My hands were full in the post office parking lot. I held out-going bills, my car and postal box keys, my purse, and a heavy manila envelope containing a manuscript destined for greatness (one can always hope, right?). So, when I heard a loud car horn and a male voice yelling “Votes for Trump!” it was awkward to turn and look over my shoulder. But we live in times when a male voice yelling and a horn honking in a government building’s parking lot signify danger, and my mother always preached situational awareness to her daughters and sons. I stopped walking and turned to locate the danger.
What I saw was an old, fat cotton-headed white man hanging out of his truck’s window and gesticulating with one hand as he worked the horn with the other. He was parked illegally, across three spaces, and he continued to lean on the horn as he yelled out the window. “Votes for Trump! Votes for Trump!” Honk, honk, HONK. He seemed pleased that everyone stopped, turned, and stared. He yelled louder.
This is Southern California, blue state, home of Kamala Harris and Jerry Brown, but our town is rural, poor, and red with baseball caps and Trump bumper stickers. As a Jewish woman of color, when I hear shouting in the town where I live I stop and scan for danger.
Unlike me, one woman did not stop. A small woman, not as old as the yelling fat man, but at least twenty years my senior, she was still moving across the hot asphalt. She wore a turquoise blue, Mexican-embroidered shift dress and sandals. I’d have admired her dress but I was already admiring her stamina. For she kept walking, even as the man continued his harassment, and it was obvious that she was his primary target. The rest of us in the parking lot were standing and staring, but she kept her back to him. She just kept walking.
She was halfway to where I had stopped on the sidewalk when her hand raised over her head. The honking paused for a moment as her fist unclenched. When her fingers folded down and the middle finger shot up, up, and up, the yelling renewed and intensified. Laughing, I headed down the sidewalk to join her, and walked with her to the post office door. I held the door open for her. She nodded thank you regally, turned and entered the building, her hand descending down to her side.
“What was that?” I asked.
“My friend’s husband likes to tease me,” she said. “At least, he calls it teasing. I call it something else.”
An older woman was sorting her mail at the counter. Her long gray hair was unkempt, she wore a shabby t-shirt over hot pink spandex pants. The stack of mail at her elbow threatened to slide to the floor. My new heroine in the turquoise dress addressed this bedraggled lady.
“Your husband is harassing me again. This nice lady stopped because she was worried about me,” Turquoise Dress Lady said.
Pink Spandex Lady turned from her task wearily, and peered around her friend’s shoulder to speak directly to me.
“I’d like to put a bag over his head and beat him to death.”
She wasn’t joking, she wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t making light of her friend’s harassment at the hands– and horn– of her husband. She was obviously tired, hot, and too fed-up to prevaricate.
We were all women in the post office lobby that afternoon, we were alone with no one to censor us, and she paid us the compliment of speaking her honest truth. She wanted to put a bag over her husband’s head and beat him to death. I paid her the return compliment of accepting what she desired in silence. I bowed my head, nodded, and walked away as the two friends huddled in conversation. Before I left the building however, Turquoise Dress shook my hand in thanks, and we wished each other luck.
That night, when my husband and I recounted our day as married couples do, I told him about the man in the parking lot harassing Turquoise Dress Lady. I told him about her silent middle finger response. I told him about joining the lady in her walk for safety and solidarity. I told him about the wife who wanted to put a bag over her husband’s head and beat him to death, and then I started to cry.
I had to explain why I was crying over a stranger I’d met in a post office and a type of situational awareness that I couldn’t even imagine. I couldn’t imagine sleeping every night next to a man I wanted to beat to death. I couldn’t imagine being that woman.
I couldn’t have imagined any of what took place in that parking lot, that post office lobby. But it happened. These are the times we live in.
The Manifest-Station, Every Writer’s Resource, Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review and East Jasmine Review. Her non-fiction work is forthcoming in the anthology All the Women in my Family Sing. She is the prose editor for the literary magazine Writers Resist. She lives in the high desert of Southern California with her husband, two dogs, a goat and several chickens, but not a duck. The duck died; it’s too hot.