In a windowed enclosure
protected from toxic fumes
encircled by the low hum of idling cars
a sound occasionally punctuated by
the grind of an old starter
I wait.

I’m trying to read Natasha Trethewey’s
Native Guard, listen with my inner ear
to the sorrow of sleeping through your death
intimated in her ‘Myth’ when
I’m startled by reality’s intrusion
as the long armed steel barrier
hits the thin walled enclosure
propelled by my car
here driven by the attendant
Thwack! be in the now!

She finds me, with frantic eyes
concern painted all over
seeping into the tiny crinkles of her young face
in her apology she intimates
I may want to strangle her
for the collision of steel
there’s violence in both acts.

I think: whatever for?
shocked by her suggestion of harm
accidents happen
(inner ear attuned to the echo of pain)
(flashes of memory)
if she knew me she’d know
I mean this.

She is tentative, contrite
shoulders hunched forward
and then a hoarse whisper
I have to lean in to hear her over
engines and customer chatter
perhaps punitive retribution is required?
no, I don’t want to speak to her boss.

With her livelihood at stake,
shaking from the impact
her form folds further inward
she is on the verge of tears
or flight, now louder ‘I am so sorry.’

And so am I –
how did we get to this place?
I’m not angry
I want to touch her,
assuage her fears,
to reach out and reassure her
and I’m standing so
close to make sure I can really hear.

But we’re in a box –
an employee and a customer
at Air Care Colorado
it’s 8:00 on a chilly morning:
is this done?

I decide to do it anyway,
to embrace her
she sighs, I sigh.

We both want the reassurance
that what separates us is so much smaller
than what connects us.

As I manage the details
we hug again
I hear nothing in that moment.

She thanks me for being human.
I am grateful to her for the opportunity
to share love and compassion
in the sacred space of our commonality,
amidst all the noise
surrounded by what could so easily kill us.

Written for a prompt Wordsmith Wednesday found here