I’m not going to apologize
for being a very put-together person.
I don’t leave the house
unless my hair is washed, dried, and styled,
my face moisturized,
my eyeliner drawn into perfect black wings
at the corners of my hazel eyes,
my red lips a perfect cupid’s bow,
my polished fingernails unchipped,
my clothes clean and perfectly pressed,
zipping stylish leather boots
up to my calves.
I work to maintain this look.
exercise every day,
wake up an hour earlier than most people,
spend hours cleaning,
I would never allow myself
to go to the office or out to dinner,
looking like some of these slobs,
who roll out of bed
and throw on clothes that had been
carelessly tossed on the floor the night before.
This morning was a bit askew, however.
No hot water,
so I gritted my teeth and took a cold shower.
Shivering in a towel,
I just couldn’t warm up,
and my shaking hands
incapable of perfectly lining my eyes.
I groaned and wiped off the black
again and again,
lower eyelids now red
as I furiously erased.
I was running later than usual,
but not what most people would consider late,
but if I couldn’t get it together,
I wouldn’t be able to get my morning latte,
and that would be a miserable day indeed.
An angry buzzing in my head as I
got dressed, left the house,
realized I had forgotten the keys to my apartment.
This would require a phone call to my landlord,
and he would threaten to charge me some kind of fee.
But I still had time for the latte,
which was spilled all over my camel-colored wool coat
as a homeless man bumped into me
at the entrance of the coffee shop,
and the angry buzzing grew louder.
“Watch where you’re going!” I cried,
and he unleashed a torrent of curses at me,
claimed that he had been burned by my coffee,
shoved a dirty hand in my face to try to prove it to me.
I screamed then,
making people turn around and stare,
taking the homeless man aback,
It was a sound I didn’t know I could make,
more guttural and desperate than a murder victim
in a horror movie
Some guy started filming me with a sneer.
“Stop it!” I cried, “Stop it right now!”
I tried to take his phone away,
and more cell phones came out,
Passersby asked the homeless man
if he were all right,
Can you believe it?
“Someone should call the police,” I heard,
so I started to push my way through the crowd,
walking faster and faster
until I broke into a run.
I was wearing heels that day,
as I always do for work,
and my ankle turned.
I fell flat on my face,
not far enough away from the curious crowd,
who were laughing now,
photographing and filming and texting.
My pants were torn and muddy.
My left knee burned.
I had scraped it as I had not done
since I was a child.
I remembered running up to my mother then,
looking for a bandage and a kiss,
and she scolded me for tearing a hole in my jeans
because we couldn’t afford new ones,
and I needed to take better care of my things.
I realized a few minutes later
that I had dropped my wallet
somewhere in front of the coffee shop,
but I couldn’t bear to go back there.
Instead, I called off sick,
got my landlord to let me back into my apartment,
and laid on the couch.
I kept scanning the internet
for the inevitable viral video
that would lose me my job
and prevent me from getting another.
I heard a knock at the door.
It was the man, the homeless man,
who silently handed me my wallet,
and walked away.