It was a week after my eighteenth birthday. I went to a concert with a few friends. Nothing crazy, we just went out for some fun. It was the middle of the summer, and I only had a few weeks left before I started my freshman year of college. I was excited and scared at the same time, looking forward to taking the next big step and moving into the adult world. At the same time, I thought about packing up all my things and leaving my bedroom empty and deserted, and the thought felt hollow. I knew my mom wouldn’t turn it into a sewing room or anything like that, but once I started living somewhere else it would change. I was so lost in thought, imagining so many possibilities, that I didn’t notice the spinning blue and red lights behind me until the cop spun up his siren in a loud bee-boop, to get my attention.
As I pulled off the road, he pulled the cruiser up behind me, canted to one side with the wheels turned out, like he was afraid he was going to have to chase me. It was the middle of the night, so I turned on the dome light and rolled down both windows. I had my hands perched on the very middle of the wheel as I watched him walk up to the car. He was young, older than my older brother but younger than my father, and he looked like one of those cops that spends all his time off duty in the gym, working out. His summer uniform had short sleeves, and I could see his rippling muscles and tight skin. In one hand he had a flashlight, so blindingly bright I couldn’t see his face. As he walked up to the car he shined the light all through it, and I got nervous.
Always, I’d been squeaky clean. I was valedictorian, vice president of the student government, and a half dozen other things. I’d never gotten so much as a speeding ticket. Unfortunately, my friends weren’t all that way. I’d driven to the concert, and I had a sudden flash of panic, wondering if Michelle left a pipe or a baggie of weed in my back seat. I sniffed the air and gripped the wheel, trying to tell myself the smell I picked up was just my imagination. The cop swung his light away as he leaned into my window and looked me over.
I was dressed for the weather, and it being the middle of August that meant I was wearing next to nothing, a pair of cutoffs with no real legs to speak of and a gauzy yellow t-shirt that slid and slipped around my shoulders, always trying to expose me. With the windows open the cool, conditioned air inside the car mingled with the hot breeze outside. The cop looked me up and down and glanced around inside the car. I shifted on the seat.
“Can I help you, officer?”
“Where are you headed?”
“Where are you coming from?”
“I was out with some friends, sir.”
His eyes bored into mine. “Have anything to drink tonight?”
I shook my head, then added, “I’m not old enough.”
He stood up. “I’ve never known that to be much of a deterrent. License and registration.”
As I leaned over to fish my driver’s license out of my purse, which lay on the passenger’s seat. My shirt rode up my back and I could feel his eyes on me. I quickly pulled my license out, then fumbled to pull the little leatherette book with my registration and insurance cards out of the glove box. I handed them over, and his fingers brushed mine when he snatched them out of my hand. I went to fold my hands on my lap, but remembering that video about dealing with police I saw on the Internet, I put them back on the wheel. The cop looked over everything, paying particular attention my driver’s license.