memoir · Recent · Writing

“Don’t be mad”

“Excuse me, ma’am…”
His words drift softly to me.
I just dropped my backpack in my passenger seat
and now a man is approaching me.
“I’m not going to hurt you” he says,
as if he could sense my urge to be on the
driver’s side, so I could put the car door between
me and his questioning face.
“I’m not the kind of person to hurt
anyone,” he says, a hand tentatively extended.
“Do you have a dollar? Maybe two?”
The request for more comes quickly; his eyes
meet mine briefly, unaccustomed to contact.
“I’d just like something to eat.”

Fingers slip into my purse to check, thinking at first to give
the change in my ash tray–dollar coins and quarters–
but my skin touches a crisp twenty, folded in half.
I hand it to him. “Here.”

He hesitates, almost tries to hand it back.
“Are you serious? Are you? Please, don’t be mad at me.”
He clasps my hands then pulls me into an embrace.
Not-so-stale alcohol wafts briefly to my nostrils.
“I never thought anyone would… please…
don’t be mad at me.”

I’m puzzled. Why should I be mad?
His tone, holding recognition as if he,
for a moment, mistook me for someone else.
“I’m not,” I say, grasping his hand, seeking
eye contact. “We all have struggles. Be well.”

“Please don’t be mad. Thank you.Thank you.”
“I promise, I’m not angry. Please, be well.”
He walks away, I drive away.

It’s been days; his words reside.
Please don’t be mad.
Why did he say that?
Immediately following gratitude, the plea:
Please don’t be mad.
Underneath that plea, fear and disbelief.
Please don’t be mad?

The same words wait on the tip of my tongue
daily, nightly. Don’t feel anger, don’t feel
disappointment. Don’t scorn me, please?

Please don’t reject me. Please, see me.
Please remember me well–not like this.
When you think of me–please, think well.

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