Storm Evening: Encounter

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

We’re at a fundraiser for the preschool
our daughter attended fifteen years ago,

when flash flood and tornado warnings
come up. As we prepare to leave it’s pouring

sheets of rain, and through the waxy air
we hear dark rips of thunder and lightning.

In the vestibule, a woman tells two
blond-plaited children to wait, get ready

to bolt when she brings the car around;
then sprints through the wet parking lot.

My husband does the same thing. As we peer
through the blur of rain and headlights,

an older man I don’t know comes up from behind;
silver-haired, laughing, he gestures toward me,

shaking his keys slightly: Do you want to bring
my car around?
And all of a sudden I’m not certain

how to respond; don’t know if it’s another one
of those moments brought on by the color of my hair

or my skin; don’t know if it’s harmless, nothing.
But if it’s really nothing then why am I thinking

there could be something behind that odd way he holds
the keys aloft, the way the question could be dismissed

as a joke if it weren’t also familiar as command? The most
I muster is a bravura Sure, but only if you bring mine

around first. But by then the lights are swerving closer
so we have to push ourselves forward, out into the open.


In response to Via Negativa: Silence lover.