Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve lived in about every area of Missouri a person can mange to live, beginning in Gentry County, about two hours north Kansas City and ending up in Bollinger County, about two hours south of St Louis. I grew up poor, Baptist, and conservative. I have abandoned all that, but Missouri is still my home, with its dogwood trees and coneflowers; the state is too damn pretty to leave.
You are walking out the door with your keys, dry shampoo on your bangs, your back teeth sour from sleep.
You didn’t call him first and complain about your car or about traffic, which might have bought you half an hour. He woke you up— he has your cell number, and there are no spaces he cannot invade. You didn’t disguise your voice, no coughing or sniffling to garner sympathy. He knows you slept in. He knows you are bad.
There is no time for a shower, only time for a wet cloth in the sweaty crevasses that smell after hours of working in the heat of his patronizing gaze. You are a nervous sweater.
He is your boss, and you hate him. He is your boss, and you want him to respect you, but you don’t want to be him. You want to be good, and you want him to respect you.
You are late.
You have a habit of being late.
Like that time you came to the candlelight vigil at 7:03 pm, but they were already praying. They didn’t give you a candle. You left your prewritten check for $10 in the kitchen. You didn’t even pray because you knew it was useless. Your cheeks grew pink, and you wondered why you came.
Like that time you were going to make banana bread, but when you picked the black fruit up with your fingers, it disintegrated into two squishy pieces and you knew that this was what death felt like.
Like that time you peed into one of your blue, plastic tumblers and released two fat, yellow tears into the hole in the applicator. Nothing happened—a defect test. You said you would wait another day—you weren’t going to wait; you were going to go to the drugstore first thing in the morning—and you woke up with sticky, red thighs and a burning stomach, and you realized you were being silly.
Like that time you called your insurance company, and they told you that your policy had expired. You already knew, and you told them you wanted to start over.