Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Bad things happen slowly. Like quick sand that really isn't very quick, the La Brea Tar Pits, car accidents even. You feel yourself sucked down into it, thick, stuck in a moment, and time lurches forward as you slowly realize that something is wrong. I bit into a sugar snap pea once that was filled with maggots. Crunch and movement and then this horrid recognition, a clogged hourglass of realization that what was in my mouth was neither sugar nor snap nor pea. Last night Zoey and I went to pick up Bryan from the ferry. Usually we wait in the car for him, but last night we got there 20 minutes early so we waited at the dock. Zoey loves to watch the boats on the water, the lights of the city across the bay. She was wearing a new winter hat, so warm and toasty. She stood on the concrete bench and laughed at the waves lapping at the rocks beneath the dock. HA HA! I LAUGHING AT THE SPLISH! It was a fake laugh, full of bravado and two. We were outside alone in the dark crisp night; I did not have to tell her to use her inside voice. HA HA HA! I could see her breath carrying across the water. What's your name? A voice behind us. It was dark and I turned around and there was a man. I have always heard that the trouble with women is that they don't want to be rude. Zoey, I said. Her name is Zoey. And he came closer. There was no one else around. Zoey, he said. He reeked of cigarettes and beer and had a very round face, that's all I know even though he was inches away. Zoey, and he reached out his hand and cupped my daughter's face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. He smelled. Zoey was silent. The minute was made of molasses. I wrapped my arms around Zoey's legs on the bench and picked her up, but he moved closer and did not take his hand away. Zoey. I did not want to be rude. Hey, I said much too quietly. Zoey had stopped laughing. Splish, a soft splash, the water ceaselessly lapping in the dark. We were alone. I might have said no as I carried Zoey away a few feet in the dark. He stood there a minute or an hour and then floated away himself, buoyed by some unseen current, and smoked a cigarette beneath a tree, watching us in the dark. Hey. Maybe a no. I hate myself for what I did not do. Nothing happened but everything happened. I stood there and watched Zoey's big eyes grow even larger with the unknown, a dirty fat thumb stroking the pad of cheek just beneath. I am Zoey's mother, her protector, and in that long moment when my mind was playing catch up with the world I did not want to be rude. Don't touch my child, is what I should have said. Step the fuck away. I should have screamed, but for what? Maybe he was harmless, maybe he missed his own kids somewhere, I will never know. But I am not the mother of maybe and drunk men and what was in the air last night was neither sugar nor snap nor pea. It was so cold that I could see her breath and I didn't do enough to stop what thankfully did not happen.
Posted by Petunia Face at 9:10 AM