“Go to hell. I will not tolerate your disrespect anymore,” Sally’s voice was steady and strong. She stood rooted in a horse stance the way she learned in Kung Fu when she was nine. For the first time, since she met Joe five years ago, she felt confident and powerful.
“What did you say to me?” Joe screamed at her as he stared downward, almost a foot to meet the determined gaze of her emerald eyes. His stringy blonde hair stuck to the sweat on his brow, produced by his rage. The underlying pink tone of skin reddened as his anger escalated.
“I’m not doing this anymore. I’m done. It’s time for me to walk away.”
“You crazy bitch, you’ll be sorry.” Joe spat as he unleashed his fury of hateful, misogynistic words against the woman he said he loved. Sally remained steadfast. Grounded. Her long brown hair danced in the spring breeze.
“I’m getting my shit and leaving for good.”
“Ok,” Sally responded firmly.
Joe ran into the house and slammed the door. She could hear him smashing things and screaming obscenities. She strolled to the garden at the end of their neighborhood and sat down on the concrete bench that had the inscription “Kindness can pluck the hairs of a lion’s mustache.” Sally laughed as she read it. She tried meeting Joe’s abuse with kindness, hoping that she might soften him. Teach him to love.
Sally pulled out her leather beaded tobacco pouch and rolled a cigarette. As she took a long drag, she looked up at the clouds, gently floating in the breeze. Sally lay back on the bench and played the game of finding objects in the clouds. She saw a dragon, then a boat, and finally a huge heart that dissipated as quickly as it came into view. Pigeons cooed at her, followed by the shrill screech of a Peregrine Falcon.
Sally was pulled out of the calm space she created when Joe walked past carrying his backpack.
“You’ll regret this, bitch.”
“Nope,” Sally thought but didn’t say anything. Instead, she took another drag off her cigarette and went back to staring at the clouds and listening to the bird songs.
When she could no longer feel his presence, she walked back to the 1940s brick duplex that had been their home. She opened the door and as expected, her stuff was broken and strewn about the room. She turned and slid three bolt locks into place; she felt secure.
As she surveyed the damage, she noticed the small stuffed grey wolf he had given her on their one month anniversary. She sat down next to it on the hardwood floors in the middle of the living room. She held it to her heart and kissed it gently. “I hope someday; I can remember the good times. And I hope even more that Joey gets the help he needs.”
The tears flowed freely for a few hours, and as night fell, Sally started putting her house and life back together. By the time she went to bed, the day’s destruction was cleared. She fell into their bed, which still carried his scent, but exhaustion won, and she fell asleep effortlessly.
Her alarm startled her awake. Monday always comes too soon. She rolled over and looked at the empty space made from Joe’s absence. A pang of desire invaded her heart space. “Nope,” Sally reminded herself. “I deserve to be respected and loved.” She threw her legs off the side of the bed and told herself, “I got this.” Then she cranked up L7 and headed for the shower.
“Some guy just pinched my ass
Drunken bums ain’t got no class
Sally sang along as loudly as she could. “No more drunken bums for me. Ever. Again.” She reminded herself over and over again until she believed it. As she boarded the #7 bus to work, she felt determined and altered at a core level. He texted her at least 30 times already. She didn’t read any of them yet. Each time she felt like it, she stopped herself by saying, “nope.” She would respond when she was ready.
She entered the school through the back door, hoping to avoid as many students as possible, and she wasn’t ready to talk to any of the other professors. Her classroom was still empty. She cranked open the windows, and the faint smell of cherry blossoms sailed in. She took a deep breath and smiled softly. She felt safe. She let her guard down.
Sally sat down at her long wooden desk and pulled her computer out of her bag. She savored each sip of coffee as her Mac booted up. She logged into her work email and saw a message from Frank, her boss.
“Hey Sally, I hope you don’t mind, but next week we need to change your schedule and switch a few of your classes to first thing in the morning. Thanks for understanding.
“Nope. That is not going to happen.” Her body tightened, and she set her jaw, as she thought of the words she wanted to say and those that she should say in her reply.
“Dear Frank, As I am sure you remember during our initial negotiations and before I accepted this position, we agreed that the hours I will be teaching are between 4–9 pm. Since I am under contract for the entire year based on those conversations, the terms of the contract must be honored.
Sally connected her computer to the projector and pulled up her presentation just as students poured into the classroom. Their chatter filled the room, and she moved into her position behind the podium. Generally, she would have to call for their attention two or three times to get them to settle.
“Ready to begin,” she said, sounding more like a command than a question. All eyes were on her immediately.
“Professor, Can we have through the weekend to turn in our papers?”
“Nope. You’ve already had three weeks and time to work on them in class.”
How, on that particular spring day, she was able to break out of all the conditioning to be nice and say yes is a mystery. She woke up that morning, and it was as if her fairy godmother gave her a magic word, and it was “nope.”