Notes by Krista Price
Editor Matty Byloos, Editor's Choice, January 16th, 2017
"Liar misspelled. Exactly what I would have expected..."
The first one I saw read, “Hillary lied and people died.” It was a little strip of paper about one inch wide and four inches long, tucked under the windshield wiper of a car. I think it was a Buick. The note was handwritten.
Seeing that little note was disorienting, and it stung. I looked up and down the street and could see other notes placed on other cars. Not every car, but about three or four more. I wasn’t in my neighborhood, but a few neighborhoods over, walking my Australian Shepherd, Maya, about 10:00 on a Sunday morning.
Who would do this? Leave notes like this?
Actually, I was certain I knew exactly who would do this. An asshole. Somebody uneducated. Somebody capable of being conned by Donald Trump. Angry, I’m sure they’re angry. My impulse was to grab each note, crumple it, and spit on the ground. I looked around, as if my thoughts were transparent, but didn’t see anyone.
I didn’t do anything.
I just kept walking, looking at every house, looking for a lawn sign for Trump or telltale Trump bumper stickers on the back of a car, probably old and beaten down. Probably a pick-up truck. Big Asshole. I don’t know why it was important for me to figure out where the notes came from, but I kept looking.
The Sunday I decided to take action was breezy and clear. Just a smattering of clouds—enough to make it interesting. Maya and I had gotten into the habit of walking this walk on Sunday mornings. Always quiet, we would rarely see anyone. I was on the hunt, but hadn’t seen any notes for a couple of weeks. This week, though, I promised myself, if there were notes, I would remove them. I saw it as my own little act of civil disobedience, and consequences be damned.
I was listening, like usual, to a downloaded podcast of “This American Life.” The theme was What’s Going on in There? As usual, I was on the hunt and every little leaf or piece of debris that had landed on a windshield put me on high alert. This time though, I saw little strips of paper, for real.
This was it.
I was going to take those slips of paper, and I didn’t care who saw me. As I got closer, I realized there were only two cars with notes. My heart was beating a little quicker as I approached the first car. It was a blue Subaru. I didn’t stop, just slowed down a little as I walked by. Grabbed the note and put it deep in my pocket. I could feel it crinkle as I pushed it down deeper.
I kept walking. Heart beating a little quicker. The next car was white and had a dent in the bumper. I picked up my pace as I walked by and grabbed at the note. It stayed stuck to the window. I accidentally grabbed the windshield wiper and gave a tug. The wiper unfolded itself and I dropped it as quickly as I grabbed it. It smacked back against the windshield.
I was determined. I wasn’t leaving without the note. Carefully I lifted the windshield wiper and peeled that second note off the window. Down into my pocket, crinkling as it slid deeper.
I picked up my pace and turned left. My breathing slowed back down. I kept walking, but reached in my pocket and took out the first note. It looked like a page from those slim notebooks with blank pieces of paper, like an old journalist would carry in their back pocket. I stopped and un-crumpled the paper. Tried to smooth it out.
HillARY CRIMINAL CliNTON
There were capital letters all mixed up with small letters, even in the same word, which always makes me crazy. Liar misspelled. Exactly what I would have expected. I reached back into my pocket and pulled out the second slip. Smoothed it out.
(MAKe AMeRiCA WeAK AgAiN)
My heart picked up its pace. This time it was what had been written that got me. I started thinking about some angry old man, sitting at his kitchen table, writing out each note, cigarette burning itself out in the ashtray. Fox News blaring in the background.
Writing these individual notes took effort. It took time. Each one with its own comment.
I shoved the pieces of paper back into my pocket. I walked around the rest of the day with the notes in my jeans. Every once in a while, I would slip my hand in my pocket and feel them.
Something tangible. It stood as living, breathing proof that there was a person behind these notes. And it nagged at me. That night I took the notes out of my jeans pocket and set them on the desk up in my bedroom.
The notes triggered something in me, and I began to be a person I didn’t want to be. Someone paranoid, on the defense and quick to anger. That’s not who I usually am. I like to think of myself as kind, seeing beyond surface issues. This election had me all twisted up and disoriented.
The election was ugly and divisive and contentious. It got to me. The minute I was up in the morning I’d look at social media, listen to the radio. Hear the awful news, getting worse by the minute. At the time I didn’t even know just how bad it was going to get. It was hard to focus on much else, especially good stuff.
I tried my best not only to maintain my own humanity, but also to see the humanity in others—even those I disagreed with. I came up with a goofy idea. I had to do something.
Operation Dog Walk was my attempt to reach out to neighbors I didn’t know. To connect. To see beyond politics.
I held hands with a woman clearly in some kind of emotional distress. Her hands were shaking and her lips were dry. She lives at the top of my street and I don’t even know her name. I was walking by and she was just staring, washed out green eyes blank.
“Are you OK?”
She reached out her hand and I jumped up onto her porch. I stood there awkwardly for a minute holding onto that hand. Then I praised her gardening—so much better than anything I could do, and held her shaking hand until she seemed calm again.
One morning I told a complete stranger, who was slowly adding home carved woodwork additions to his home, how nice it looked. He lived a few streets over. We had never met, but I walked by his house all the time. He was wearing a blue t-shirt with one of those white firefighter logos in the left corner. The kind with a fireman hat and crisscrossed firefighter tools.
“Wow. Thank you,” he said. “I still have so much more to do.”
I even made nice with the guy who has the ferocious little white dog that growls and charges Maya until its owner scoops him up in his arms. The dog would go crazy the minute it saw Maya, which would then get Maya all worked up and she would start jumping on me. The whole walk became a hassle after an encounter with that little dog. Finally though, I smiled at the guy and he smiled back. The dogs still hated each other, but we started to wave to each other.
Maya and I continued our walk the following Sunday. And the one after that. Listened to This American Life on my phone and tried to let the whole note business go. But I couldn’t. I held onto those notes and kept them on my desk. I would look at them every day or so.
So, this Sunday was no different, in that I was on the lookout.
And this time, as soon as I turned the corner, past the house that needed mowing, past the next house over, the one with the most brilliant roses I’ve ever seen, I could see notes. Notes on every car. Placed, as always, under the windshield wipers.
Son of a bitch. Really?
I was ready to pounce. I was over this game, and the asshole Donald Trump supporters. This time I would wipe out every note I saw. Blood pumping, I walked faster. Held extra tight onto Maya’s leash. Walked to the first car and looked down at the first note. Stopped in my steps. Ready to crush the note, I stopped myself mid-grab.
That little slip of paper, and every other slip of paper, said the same thing.
“Vets for Trump.”
Suddenly it wasn’t so simple anymore. A Veteran. Young? Old? Disillusioned? Injured? Angry? Started with the best of intentions? Loves his country?
A new narrative.
I teach Vets. I respect them. I hear their stories. Lots of stories. Wounded in war—souls and bodies. They joined the military thinking they were doing the right thing. Every Vet I’ve ever taught. They all just wanted to do the right thing.
Scared but brave.
“Vets for Trump”—Donald Trump, who said that veterans suffering from PTSD are weak, Donald Trump, who called John McCain a loser for being captured, who avoided the draft because of “bone spurs,” who criticized the parents of a slain U.S. soldier. Who lied when he claimed to have raised $6 million for veteran’s causes.
I just left the notes where they were.
And now, here we are. Donald Trump has been elected president.
I still walk Maya every day. I visit that other neighborhood sometimes. But now, no more notes on cars.
Mostly, though, I walk Maya in my neighborhood. Two days ago I was chatting with the woman on the porch, who was having a better day. She was still pale and a little shaky, but was being especially friendly. And then a smile. “Would you like some fresh baked molasses cookies? I just took them out of the oven.” She went into her house and a few minutes later came back with a baggie full of the most perfectly round cookies I’d ever seen. They were delicious.
Last week, the guy with the ferocious little white dog walked past my house as I was pulling into my driveway. It was the aftermath of an ice storm, so the little white dog wasn’t with him. He was just walking, holding onto the travel cup he always carries.
He is tall and slim, graying hair. He always wears a red jacket and carries an old school plastic travel mug. The jacket is old and worn.
I got out of the car and said hello. We chatted a bit. He seemed embarrassed by his dog’s behavior and said something about our dogs being who they are. I told him I understood. He stepped toward me and reached out his hand. It was cold outside but he wasn’t wearing gloves. His grip was strong, his hand warm.
I never did figure who wrote the notes. Never stood outside a house on my dog walks and knew, for certain, that inside that house lived the guy who was compelled to scribble all that Hillary hatred.
I quit looking.
I found something else.
I found a little wisdom, about how I want to live my life. Things are getting worse, but I don’t have to. Every day a new assault. On women. On the environment. The press. Supreme Court. Gay rights. On and on. But I know who I want to be—decent and kind and loving. Not because I am a woman, socialized to be this way. Not because I am seeking approval from anyone else, but because this is who I am. No matter who is President. No matter the politics of my neighbors. The note writing, the election, the ugliness—it took me far away from those things.
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Header image courtesy of Krista Price.
Krista Dabakis Price was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. She lives, teaches and writes in Portland, Oregon. Krista is a member of the newly formed Damned Writers and a former Dangerous Writer. She is a frequent reader at the Burnt Tongue series and is published in The Class That Fell in Love With the Man. She has two children and one husband.