July 12, 2016

Dear Lady Who Cursed At Me Outside Barnes & Noble Today

Dear lady who cursed at me outside Barnes & Noble today,

I feel as though I owe you an apology. I pissed you off. I stopped in front of the entrance to Barnes & Noble, blocking you from making a left into the parking lot. I know that. I do. I was ashamed of that fact before you drew close enough to yell. Perhaps you missed this, seeing as how you were the second of two blocked vehicles, and seeing as how I made you wait at least three extra minutes before you could make your turn, but I felt bad. So bad, in fact, I frantically mouthed "I'm sorry" to the driver of the car in front of you, who in turn waved and made a "no biggie" gesture. Perhaps, had you been first in line and seen my apology, I wouldn't have ruined your day.

You see, I feel bad. I stopped in a wonky way due to the big wreck at the intersection ahead of us. Maybe the flashing lights of the police car and firetruck got in my eyes and distracted me, or maybe the car in front of me simply didn't pull up as far as I expected him to. Either way, my blocking the entrance to the Barnes & Noble angered you deeply, and for that I am sorry.

I feel especially bad for the fact that your anger was so real. So visceral. I hate to think I could have made anyone feel that way. Plus, it appears you were late for something. Were you late for getting coffee from the Starbucks inside the bookstore? Or rather, based on your window being down on a 90 degree morning, was I making you late for the appointment to fix the air in your massive SUV? Either way, I'm guessing I was having a better morning than you. In fact, after you yelled at me, and after I comforted my eight-year-old daughter who was in the back seat with her best friend on their way to soccer camp, after her eyes filled with tears and she said, "Why did that lady yell at you, Mommy? What did you do?"my day got better. My next twenty-five minutes were filled with music and laughter as those same two little girls sang "Uptown Funk" at the tops of their lungs. We'll be okay, thanks for asking.

But back to you. You poor thing, bless your heart. Your air conditioner was possibly broken on a hot South Carolina morning. You were maybe late for an appointment. And there I was, blocking the entrance to Barnes & Noble, ruining your day.

One thing, though. You yelled, "You can't block the fucking intersection, you bitch." I take issue with one part of that. I wasn't, in fact, blocking an intersection. I was blocking the entrance to a shopping center. The intersection, as I mentioned earlier, was blocked by a fairly serious car wreck. Perhaps you didn't notice that. Maybe you were too stressed out.

Here's another thing, though. I'm not really a bitch. I didn't follow you into the parking lot to yell back at you (though I easily could have), and really, I wish you all the best. Like I said, it looked like you were having a rough day; I hope it improved after you vented to me. 

Oh. And here's the last thing you should know. You see, I'm a writer, and I can't always control the origins of my inspiration. Often, people and places in my life appear in my writing in all sorts of interesting ways. And let's be honest - you didn't make the best impression on me, in our three seconds of shared Earth. In fact, you hurt my feelings. I don't speak to people that way - ever - so it shocks me when people speak to me that way. You got under my skin enough that I'm still thinking of you, an hour later.

So it's likely you're going to appear somewhere, in something I write in the future. Based on our interaction, your portrayal is not likely to be a kind one. I write horror, and science fiction. I've recently watched a handful of interesting movies like Mad Max: Fury Road. I can already see a version of you, wanting to come out to play. In this version, you live in an arid, desert landscape. Your flesh, ample though it clearly was in real life, is drying out. Puckered. Scaly. Your hair falls out in sticky, stringy clumps. The beads of sweat collected on your lip in the comparatively balmy Charleston summer has taken on a milky tinge, and now that milky sweat coats your entire body. It creates sores where your skin folds over itself, sores so infected, so painful, they're like hot pokers digging into the flesh beneath your breasts. Your unshaven armpits. You smell of fish left too long in the sun, calling to the wake of vultures circling overhead. 

Or maybe you live in a world of the undead. Maybe it's time for me to revisit the zombies I love. Maybe, in this world, you and I? We're friends. Maybe we go way back to our idyllic childhoods in the northeast. Maybe we're on the run, together. But here's the thing with this picture: I'm smaller than you. I'm faster. I'm in such good shape it drives you crazy; you're jealous of my strong legs, my conditioned heart. 

Maybe, in this world, we're both starving. Maybe we're both tired from living on the run for so long. Maybe we're starting to fight.

Here's where things get ugly. Remember that I'm faster than you, okay? Maybe you drive us (our car still works in this scenario, our big, black, un-air-conditioned diesel-guzzling SUV) into a hotbed of zombie activity. Maybe you claim to have heard of a cache of food and weapons deep in the heart of the Charleston peninsula, and maybe things maybe won't end so well for you. Maybe the SUV finally runs out of gas, and we have to run for it, trying to escape the sagging-skin, torn-and-tattered, rotten-as-corpses zombies that are hot on our heels. Maybe you planned it this way, so you could finally leave me behind.

But as I said, I'm faster than you. I can run for hours if I need to. 

And all I'll hear, as I escape the zombie-horde, is the power of your lungs (so loud, they were, when they shouted at me this morning), as teeth bite into your ample, willing flesh, and you become a feast for the undead.

Again, I'm sorry about all this. I truly am. Bless your heart, you had no idea you were yelling at a writer this morning, did you? You had no idea you could be immortalized in my next story, an exaggerated, bastardized version of yourself that you may not recognize, but will exist in eternity nonetheless. I'm sorry for what I will do to you in the future, and again, I'm so sorry for blocking that silly entrance to Barnes & Noble. I'm sure I ruined your morning. I'll try not to do it again.

All the best, and lots of good wishes for a non-fictional future,

Leah