Why I Ride With the Po-lice- Part 4 Overactive Imaginations

One of my patients was talking about the toll her aunt's death had taken on her mother. "It really aged her," she said.

Hmmm. I was wondering why it seems I look in the mirror and find a much older woman staring back at me. Now I know. Dad died and it aged me.

I feel frumpy. I've lost my saucy energy, my spirit of adventure...Well, maybe not so much my spirt of adventure as the actual energy and inventiveness to think up new trouble to get into.

I feel un-interesting and unattractive. And secretly I wonder, is this it? Am I old? Will I never again have a steamy, passionate affair or do anything I consider to be risky? Does life end at 50?


Maybe I just need to ride with the po-lice again- like I used to do. Riding along with them wasn't exactly "risky" but it sure seemed to peel away the Soccer Mom Blues.

Like the night in the cemetery...

I was riding along with an officer I'd never met before. Sam and I had already had one big adventure earlier in the evening and he'd told me quite a bit about himself but I soon realized, I didn't know Sam half as well as I thought I did. (I'll wait while you go read that first blog if you want. It's really Part A of this story so you should read it first.)

Overactive Imaginations-

It is after 2 a.m when Sam finishes the paperwork from his earlier arrest and we leave are free to leave the municipal jail. The rain has stopped. Steamy wisps of evaporating moisture rise eerily from the hot, black asphalt in front of the building and the entire town seems to be asleep.

Sam walks beside me to the squad car. He is tall and imposing in his black on black uniform. He turns suddenly chatty, filling the silence between us with superficial, police trivia. I don't say anything but I know why he's doing this. He's uncomfortable. He's spent six hours telling me about himself, exposing sensitive feelings and old baggage. Now, after two hours of adrenaline and paperwork, he feels vulnerable. He's sealing the door shut, closing me off from any further personal talk.

He drives me through the old section of downtown Greensboro, pointing out old homes and landmarks. "Sometimes, right before dawn, I'll just ride around here looking at the architecture," he says. "I've even researched the history of some of these buildings." He passes a huge, white wooden house. "That used to be a boarding house," he says.

I figure he's praying someone jaywalks in front of us, so he'll have a legitimate reason to get out of the car and divert my attention onto something or someone else. It is one of those few nights where the rain has made the city go quiet and the radio isn't jammed with excess calls.

I refuse to cooperate with idle chatter of my own, making Sam feel even more uncomfortable. This makes him talk more and I'm enjoying it because, after all, he did call me "Ma'am," a reference my mother taught me was reserved for older women.

I think Sam is no more than 5 years younger than I am so what's he doing calling me "Ma'am"? I am a writer. I am envisioning myself tonight as one of my spunky,sexy heroines. So I am not at all my usual soccer mom, "Ma'am" persona.

After awhile, closer to 4 a.m. I too, pray for a little action. I'm fighting to stay awake. I don't pay careful attention to where Sam is driving- until it's too late. We are on a road with very few streetlights. I think near Oka Hester Park. Sam, I suddenly realize, hasn't spoken for the past few minutes. Now he grips the wheel with a steely determination. When I glance over at him, he's frowning, his thick, bushy black eyebrows furrowed into a menacing, focused stare straight ahead.

The road is a dead end.

Sam pulls to the curb, removes the keys from the engine and opens his car door. "Bring the flashlight," he says, not even looking at me. "Don't turn it on." He takes off, disappearing into a stand of woods so thick I can only keep up with him by listening to the sounds of his body moving through the branches.

I look around. There is only one house on the street and it is more a shack than a home. I am not in a good neighborhood. I do not have a cell phone. So, I follow this cop into the woods, all the while berating myself.

"You idiot!" I swear silently. "Now look what you've gone and done! You know how cops are- they're just a hair's breath away from flipping to the other side. The man's obviously got personal problems and issues- which by the way, you've laid bare in your first hour talking with him. What if your stupid curiosity went too far? What if he's really a serial killer?"

Sam turns to look back at me, as if he can read my mind. His face is set and hard, gray in the pale moonlight that struggles to break through the clouds. If I die now, here, at the hands of this stranger, no one will ever find me.

Suddenly a huge wrought iron gate looms up out of the darkness. I swat at the overgrown vines and spider webs as I follow him through the opening. I have an overactive imagination, I tell myself. "This man is a police officer. He hasn't shown you any signs of psychosis. There's a good reason why he's brought you to the middle of this jungle."

But is there? Why would he take off like this without telling me what we're doing? Worse, why would I follow?

But I do, right behind him, almost bumping into his back when he does stop abruptly and drop to his knees.

"Look," he says.

I stoop down beside him, watching as he reaches to brush dead leaves from a gray stone. "It's a baby's tombstone."

He points to a few other gray stones, sitting at odd angles around the clearing. "This cemetery has Civil War era graves and it's just falling apart. I found it a couple of years ago. Kind of neat, huh?"

I am so relieved not to be joining them in a shallow grave, I gush "Wow! This is amazing!"

Which, of course, it really is.

When Sam drops me off at my car in the city lot, the sun is beginning to rise. Pink and purple streaks the early morning sky as I watch Sam pull away.

Much earlier in the evening, when I'd explained that I wasn't doing a ride-along in my capacity as a psychotherapist but rather as a published mystery author, Sam had nodded. "You know," he said. "I think I could write a book."

Maybe I was tired. Maybe the late hour diminished my ability to be tactful, but whatever the reason, I said the first thing that came into my head. "If I had a nickle for every fool who's told me that!" I scoffed. "Tell you what. If you think you're a writer, write something and email it to me, then we'll see who's got a book in them. It's not as easy as you think!"

A month later, when I open my email box, I see Sam's return address. "Let me know what you think, Coach," is typed in the subject heading.

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