Driving While Terrified
I woke up exhausted after a shitty night of sleep. Buddy was in a mood to match my own and getting to drop off without either of us crying was a major accomplishment. I ran my first errand of the morning and then decided to reward myself with breakfast at Panera before my second errand - trying to figure out why my father's wireless printer wasn't working. He swore it was because it wasn't plugged in to the laptop. He's 86 so I stopped trying to explain that it was wireless and just said I'd be there by 9:30. There wasn't a lot of traffic by the time I hit the highway, most people were already at work. There were huge trucks everywhere though. They were oversized haulers, carrying big pieces of equipment and the most massive tires I have ever seen in my life. I didn't notice the cop behind me for a while.
Eventually I started getting nervous. I checked my speed - for maybe the first time in my life I wasn't speeding. I signaled and switched lanes. He did the same.
Her name rang in my head. I don't know if I said it out loud or whispered it like a prayer. I started to sweat though. I kept one eye on my speed and one on the road as my thoughts raced. My tags are good, license good, insurance up to date. I have three sister who are lawyers, two who practice, one who works for the DOJ. Who would be most likely to pick up? Did I dare to take a hand off the wheel to pick up the phone? No.
My dad was expecting me at 9:30. How long would he wait before calling me if I was late? Would he even remember what time we were meeting? How many miles had this cop been behind me? Should I change lanes again? No.
I checked the odometer and then went back to watching my speed and the road. Now I was shaking and sweating.
60 PEOPLE KILLED THIS SO FAR THIS MONTH.
745 KILLED SO FAR THIS YEAR.
Okay, where is all of my paperwork? It's all in a bundle in the glove compartment. Do I reach for it before he gets to the car or do I call someone or do I start recording? What do I do first? I don't want to die, I do not want to die.
YOU WILL NOT KILL MY CHILD.
The shaking stops and a deadly calm comes over me as Boogie Baby twirls and whirls inside me. It's been two miles now. If he was going to pull me over, he'd have done it by now. If I pull off here I can take the long way. I signal and exit.
HE FOLLOWED ME.
I do not care if you have a gun and a taser and the support of millions, you will not kill this beautiful baby girl I am making. What if that would be the thing? The spark? The incident that finally made people wake up and say that this is wrong and that something has to change? NO. NOT WORTH IT. Do I drive straight to Dad's house or do I go to Panera? More people at Panera. People = safety. Do people = safety??? I turn right.
HE FOLLOWED ME.
Sandra Bland's mom in front of the Bean in Chicago. My mom looks White. She isn't, but she looks like she is, so maybe people would pay attention if it were a White woman asking why her child and grandch- NO. I refuse to think it. I can't stop thinking it. I can't stop seeing Sandra's face in my rear view mirror. I can't stop hearing her voice asking why she had been pulled over, asking why she was being arrested. I turn right again.
HE FOLLOWED ME.
It's been over five miles now. I've made three turns. Nonononononnonono not today. Please God, please. I'm almost there. Do I try to get as close to the front doors/windows as possible or do I try to find a parking space where he can't pull in next to me? Close to people, get close to people. I think of the woman who was pulled out of a post office last week by her hair while she yelled, "Let me go, I don't trust you" and of all the people who just watched her dragged away from her children. There was one guy who got that on video though. And she lived.
Turn into the Panera parking lot.
HE FOLLOWED ME.
Oh thank you sweet baby Jesus, there is a spot right up front, right in front of the bay windows. The place is packed. He blocked me in. He flashed his lights and then he drove away. That's when the skating came back. I opened the car door and vomited out all the fear and bile I'd been choking on for miles. I sobbed, on my knees in the parking lot with my head pressed against the seat of the car. A lovely woman named Janice came over to see if I was okay. She held my hand while I shook and sobbed, she helped me into the seat and she got me some water.
Eventually I went inside and ordered food for myself and my dad. I fixed his printer, which was not broken, and I helped him pack for his trip to St. Thomas. I paid a bill, went to the grocery store, went to the bakery and then picked up my son from daycare. Maybe I hugged him a little too tight, but when he wanted to walk I put him down and let him run as fast as his chubby toddler legs would go. We're home now. He's had lunch and a cuddle and is napping. I got some work done and replied to an email from a friend who needed help.
My head isn't pounding anymore and the shaking and sweating are gone. I drove home through town instead of using he highway. Because I'm scared. Still. Sitting safe in my home with my son sleeping peacefully and my daughter kicking my ribs, I'm scared. I'd love nothing more than to never drive again. But I have things to do.