I was not about to apologize, which was surprising, because my entire adult, post-therapy life I have hoped for a moment of clarity right before I blurt out ”I’m sorry” wherein I could pause and think about whether there was anything I should actually be apologizing for.
Why in the world did I choose last Friday morning? What made me stare down an agitated, confrontational American war veteran in the grocery store parking lot instead of being a good damn girl and just saying it?
I don’t know why, but I knew in that first micro-second of pause that I was not in the mood. I was not in the mood to be bullied and frightened or to play the role of the dutiful, penitent woman whose car she parked a wee too close to his van. I wasn’t available to act like a ditzy, over-burdened mother who should apologize from now until next Arbor Day for not guiding my mini-van to the center of those two yellow lines.
I’m fucking sorry I didn’t hit the bullseye for you.
As I had approached my car on the way out of the store, I was wheeling around
the Queen of the Universe my daughter in the grocery cart designed to look like a purple taxi cab. I registered that he was pacing between our cars, but I didn’t think much of it. I was busy looking for my keys, explaining to Sadie why she couldn’t open all three boxes of Triscuits at once, and wondering whether the skinny jeans fad was finally waning.
I was a woman with a great deal on her mind.
Even though I had seen him, I was startled when he first spoke to me.
“Did you ever think that maybe you parked too close to my car?” he asked gruffly.
I don’t like to be startled, especially when I have one of my children with me. I looked him straight in the eye; I knew the script: I was supposed to say ’I'm sorry’ and RUSH to throw my bags in the trunk and get my daughter strapped in her car seat with all due haste so that he would know how truly sorry I am.
Instead, there was that momentary pause. I took deep breath. (Honestly, he was right; my parking job was probably about a C+, and that’s only if we were graded on a curve.) But I wasn’t sorry.
So, I said, “No sir, I didn’t think about that.” I wasn’t hostile or contemptuous; I was honest. I answered the question that he asked, and I told him the truth, as if I had been prepped for this Friday morning show-down by a lawyer who coached me not to offer extra information. Just answer the question you were asked.
As far as I was concerned the matter was addressed, his question having been asked and answered. I did my best to not let the adrenaline surge hurl me into urgent mode. I put away my groceries and got Sadie settled. My heart was thumping louder than a stereo at a frat party.
As I drove away, I checked my rearview mirror to see if he was following me or aiming a weapon at me. He wasn’t. He had driven off in another direction and left me with my thoughts and the sound of Sadie munching on buy-one-get-one-free Nabisco products.
I ranted a little bit: fuck him and his fucking menacing vibe….how dare he scare me in the parking lot like that.
But there was no need for a rant. It was nothing more than a 30-second human interaction where he said what he needed to say, and I, in turn, didn’t force myself to say something I didn’t want to say.
That was all.
Having dismissed my rants, I was left with a thin joyful residue of triumph for having looked him in the eye like an adult who wasn’t obligated to apologize for every damn thing. And it felt pretty good.
God bless America.