When A Moment Sticks

I saw something the other day that hasn’t left my mind. I can still picture it and hear it as if it happened seconds ago.

It’s vivid. And those types of memories stay that way for a reason, at least that’s what I think. Because they’re important?  Or, they have meaning? Or they make some type of indelible impact?

It’s had me thinking. A lot.

I can’t seem to let go of how that man was standing over that woman, his right arm raised to the sky. Not straight up, just off to the side. Let’s say it was at 2 o’clock, that angle.

I only saw the back of him, but I could hear him. I could almost feel his breath hitting her face. I could feel how he didn’t stop, how he wouldn’t let her get a word in. Not one.

I could see him lean in towards her face, for emphasis. She leaning back slightly, looking up at him as he punctuated every nasty word that flew out of his mouth.

I had no idea what the argument was about. But I knew how she felt.

It was hot. Hot as hell outside. And whatever he had on his mind couldn’t be handled inside their jacked-up pick-up truck. It had to be handled right then, in public, with hundreds of people within earshot, in the blazing sun. Because he needed it that way, or so it seemed.

I could sense her exhaustion, too. She was allowed single syllables at one point. I’m guessing I caught the tail end of the argument, since she was at the “okay, whatever” point.

The whole thing just left me unsettled. Because I’ve been there. I’ve been the woman who was permitted single syllables during very public altercations. Only single syllables because if you utter anything more than that, you’ll just get run over.

He won’t hear it.

I’ve been the woman who has walked well in front of or well behind my family on sidewalks or in parking lots just to avoid or attempt to shut down an irrational argument that very likely contained unfounded accusations tied to inappropriate subjects that aren’t meant for public consumption.

I’ve been her.

I’ve offered the tempered, shoulder-shrugging half-smile to strangers who have looked on with concern when the angry heat and dark looks coming my way were palpable. I’ve been the woman in the restaurant, in the parking lot, on the hike, at the store, in the school…you name it.  I’ve been her.

But, even though I won’t be that woman again, I’m saddled by the woman I saw. For a few reasons.

Should I have said something? Because, I wanted to. It wouldn’t even have to have been judgy or confrontational, either. I could have simply approached them and asked if they needed help with something.

Just something that would make the record skip, so to speak. To give her room to breathe for a second. To make him stop for a moment.

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I’m also saddled knowing that people often behave better when they know they’re being watched, or potentially being watched. It’s what we do. We’re better in public, it’s how we raise our kids to act. “Be good in this store,” we say.

So, what happens to this woman when she is alone with him?  When she does something at home or in a car?  What does he say? What does she hear? How does she respond?  What does it do to her, right then, and long term?

I remember, a couple summers back, I comforted a mother in a parking lot who had just accidentally left her toddler in the car for no more than five minutes. I watched her walk into the store I was in, knowing she came from the parking lot, and then I watched her, as I was encouraged by strangers to dial 9-1-1, run with utter distress toward her car knowing she had forgotten about her napping baby in the back seat.

Two other women were lobbing horrible remarks at the mother, who was clearly shaken, crying, trembling, holding her daughter so close, so tight. The baby was fine. She was flushed but fine.  And I remember asking the woman if she was okay. If she was okay to get home. If she needed anything.

And, I told her to forget about those other two women, and remember that it all worked out. That she is human. That shit happens. And her baby is just fine.

I felt fine doing that. It was automatic. I walked into her fire, a fire I didn’t know, haven’t experienced and didn’t understand. But, I hesitate about walking into the fire I do know, the one I have experienced, the one I do understand.

Maybe that’s why the whole scene is sticking with me?

It’s none of my business – that’s the excuse we use to comfort our conscience when we witness things like that. That’s partly true. But I guess knowing the details of a situation is what I think is none of our business.

People help in car accidents without hesitation, not needing to know why the accident happened, if the driver was at fault or if alcohol was involved. They just help.

People help in any number of situations without concern for the context behind it. Because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that one moment, offering a hand when it is needed most.

Knowing why he began yelling at her that way?  That’s none of my business, no doubt. I don’t know them.

But I would have still liked to have been able to throw her a buoy. It might have helped. Just asking if they needed help. Or if they had water. Or if they knew where the Wal-Mart was.

Something to make the record skip, for a minute. Something to allow oxygen in.

For now, I’ll have to hope someone else steps in for her next time it happens. Because it’ll happen again. And, perhaps I’ll be brave enough to do something next time I see something like that again.

Although I hope I never do.

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