I couldn’t wait for a fancy store-bought sticker, so I went to the Art Cave and made this, and stuck it in the rear driver’s-side window. And no, I didn’t think about my choice of paint marker – well, I did. I didn’t think gold would work, and silver was right out. It wasn’t till the sign was done and I was taping it in my car window with the paint still wet and daubing onto the window that I realized that red had extra meanings in this particular instance.

It’s been a month now, and I don’t think about the sign unless I see my car without looking for it, like glancing out the door at work and hey there’s a red car and oh it’s got a sign in the window oh wait. Nobody’s said anything bad. I’ve been complimented on putting it up, and that was it. Till yesterday.

Daughter had her wisdom teeth pulled. I’m sorry, there are no good coming-out-of-anesthesia stories. They took her back, I settled in for a boring hour or so, and whoops daisie 25-30 minutes later there’s the nurse saying “you can come back now,” and she’s sitting up and pink and her eyes aren’t totally crossed. The nurse asked her if she felt anything from the laughing gas, and Daughter said, “Weww, I uetth I on’k hawe awy fwa-e ow wefewe.” (“Well, I guess I don’t have any frame of reference.” My Daughter is articulate even with a mouth full of gauze. I am proud.)

So I took my not-stoned Daughter home and went to the pharmacy to get her painkiller prescriptions filled. Yes, one was for the good stuff. I didn’t know all the laws surrounding things, so they had to get her on the phone to get her permission for me to get it for her. I stood around for a while looking at Omega 3 supplements and for diabetic foot cream (No, I am not diabetic. I merely have permanent callouses that I would like to go away). They rushed it through for me, saying “Oh I hope she feels better soon,” And I’m out the door and on my way to my car, and the person behind the wheel of the white SUV-ish sort of thing says “Hey, about your sign.”

Many many snap judgments fly through my mind. This guy’s skin, crunchy and wrinkled and I swear that’s the end of a black eye and teeth missing and the smell of cigarette smoke and I’m sure he’s 70 and his wife is there on the passenger side automatically curling back towards the window like she’s had to deal with this guy getting into arguments in parking lots for a long long time, but you know, I’m not gonna call this guy my enemy. I’m sure there was more to the discussion, but all I really remember was him saying that the whole problem is that back in the 60’s they did away with the death penalty and now everybody thinks it’s fine to just go kill somebody, and we’re supposed to execute them and let God punish them.

So many ways to snap back. Although I did drop the bit about automatic rifles being designed to kill humans, I stuck to the one line that I felt absolutely sure about. “I’m pretty sure we aren’t supposed to do God’s job for him and decide who should die.”* I think his wife said “amen” to that, and at that point I decided to cop a plea of hey my kid is sick and I have to get home, nice to talk to you I’m sure we agree on many things it’s a beautiful day enjoy.

I want to know so many things about them. She was paying on her bill in the pharmacy, she was nice, and clean, and a little bent over, dark coat, white hair. White hair, not blue, or yellowed, or permed, I think. A soft wave to it, shoulder length. Him, that skin, no showers for a year, the black ring an inch out from his eye, how has he spent his life, how did he get there, talking to people in parking lots about guns. How people diverge, even living in close proximity, staking out identities.

This is why I read fiction.

Daughter – sigh. I think I did all the suffering over teeth for the both of us. I made her take the ibuprofen twice, but she got up today and felt fine and went to school and is fine. Her face didn’t even swell up. Of course it will be days till the all clear can be sounded, but still. Fine.

*No, I did not think it was the time or place to speculate on gods, if they exist, and what is their true nature. I could have started with, “well, assuming there’s a god,” but it was a nice day and I wanted to get home.