when you’re talking to me”.
See? All sense all the time. Years of sense. Sense so advanced and explosive it almost looks like nonsense. I struggled through the day, eyeing the stranger’s confession every few minutes to gauge my level of badness at any given moment. My inner dialogue read like a poorly written scene from a soap opera: Hope wants Beau but Beau acts unsure but he really is sure but Hope doesn’t know that Beau knows that she has a rare disease and Beau can’t stand the thought of loving a dying thing while Hope just got a call from the doctor and learned that her disease is also just a mild allergic reaction and after her brush with death she’s ready to live life to the fullest and embrace love but Beau’s still like “Eh. I can’t quit you, but I must”.
There was a little less heated love and probably fewer doctors and diseases involved in my case, but the back-and-forth feeling of it all was pretty much there. Could I contain my ugly, unforgiving self long enough to tell the pastor what I felt below the muck? Would the pastor, obviously pretty tight with the Holy Family, have any way of knowing how rotten the girl behind the dented door could be?
I waited, paced, and eventually fixed my hair with a comb and a hat. I took many a trip to the garage to remind myself that there is nothing to fix here, no damage and no loss. I supplied the demanding tot with bottomless bottles of apple juice, buying myself a few moments of calm. I picked up the phone and called the man.
I hung up.
I called again….
ten more times in rapid succession…
and hung up.
I called one last time, reminding myself that you can hate a bad day without hating the whole world that thrives during it.
A friendly recording sounded. I swallowed quips tinged in sarcasm. Burps tasted like bitterness as I listened to the stranger’s voice telling me to leave a message and have a blessed day. The beep, the church bells, ringing, I took a deep breath and left a message, realizing only later that I’d failed to announce myself, my reason for calling, my social security number and any other useful information. Instead, I just said Thank You.