We got a break in the clouds today for a couple hours and I forced myself to take a walk. Seeking a bit of solitude and anonymity, I drove over to Lake of the Isles for a change of scenery. The wind was capricious, whipping the water into a feisty chop and sending the leaves skittering for their lives, like hordes of movie extras in Godzilla.

At one point, I saw a chubby dredlocked young woman give the finger to the back of a lanky hipster guy wearing skinny jeans as he slunk past her on the path. He had no idea she had given him the finger and she had no idea I had seen her give him the finger. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know each other, but I suppose if they had, it would have made more sense. Only to me, it made complete sense. She had the look of someone wearily trying to whip herself into shape. His very existence was an affront to her, for no other reason than the fact that he cut through her line of vision, sending a ripple through her foul mood. 

Being privy to this unguarded personal moment, this human hiccup, this hasty gesture, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of kinship with the chubby woman because I too am wont to a bit of the behind-the-back-finger-giving. Nuns, teachers, librarians, my parents, a partner at my old law firm, pharmacists, drivers, volleyball coaches. One time Doctor Dash turned around abruptly on his way to the garage after we had argued and caught me flying the infamous double fisted fingers. I know, how mature of me. Can you imagine glancing behind you and seeing your wife in the window giving you not one, but two frenzied pumping fingers? It’s absurd and simply one of those things Doctor Dash has long ago learned to accept and ignore. You can believe I holstered those puppies pretty quickly, feeling more than a little sheepish.

The truth is, sometimes we need a way to say fuck you, with out saying fuck you. We need the release, but we need it to dissipate, to flutter away in the wind like a dry leaf. To have it land, to have it stick, would be inflammatory, unfair, rude, hurtful. The Lake of the Isles finger had nothing to do with the guy and everything to do with the girl. I know how these things go, so I veered off the path rather than pass her. If the hipster slinker pissed her off, the yoga pants power walker might just have put her over the edge, possibly into double fisted pumper terrain. And who wants that comin’ at their back?

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2 Responses to “Fingerworthy”

  • Flan Says:

    The age-old conundrum: If someone gives another the finger, but it passes unnoticed by the insulted, has the insult even occurred? Here, we have the innocent, the solitude-seeking and perhaps power-walking bystander—you—to take the impulsive gesture in. To you it’s not insult; it’s more. Mysterious, evocative, and full of meaning about this chubby, dreadlocked girl–someone you’ll never know but can’t help to guess at. You, dear Gaby, have been blessed-slash-cursed with empathy and wonderment. A potent mix. Likely to lead to writing and then writing block and then to something that makes you and others smile and think, if only for a moment. Thank God for it, I say.

    A few weeks ago I was window walking the shops in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. I was nosing around a bookstore when the heckling cry of an incessant car alarm drove me outside. A crowd had gathered around a green Land Rover. Among them was the car’s owner, a thirty-something with a hip zipper jacket and a baby strapped to his chest. Seems he’d left the rear hatch ajar for his dog and hence, oops, the unkind racket. But the crowd gathered not to chastise but to inform, to tattle, to tell him something else. Apparently a lady, who had been walking by with an elderly woman, tossed a full coffee on the guy’s windshield. One look and yep—coffee everywhere. And what’s more: She’s still here, they said, pointing. She’s sitting outside at the café right over there! Off the guy went, eschewing the safety of the crosswalk for a diagonal right to the perp herself and what looked, by any best guess, her gray-haired mother next to her. An argument ensued. A few shouts and lashing curses. And then the woman tossed an entire glass full of iced-tea on the man and, oh yes drama lovers, his baby. Things wound down from there. The police (and by police I mean three of the most conspicuous undercover men I’ve ever seen, including movie parodies) got involved. And I stood motionless for about ten minutes, trying to take it all in and measure it up. What goes through someone’s mind? One person toting a baby to a street shout down. The other losing gravitational control of her beverage for the second time in minutes, throwing a drink at a baby, with the person that likely raised her as a baby looking terrified of what was happening and what the world had become. The petty ugliness of it all. And we all saw it. Maybe a few dozen of us on that temperate San Francisco afternoon. None of us will ever forget.

  • peevish mama Says:

    Holy shit, Flan. That is ridiculous and genius. It has all the elements of a Greek tragedy, including the chorus singing and pointing: She’s over there, over there, over there!

    And the baby, doused in ice-tea. It’s a damn shame he’s too young to remember because that scenario pretty much gives him a bullet proof vest for life. Honestly, how many times can something like that happen to a person, especially if you’ve had a drink thrown in your face before you could walk? One wonders whether the dad will share the story, and if so, whether he will do it justice.

    But really, the most sad and compelling character is, of course, the drink propelling woman. What a tenuous, web-thin filter she has. There is so much more to her story than over caffeinated impulse control issues. But what? What is it with her? Her mother may know.

    You tell it so well, Flan; it is petty and ugly, but aren’t we all? Some of us are just better at hiding it. I think if one didn’t observe with what you call a sense of “empathy and wonderment,” one would have no choice but to ignore the whole morass, put on blinders, plug our ears and hum furiously. What could be more depressing than watching ourselves crash through life with such little grace?

    Thank you, my friend, for that gem.

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