It's sometime after midnight. I’m fast asleep when a loud bang bolts me awake. My husband, usually a deep sleeper, leaps to the bedroom window.
"A car accident?" I whisper.
"I think so." As if on cue, there’s a police siren down the street, getting louder.
I stay inside with our daughters as my husband runs downstairs. I listen for an ambulance and hope there are no injuries.
“No one was hurt,” is the first thing my husband says when he comes back an hour later. “But it was a hit and run. A drunk driver, the police think. It's your car, love. The damage looks pretty bad."
Bad indeed. The driver swerved into our driveway and hit my car. It will cost around $5,000 to fix the damage.
For the next six weeks while my car is in the shop, I drive a rental car around town and stew about the idiotic guy who did this.
Of course he was a he.
I clench my fists and picture the driver, cocky and full of himself, probably in his early 20s. He'd most likely been downing drinks at the bar that's three blocks from our house. His friends had probably tried to call an Uber, and he'd declined.
In the meantime, I've filed a police report to send to our insurance company. When I go to pick it the report from the station, I see a note about a sticker that had fallen off the bumper of the car that had hit mine.
When I ask the officer about this, he says the sticker they found on the road was what traced the car at fault back to its registration. In other words, they were able to track down the owner of the car.
And he was a she!
“She’s definitely at fault,” the officer tells me. “But unfortunately, we don’t have enough evidence to prove it.” The cops didn't arrest her because by the time they'd knocked on her door, she wasn’t drunk anymore.
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Her name is on the police report. First thing when I get home, I Google her. Her Facebook profile comes up first, and I learn a lot. She's my age, in her early 40s. She's also a single mom with a five-year-old. In fact, she lives less than two miles from me. Our kids are in the same school district.
The more I read, the angrier I feel.
The day after she hit my car, she posted a photo on her Facebook page that said, “I love Tequila" with the following comment: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been victimized by tequila.”
Who the hell is this lady? Is she seriously claiming to be a victim?!
The more I stalk her, the more judgmental I feel. I want to give her a piece of my mind. I even draft a Facebook message to send to her:
I'm your neighbor, and a couple of months ago you hit my car. I’m writing to you because…
My first draft is full of details about the night she crashed into my car and how much it cost to fix it. When I re-read what I wrote down, I have to ask myself, Why am I writing to her? Maybe I want an apology. Maybe I want to blame her.
Maybe I want her to change her.
I write draft after draft, obsessing about this woman. I was a single mom for a decade, and my younger child is the same age as hers!
I vent to my husband. He tells me to let it go. But I can't. Even though I see how much time and energy it takes, the way I judge her. It's exhausting. I write another message to her, full of criticisms and accusations. I never send any of them.
As I walk to pick up my youngest at school, my mind quiets. I think about all of the poor decisions I've made in my life. All the times I've disappointed others, all the times I've acted out. I think about all the parenting mistakes I've made, about the men and women I've hurt. I've regressed so many times in my life. I've made rash decisions. I've ignored the grown-up voice in my head that knew better. I've had regrets.
Then I think about all of the times I was forgiven.
The more I picture this mother in her living room, alone with her son, the more I imagine her doing her best to take care of herself and her child. I want to forgive her. I want to let go of my anger. I want to stop judging her. My heart softens.