This Means Warma
by Charles C. Cole
I cut someone off in traffic. It wasn’t a dangerous move. I’m not aggressive. I was in a hurry; road construction had forced the daily commute along a time-consuming detour. I was making up for the delay. It wasn’t a big deal; I was just in the bigger hurry between the two of us, as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t like we almost wrecked. The other driver honked and I waved, not a colorful story worth sharing when describing my day to and from the office.
Anyway, I stopped in the bank for a quick withdrawal. When I came back out, there was a note under my windshield wiper, written on the flip side of a section of someone’s grocery list.
“I’ll will you next time.” Likely from the other driver.
Will what? Cut me off? Or did he mean his will was more powerful than mine? He would will me to back down the next time? The note was too cryptic to be creepy, at first.
That night I worked late. When I left the office, there was someone sitting in an unfamiliar, dark mid-compact in our otherwise vacant lot. The car was similar to the make and model of my mild altercation, but I honestly had not paid close attention. Still, the sight gave me the heebie-jeebies, to be honest. But no additional note. And, in part because I drove circuitously, I was certain nobody followed me home.
The following day I headed out at lunch to run some errands. I could have waited, but I needed to get out, what with the bad karma around the office: a big misunderstanding with my boss over missed deadlines and then an interface crashed that never crashed. I needed fresh air. In my mind, I deserved a long lunch break away from my desk.
When I popped out of the local House of Pizza with my boxed take-out meal, I found another note under my windshield, this time on torn legal yellow pad paper.
Why? Was he going to do something rash and violent, hurt me or damage something of mine? Annoyed by the lingering animosity, I crumpled the note and tossed it in the trash barrel, hoping he was watching.
The next morning, I swapped cars with my wife and parked behind the grocery store a few doors down. No way he saw me. I wore my winter wool coat, long black and generic, for my inconspicuous walk. I saw a small silver SUV parked in an alley behind our building. No one ever parked there. Someone was inside, sitting in the driver’s seat, smoking a cigarette, the window open and the smoke rising.
I walked around our building and badged my way in through the side door, unseen.
When the silver SUV was still there at close of business, I called the police about a “suspicious presence.” A squad car pulled alongside, and a police officer began talking to the driver as I peeked out the break room window on my way to the elevator.
I walked back to my wife’s car, holding my phone to my ear like I was engaged in a passionate conversation, anything to persuade someone watching that I was not really alone.
There was a new note on my wife’s car. “I’ll wick your door in next time.”
“What does that even mean?” I asked my wife, a patient first grade-teacher long exposed to the full range of human communications.
“Maybe he means ‘kick,’ as in ‘I’ll kick in your door next time.’ Makes sense.”
“Why not just write it? What does he have, dyslexia?”
“That’s a reading disorder. Your new friend seems to have a writing disorder: dysgraphia.”
“You’re making that up.”
“If it’s new, it could be due to a stroke or a car accident with head trauma. A recent car accident would explain why he has zero tolerance for at-risk drivers.”
“The only thing I’m at risk for is a breakdown,” I said. “Are you saying, when he writes a W, he means a K?”
“More than likely. It is a little unusual.”
“So when he wrote, ‘Weep away,’ he really meant ‘Keep away,’ like ‘Keep away from my neighborhood when looking for shortcuts for your commute, jerkwad!’ Seriously?”
“Probably. What else did he write? Did you keep the notes?”
“It didn’t occur to me,” I said. “Besides, I told you. The first time he left a note on my windshield, it said, ‘I’ll will you.’ I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.”
“But now you do?”
“You don’t think he means, ‘I’ll kill you,’ do you?”
“Welcome to Road Rage 101. Watch your back.”
“I don’t like it,” I said. “Is there still time to withdraw from the class? What do I do to make this stop?”
“Besides driving my car to work? You could wear a disguise, like a black evening gown.”
“This is serious.”
“I know, honey. Try writing an apology and putting it under your windshield wiper. Park where he can find you.”
“Like that’s been a problem so far,” I said. “What if he can’t read?”
“He’s driving a car; I’m sure he can read. Don’t be an ignorant jerkwad.”
“The guy apparently threatened to kill me!”
“He threatened to will you,” she said, with surprising good humor. “I think he’s all bluster, or things would have escalated by now.”
“What if I mentioned Grandpa’s dying of cancer?”
“Just be honest.”
I left a note on my windshield. “Please accept my sincere apology for cutting you off. I was rude and insensitive. I hope that you can find it in your heart to give me another chance.”
Though I’d learned my lesson, I continued watching over my shoulder. I attended traffic school, hoping my stalker would know, giving me credit for good behavior. All seemed forgiven but, after one session, I found a note on my windshield: “Only presidents pardon. I’ll be watching, like Wing Wong on high.”
Copyright © 2014 by Charles C. Cole