1.

After being chased by men one too many times in my hometown, I decided it was time leave. Go see the world. Or at least the West Coast. I’d be damned if I let a man kill me in my hometown.

I was young and full of courage. I placed a prism attached to a string and a few traveler’s checks in a Sucrets tin, and then, I left town.

Somewhere between here and there, a truck driver believed I owed him sex for the ride.

He pulled out a gun and aimed it at a couple of guys hitchhiking at a freeway exit, looked at me and said, “Damn hippies. I hate them all.”

I had left on this trip to bike down the coast, and thought of myself as more of a bicyclist. After seeing my first mountains, I shipped my bike back, bought a backpack, and thought of myself as a backpacker.

I didn’t really see myself as a hippy.

The truck driver glared at me. “You hippies are freeloaders. Nothing is free in life. You owe me a fuck for this ride.” He tapped his gun.

I asked him to pull over, told him I didn’t need his ride.

That wasn’t an option.

He placed the gun between us and said, “You probably fuck all your rides.”

I pulled my Sucrets tin out, removed the prism, held it in front of him as if it held some special powers, and said: “How would you like it if someone talked like this to your mother? Your sister? They would be so ashamed of you. You’re not the only man who is like you. There may be another man who is just like you doing what you are doing to me, but to your mom. To your sister. Is this really the man you want to be?”

Prism in hand, I stared at him. He said nothing. Didn’t move toward his gun.

At the next exit, he pulled over. “Get out.” Then he leaned over and handed me a twenty. “Buy yourself something to eat. You’re right. My mom and sister would be ashamed.”

 

2.

When my daughter left for college, repeatedly, I called to remind her: Walk with a friend at night. Never alone. Shove your hair into a stocking cap.

She’d laugh and say her campus was safe.

Next time we were together, I told her about being a student in Tucson and how someone tried breaking down the door of my one-room apartment, which was a garage attached to the home owned by a couple of grad students who were gone over winter break.

Someone beat on my door while I called the cops, hoping they’d arrive before he broke the window. “Be glad he didn’t get in,” the cop said. “There was a rape reported just two blocks from here.”

Then I moved in to a house with roommates, and I’ll be damned if a man didn’t try bashing the external door to my bedroom. By this time, I slept with an ax next to my bed. I grabbed my ax and screamed. Unlike at the other house, this time I saw the man’s face:  a white man who could have been any man in his twenties at Safeway. He took off running, climbed the brick fence around our house, and the cop said: “You should get a dog.”

I didn’t tell my daughter about the truck driver or the days when I was full of courage, the days I carried a prism.

She’ll remember the two doors.

 

Diane Payne’s most recent publications include: Notre Dame Review, Obra/Artiface, Reservoir, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth River, Split Lip Review,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Punctuate, Outpost 19, and forthcoming in McNeese Review, The Meadow,Mused. She is included in the newly released Flash Nonfiction Funny and is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press).

 

 

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