I’m Sorry, I Thought You Were a Tree Stump

by H D Thompson


You think you know yourself. You think you are a certain type of person, you have yourself sorted in the naughty and nice list. Then one day, one single act can juggle it all to shit and before you know if you are that guy who once spat on someone.

I was walking home from work – sunglasses on, earphones in – casual as can be. To shave a cool 20 seconds off my walk I would usually cut through the car park of my local library and today was no different. I was a smidge fluey at the time and coughing up gross green phlegm was becoming a horrible second nature, and when my sickly handkerchief was *shudder* full, I would, as subtly as possible, project my mucus on shrubs or trees. You know, like an animal, so it was alright.

Out of my peripheral vision I saw a tall tree stump in the middle of the median strip of the car park, and without missing a step I turned my head and promptly spat on it.

The next thing I hear is a muffled but very distinct “WHAT THE FUCK?!”

I turn my head and see where the tree stump was a few seconds before, there now stood a woman dressed completely in brown, from top to bottom, with her leg jutting out where the projectile had landed, and rage in her eyes.

“What the fuck?!” she repeated, as I quickly pulled my earphones out, white with shock.

“I’m…so…rry…” I stuttered, genuinely so for what I had done.

“Who the FUCK do you think you are going around spitting on people?! What the FUCK is wrong with you?!”

I couldn’t answer that directly, instead I went with the only thing I was armed with – the truth.

“I’m so sorry – I thought you were a tree stump!”

ShameThe condition worsened. In hindsight, adding insult to injury isn’t actually the best cause of action. I don’t know which she was more upset about being spat on or being mistook for dead wood.

She stood there, her skirt leg sticking out in revulsion as if given the chance she would much rather rip it off than have to deal with my spit. A look of horror and anger was in her eyes and waving her arms violently above her head she kept repeating profanities over and over, like a demented and defective muppet.

I didn’t know what to do, what to say, where to look. This was something I had never read about or had any knowledge of how to deal with. Spitting on a stranger and then accidentally insulting them is a far cry from something like farting on a bus.

I offered to wipe it away, but she told me to fuck off. Fair enough. So I backed away slowly as she stood there in abject revulsion, swearing and yelling at me as I faded into the distance.

I walked the remaining two minutes home feeling like the worst person in the world. My gut was heavy with a black cloud of sin. I had spat on someone. I had projected my gross mucus on another person, a complete stranger, and not even in a weird sex way.

My neurosis was kicking in. I felt guilty but had no way to amend it. So I did what I would usually do in confronting situations such as these – attempted to make her a bad guy to alleviate my shame.

I tell myself that she was the one wearing brown. She woke up that morning and decided that brown was her ensemble choice of the day, that she was happy blending into the surroundings, happy being a dull shade of nature. It worked well with her brown curly hair and tanned skin so that she, if need be, could be easily mistaken for shrubbery. Maybe she is lucky? I mean, at least it was only spit she got, looking like a tree stump she could have incurred many a dog urine incident. I tell myself that it was good that I spat on her and insulted her outfit. She can learn from this. But, who wears that much brown anyway? I’m sure she did it for a reason. I bet she did it for a man. Or woman. A dishy librarian perhaps? That’s also why she was standing in the library car park.  Maybe brown was their colour – librarians aren’t exactly known for their colour palette – and she did it to impress them? Maybe I ruined all of her chances of ever finding love? (This is not making me feel better. I can’t spin this.)

I felt awful, felt like I had committed a sin against man, my innocence was peeling away behind me like scabs in the wind. I would never be the same from this day forward. I could never again use the term ‘I have spat on people for less’, and I would now develop a complex about peeing on trees in the bush.

As I put the key in my front door and opened it, something else completely washed over me, a different feeling about the situation, a completely different take on that day’s turn of events. I shut the door behind me and without meaning to, curled over and violently cried tears of laughter. Well, it is pretty funny.

#H