Turn the Car Around. NOW.

I was wearing white shorts with a floral print and a red scoop-neck t-shirt. On the back of my pink mountain bike, I strapped on with three bungee cords the books I’d checked out of the library so that I could ride the one mile home.

That mile was the link between the upper and middle class, where I pedaled uphill along Bonnie Brae (no irony in the “beautiful hill” Scottish Gaelic term) past art deco mansions of every size, shape, and square footage to the thrown-together tiny brick blocks that made up our middle-class neighborhood.

That mile was the mile I would cycle, walk, and drive home on years later when I worked in the ice cream shop across the street from the library, paying my way through college. 

That mile, on that Wednesday afternoon in March nearly thirty years ago, will forever be imprinted in my memory. Never mind the sun–the constant sun that is Denver. Never mind that March is too soon for short shorts. Never mind that all I was trying to do was feed my need for reading. Never mind that my father was working right inside my house in the adjacent office that my uncle built for him, that he was writing a book about mountain biking in between layoffs. 

I remember all of these details as if they were yesterday. Because it could have been yesterday. 

I remember that my curly, frizzy hair was falling out of my helmet. That it was unseasonably warm. That there was almost no traffic on the road. 

And I remember how bright red his sports car was. I will never forget that car. The two doors instead of four. The cherry-red shine. The rear wind spoiler jutting out of the back end, trying to force a speed too fast for any bicycle. 

I remember the sound of the engine as the car revved several blocks ahead, made a u-turn, and circled back. The look in his eyes, the tongue halfway out of his mouth. The motions toward his lap. 

Him driving ahead, circling back. Driving ahead, circling back. 

The noon sun beat down on my racing heart as I made my way up that hill, as I tried to make that one mile home. A million thoughts rushed through my head: My greatest nightmare, getting kidnapped, is going to come true today! He’s going to kill me. He’s going to rape me. He’s going to follow me home and come back. He’s going to memorize where I live. He’s not going to leave. 

Logic took over: I CAN’T let him see where I live. 

But where would I go? I didn’t want him to follow me to my house, so on his last circle, when he was going back behind me and getting ready to turn around, I bolted into the alley of my block. There was a garage that I hid to the side of, pulling my bike as far from the alley as I could. I could feel every shaky breath pulsing through my lungs. I could taste the bile of fear that sat at the back of my tongue like a repulsive monster. 

And then I heard the engine. Slower now. Too slow. In slow motion almost, as if the V-6 had fallen out six blocks back. He was grinning, making sure I looked directly into his eyes as his hand moved up and down. As the car crept along, broken of its chase. 

He’d won. He’d found me. We were three houses from my house, from my father, a man who would never even conceive of the idea of doing this to a teenage girl. 

And I was paralyzed. I was forced to lose my innocence in that sickening thirty seconds of my life. 

It was nearly thirty years ago. It could have been yesterday. 

You ask any victim. Any person who has been bullied. Chased. Pushed. Groped. Threatened. Beaten. Raped. 

And they would say the same thing: like it happened yesterday. 

Yes, I remember every detail. Yes, I know exactly how old I was, what my father was doing. Filing the police report. Describing the car. My father running out into the street thinking he could catch the guy. My embarrassment to tell anyone about it because it seemed so trivial. 

The fear. I remember the fear like a fingerprint on my soul. 

So don’t tell me this couldn’t have happened to Christine Blasey Ford. Don’t tell me she is making this up, and that “she couldn’t possibly remember” an event thirty-five years back. 

Just like that red sports car that took off with a man who got away with it, Brett Kavanaugh is going to get away with this. He already has. 

And now, on his bloody hands, on his heartless soul, are the lives of millions of people who will face that court and have a predator deciding their fate. 

Millions of young girls. Millions of women. Millions of victims whose words mean nothing. Whose fear means nothing. 

Millions of chances to turn this car around, rev up the engine, and be a better country. All lost.

We are all lost. 

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A Bitter Price

I never bought into this because I never had money to buy into it. Scratch that. I never had enough money to buy into this and think for one moment I was going to be one of those sports moms, that we were going to be one of those sports families whose entire lives revolve around kids’ sports, leaving no time or money for travel. 

I never bought into this because I often come home with over an hour of work to finish, three kids to drive around and feed, and a house to maintain. And after a pathetic failure of wrangling teenage minds all day and losing every last planning period (and lunch) to meetings. Going to a sporting event on a Thursday night, are you KIDDING ME?

But look how beautiful she is, all decked out, hair up, makeup on, ready to… sit on the sidelines… because I never bought into this, and fifteen is a little late to start a sport. 

I never bought into this because I am wholly unprepared, on a Tuesday morning, to read a ten-page-long email from her coach asking for parents to sign up for and prepare a huge potluck for judges and coaches for THIS THURSDAY’S meet. And for parents to buy items for and run a concession stand. And to bring in a giant vat of hot coffee, its creamers, its sugars, its… mess. And to bring in drinks and coolers full of ice for the athletes. And to provide snacks. And to help set up starting at noon and ending at three-thirty. And … to be respectful and responsible and commit to all of these things, the hospitality room–separate from the competition room–in particular, if our daughters aren’t competing. 

It stings in so many ways. One, because the majority of the girls on this team are surrounded by wealth and have stay-at-home mothers who could cook up a pot of homemade chili on a Thursday morning. Two, because why the FUCK does it take three and a half hours to set up a gymnastics meet, and would the boys ever have to set up their football field? Three, because I have no flexibility or time in my job (screw summers off), and school years run me ragged by mid-September. Four, because she fought me tooth and nail not to do this, and I made her do it, and she has learned to love it and is even willing to choose it over cheerleading, but she may just be a dressed-out cheerleader anyway, and I won’t even get to watch her friends compete.

Five: because it’s just another example, like her awful letter to me, of my failure as her parent. 

“Do you wish you’d stuck with gymnastics when you were little?”

“Yes. So much.”

Do you wish you were born into another family?

Yes. So much.

Do you wish you weren’t the oldest?

Yes. So much. 

Do you wish you had a different mother?

Yes. So much. 

I never bought into this because I wanted us to do things that we could all do together. Go on hikes. Go camping. Ride our bikes. Go to the park. Participate in Girl Scouts. Read books. Travel to all the states and two handfuls of countries. Have dinner in the same place, same time, with all five of us, every day. 

I never bought into this… and now I’m paying the bitter price of bowing down to a last-minute email, joining Costco on a Wednesday night so I can stock up on concessions, and running a hospitality room for people who would never be hospitable to me.

I never bought into this, and now I’m paying the bitter price of her resentment, her remorse, her eagerness to be anywhere but near me. 

I never bought into this because I didn’t think I could afford to pay the price. 

But now I’m paying anyway. 

Profoundly Simple

No trail-building or backpacking this weekend. Almost no mountains. Almost. 

But mountains are like breath to me. They take and bring oxygen to my lungs, pure as sunshine and blue skies over too-dry peaks. And if I can’t drive further, I’ll stay close and bring this beauty to students who’ve traveled the world to live here and never get to feel this rocky crunch under their shoes. 

“Have you ever been hiking before?” I ask a three-years-in Eritrean immigrant. 

“Here? No. But my home… my home in Eritrea, it was surrounded by this. And we had to take trails like this to go to the bathroom.”

It is such a simple statement from her full-haired, smooth-skinned, beautiful face that will always fill the picture frame of this day. So simple, yet so profound. 

On the drive home, we are all starving after our four-mile trek. The last two of my Nepali students (our numbers have frighteningly diminished since Trump’s election) suggest Subway and find a roundabout route on Google Maps to get us to one. But my Eritreans refuse to order a sandwich that their “rich” teacher is buying. They say they ate too many Pringles, but I know there is more to their story than what their English vocabulary will allow them to say.

The Nepalis order toasted bread filled with every vegetable Subway offers, no cheese, no meat, nothing against Hindus. The pale white young men hide behind their caps as the Nepalis point at vegetables, still not sure of their names, and though I try to recite, “cucumbers, tomatoes,” the boys’ pale eyes tell me that they’d rather not be here, surrounded by other skin tones in this bleached-white, English-only suburb. It is such a simple obscurity behind their black baseball caps, and yet so profound. 

I drive them halfway home because only these five girls out of ninety-three “participants” showed up today, and why shouldn’t I? It is a reminder of the two or three buses each of them takes, from every limb of our fully-branched city, to come to our school. It is a reminder of the commitment that comes from leaving a whole country, a whole world behind, to never get to see the mountains of my state. It is a reminder that on a Saturday afternoon, nothing is more beautiful than the sound of the accented, “Thank you, Miss.”

It is a reminder of the beauty of blue sky days. Of close mountains that fill my lungs with hope. Of not having to hike to find a bathroom. 

Of what this world could be, if we would just take a moment to breathe. 

Sleeve. Slashed.

in these late-night revelations
after the children have gone to bed
before the flames have filtered my words,
the gut-wrenching pain of every.
last.
sacrificial.
moment.

is as bright as an impromptu bonfire
on a Friday night
so far from the heart of darkness
that you’d squint your life trying to find.

and you’ll wear that superficial smile on your sleeve,
and bury in ashes the truth,
and wish to a god you don’t believe in
that the Sabbath would save you.

but there is no savior.
there is no Sabbath.
there is only the fire,
the Friday night lights,
the hope.

the hope hidden in darkness
with the caucaphony of sound
that penetrates every last heartbeat
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