To the nice man with a cane to whom I gave a dirty look at Kinko’s

I’m sorry; I know it came off as a dirty look. But I was really scared of you on a primal level. You triggered a memory in me. In my peripheral vision I saw a man carrying a stick down low, walking a little too close into my personal space. I was startled. You see, once when I was 16, I was falsely accused of something by an elder in my church. I told the truth and said it wasn’t true. The elder’s wife ordered that my hair be cut off as punishment. My hair was past my elbows and I loved it. It was grabbed and cut off by my father, truly one of the longest and scariest nights of my life. A 16 year old life that had already had many long and scary nights. When your family hurts you, who is left to comfort you?

The elders decided I was also “dead” to the church until I confessed. I was ordered to stand against a wall every week day from 8-5 while my mom was at work in the church office, They put me in view of her desk. She would pointedly not stare at me while she cried and worked. I could feel her telling to give in, I tried to beam psychic messages to her saying I was innocent. 80 hours I stood, not all in a row, but it’s a lot. Just who were they trying to punish? Kids from the church cleaned up after school, they vacuumed around me like I was a lamp. Nobody spoke to me for two weeks, naked without the long hair I’d had my entire life. Every once in a while the pastor of my church would sneak up behind me while holding a PVC Pipe down really low so it was out of my peripheral vision and he would strike me multiple times on the butt and thighs. At least I existed while he was hitting me; I was visible until the sting died down.

I didn’t confess, Jesus doesn’t like it when we lie. Those two weeks started the worst year of my life. It got a little easier, it’s exhausting to keep up that level of creativity in punishment. In the end, I won.

So I’m sorry. I wonder what pain makes you walk with a cane. I wanted to tell you why I flinched it had nothing to do with you, but then it would be weird to have a girl give you a dirty look and then tell you a trauma. It was hard enough to shed a few tears while pointedly not staring at you. I think I also freaked out the cashier.

Best of luck,

One of this planet’s many walking wounded.

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