I don't remember words, only faces

by Sarah Crockford 

A woman opened my passenger car door today. I don’t know her, I’ve never met her. She was walking a small dog and wearing a worn coat. She seemed lost. I smiled when she rapped on my car window and invited her to speak.

She opened my car door to lecture me on my running engine, my arrogance apparent to the coming climate tide. I had been stationary for maybe a minute, nerves frantic as I couldn’t find my friends. Parked on a busy driveway. I hadn’t even thought about turning off the ignition.

I begged her close the door. Her righteousness insisted. I looked her square in the eyes and bluntly said:

“You’re a stranger and I’m scared.”

I’m twenty-seven and that’s all the courage I can muster.

Then I wasn’t worth the bother. She slammed my door and walked away, irate she wasn’t able to succeed in her all so noble mission.

I wonder if I’m a story she tells her friends, a warning of the superficial youths who don’t take climate change in their stride. Am I now the idol villain of her cause?

When I was twenty-two a different woman stopped me in the street to lecture me on consumption. I was holding coffee in a paper cup destined for a landfill. I shoved my eyes to the ground and walked away. I think I apologized, but I don’t remember words, only faces.

Six months ago, I was waiting outside a supermarket while my partner ran some errands. A man my age approached me and pointed to our puppy barking incessantly at cars.

“Have you heard of operant conditioning?” He asked in a condescending tone.

I smiled and politely changed the topic. Eventually, he walked off, confident in his tutelary success. Three weeks ago, I gave a lecture at the University of Cambridge with B.F. Skinner on my slides.

At seventeen, a middle-aged man pointed to the chocolate in my hands. I’m alone, waiting for the bus to take me home. He says something about my weight. I nod politely and honor his opinion. I crawl into my skin.

Mom says she spoke to you about the incident two Christmases ago. She told me that you doubled down, so certain of your holy mission.

“The girls should know better. It was such a waste.”

Bad girls, ruining this climate, stupid girls, setting off the dishwasher with only two plates and forks to spare. An accidental push and technology sets itself in motion with none the wiser as who’s to blame.

Spittle flies and that vein in your forehead, that one that zig zags under your terse skin, pulses with indignation. The room gets louder and louder. I wish I knew what you were saying but I don’t remember words, only faces.

The apology had to be wrung out. Yet, two years on and you’re still justifiable in your ire.

I wonder what it would be like for people just to pass me by. I wonder what’s it like to not always stand corrected. I wonder what’s it like to be so sure in one’s convictions they merit condescension or even rage.

Maybe, if I knew what to expect, I could craft a cunning joke. Maybe, if I knew what to expect, I could be certain of my worth.

I relish in the day I will stand my ground.                                          

But I don’t remember words, only faces.

About the Author

Sarah is currently a PhD student in linguistics at the University of Cambridge, U.K.. Her short stories and poetry have previously appeared in Hypaethral magazine, the Varsity Arts and Cathexis Northwest Press. You can read her published and unpublished work at www.sarahkaarina.com. Sarah lives in a quaint English village, where she spends her evenings explaining to her dog that the typewriter is not an all devouring monster.