The guilt was killing her. She thought she had been careful. She thought she had gotten away with it. She shook her trembling hands and tried to breathe normally. She felt eyes watching her from every angle. Looking up though, she didn’t see any suspicious glances from the people around her. Placing her hands back on the wheel, she stared straight ahead and closed her eyes. A million different excuses flew through her head. She hadn’t seen it. She had been going too fast to stop. She was in fear for her life. She had thought she was being followed. They all rang hollow, even to her own ears.
Opening her eyes, she looked up into her rearview mirror for maybe the twentieth time in as many minutes. “Snap out of it, Carmen,” she whispered, “no one saw you. No one knows. No one ever needs to know,” she continued.
Briefly confused, Carmen thought she had been found out- they had come for her. Then she saw that the light had changed and the vehicle behind her was simply alerting her to the fact… if not a little insistently. Breathing a sigh of relief, she lifted her foot off the break and accelerated through the intersection. Her nerves were frayed and she knew it. She was beginning to make mistakes. It was time to pull over and figure out her next move.
Looking around, Carmen saw the sign for a P.F. Chang’s and decided that it would serve her purpose as good as any place. She could pull off there and gather her wits… she had been wanting to try their calamari anyway. Ten minutes and half a cup of jasmine tea later, Carmen was still not feeling any better. What if there was evidence she didn’t know about? What if something, or someone had happened to capture the act on camera? Oh God… what if someone had seen her act and was just bidding their time, waiting for her to get comfortable and then when she had grown complacent- BAM! they came after her? Carmen took another sip of tea half-hoping the hot beverage could soothe away her anxiety.
All her life she had done what she was told, had lived by ‘the book’ so to speak. Now, after one careless mistake she felt as if her entire world was crashing down around her. How could she ever look her mother in the face after what she had done that afternoon?
Carmen suddenly realized what she had to do.
She had to turn herself in. She would face the consequences of her actions…whatever they may be. Throwing back the last of her tea, Carmen paid her bill and walked with stiff resolve towards the door.
On her drive towards the police station, Carmen decided to call her mother to say goodbye. “I don’t understand, Carmen. You are turning yourself in to the police? For what?” Carmen’s mother replied once her daughter had explained her actions from earlier that day and what she planned to do. “Mom, I already told you. I broke the law, and now I am going to turn myself in,” Carmen tried to remain calm. “Carmen, I want you to listen to me. You do not need to go to the police. What you did isn’t that big of a deal, in fact I did it just the other day on the way home from the grocery,” Carmen’s mom said nonchalantly. Carmen couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “People do it all the time,” her mom continued, “I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens. I know this is going to be hard for you to believe, but not everyone follows every rule to the letter, sweetie, especially on the road. People run red lights,” she finished.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: I ran a red light today. I didn’t mean to, I must have been daydreaming (fancy that?) or something and when I looked ahead I noticed the cars around me were slowing down and then I saw it- the stale yellow light. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time, so I accelerated and prayed the intersection didn’t have one of those pesky traffic cameras to capture my misdeed. I always get a little freaked out when I accidently zoom through a light. Like the cops are just lying in wait for me to mess up so they can pull me over or that the motorist around me- the ones who stopped, are judging me and shaking their heads in disgust at my careless driving.
TWO: Finished writing this from my local P.F. Chang’s where I met Andy for a late dinner. He was given a reprieve for the night from the movie he’s been working on and was starving. Since I already ate dinner with my mom and brother who’s in town from Cali, I really wasn’t hungry but figured I would just order some tea and finish writing tonight’s story. Yeah, some tea and…. an order of calamari… AND the flourless chocolate dome cake. Man, I have absolutely NO self-restraint. Oh well, there are worst things than death by chocolate… right?
Love & Squirrels.