"What She Expects Me to Do" by Josh Olsen


Don - a 54 yr old schizophrenic - 

is 5’2”, bald, white, round as a bowling ball,

& he’s stalking my mom. 

 

Don & my mom are neighbors. 

 

They live in the same apt building, 

low income housing for the elderly & disabled, 

even though my 57 yr old mother is technically neither,

although close to both. 

 

Don has been sliding hand-written notes 

underneath my mother’s door. 

 

You’re disgusting, one note said. 

You’re disgusting, leave now, said another. 

 

“Don likes you,” my mom’s floormates tell her.

“You remind him of his dead girlfriend,” they say, 

& imply she’s been leading him on, 

because she had the audacity to treat him 

like a human being. 

 

One night, Don stole my mother’s laundry - 

two loads of wet towels, bath mats, 

& her treasured denim Dickies overalls - 

then returned it, 

dried & folded, 

piece by piece. 

 

Don vandalized her car, too - 

a minivan she inherited 

from my grandfather. 

 

Bit by bit, 

Don cuts away at the front grill 

of my mom’s minivan. 

 

When my mom tells all of this 

to my grandmother, 

my grandmother laughs & laughs, 

& when my mom relays this info to me, 

she’s half laughing herself, 

but I tell her I don’t think 

it’s the slightest bit funny. 

 

She reassures me she’s not afraid of Don, 

then confesses she sleeps 

with a wooden chair wedged against the door

& keeps a hammer, a screwdriver, 

& a serrated kitchen knife underneath her bed, 

just in case. 

 

“I’m not going to tell you Don’s full name,” 

she says without my asking. 

“I don’t want you to look him up & threaten him.” 

But then she does exactly that, 

because that’s what she expects me to do.