My twenty minute commute is perpetuated by the wafting scent of fresh coffee and the golden tones of a can't-help-but-sing-along country music station. There are day when I despise the drive but more often I count it as my singular piece of peace - my slice of tranquility pie - my haven sans chaos.
Unless that twenty minutes is spent eyeing the cruiser in the rearview...
He creeps up on me as I turn onto Highway 6, hugging my bumper like a hemorrhoid, so close I can see him adjust his aviators and chew his lip and I try to keep singing with Blake Shelton but I can feel my pulse in my neck and heat along my hairline. Blake's keeping it 'real like chill' and I'm sweating my pants off.
I'm not speeding...well, I am, by about five kilometers, but I'm just keeping with the Explorer in front of me, and he - Mr. Hot Young Cop - isn't letting me go and I know he'd pass if he could (because who drives 85 and calls it fast enough?) but there's too many curves and too much traffic the other direction and who designed this twisty road anyway? And he's going to pull me over because he's annoyed at the 85 and there's nothing better to do and really, I deserve it. Not because I deserve it but because my sweetheart of a husband has set me up...
I've been pulled over before. Once. It was late. I was leaving one of Scott's gigs. He smelled my breath and flirted a little and patted my roof and 'Have a nice night,' and I was on my way. I've never received a ticket in my life. Fifteen years of driving. Not a one.
It's August. Our license plate sticker says June 2013. Yeah...he's going to pull me over.
I start rehearsing. I'll turn down the music. I'll take off my sunglasses as soon as I lower the window. I'll play it sweet and innocent and pretend I'm not dying inside. "I'm so sorry officer, my husband assured me that he was taking care of it..." And I'll see myself reflected in his Mr. Hot Cop glasses and I'll think about Jason Stackhouse and his Mr. Hot Cop glasses and I'll be beet-red in that reflection...
We're all the way to Allan Park and he's playing with me. Holding back a little and then coming right back up against me again and I know he can see the sticker plainly and I'm not even trying to sing along any more and I'm so so hot and the air conditioner is as high as it can go and I watch him scratch his stubble and I'm pretty sure he's chewing gum.
Guilt is a giddy thing. A visceral thing that heats and gnaws and justifies and blames. And I decide I'll take it strong. "Yes, I know about the sticker. Yes, I'll take care of it right away. Yes, I deserve this ticket. Thank you for keeping me humble. Thank you for your service to this great slice of the county."
And he hangs back. And he flies up strong. And this game he's playing is killing me and I want to pull myself over and save him the trouble. And I want to call home and say, "Do you have any idea what you're doing to me right now?"
We're coming into Hanover and we're caught at a red light by Walmart and there's no way he's going to let me go now because now he's had a good twenty seconds to stare at that sticker - at that neon guilt. He was just waiting for town - for the ultimate humiliation - I just know it. And the light turns green and I'm easing forward and I can't stop checking the mirror for the inevitable kill-me-now lights and my heart is still in my throat and I hate stress like a nightmare.
And we're passing Canadian Tire and I move to the right lane. And he stays in the left. And he gives me a little nod as he passes and I'm staring out at him all stupid and agape and I actually say it out loud - "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
And I have just enough time to sing along with the last chorus of a song I don't even like - but goodness, I can belt it like an anthem! And I learn to breath again and it is a sweet sweet freedom thing.