Integer Vitae

Okay, so this morning I left my apartment wearing a yellow t-shirt and mismatched red and blue socks. As in, one red (more of a maroon, really), one blue (indigo). But it’s the primary colors, you understand: I knew today was going to be momentous. Let me just start by saying that about the only thing I feel any twinge of guilt over is pulling into my apartment complex parking lot with my music playing a little too loud for the community. But I really don’t know what it sounds like on the outside (awesome) of my car, so I couldn’t tell you. Aside from that, I have a clean conscience, legally speaking. But as I approached my car, I noticed an officer on a motorcycle pull down my street. I get in my car and see as I pull out the driveway that he’s idling about three or four car lengths up from my door. Spoiler alert: I am beginning to feel what would be the edges of an anxiety attack. So I pull up and parallel park in front of my door and run in for a bottle of water and to blow my nose, not so much because these things are needed but because I am subconsciously hoping he might be gone once I get out, see if maybe he might not be waiting for me. As I cross the grass and re-enter my car, a second-nature sense of being observed comes over me. Sure enough, I pull out into thin traffic and he does the same, right behind me. I am followed for two lights and after he takes a small opening from the number two lane to pull around and in front of me, he weaves through the rest of the traffic and turns right, after stopping briefly at the red.

I am numb. The only thing I know to do is go to the source so I head downtown and stop in to the police station, pausing for a moment on the sidewalk a block away to deposit my almost-late jury duty summons response (“get back to me in a few months”). Aside from the aforementioned noise-ordinance worry, this would have been the only other thing that might’ve been cause for concern. But I mean, would they really send an emissary to chide me for not getting back to something so innocuous as jury duty? I’m overthinking this. So I walk into the station and step up to the window, knowing—as I did driving over—that I have the right to “face my accusers”,  to call to task anything that might include or involve me against my will. The kind woman behind the glass put me at ease and narrowed down the officer in question. I think back to him pulling around me on the main road, coiled black wire stretching from his headset to a battery pack on his belt, and turning off and remember a short story idea I had many years ago. Of a lone demon accosting a simple peasant’s family, landing on his roof and causing a ruckus (I mean, what more can they do?). But the scary thing was that it portends—as the demon would have been more of a lowly sub-pawn—something, uh, momentous. Powerful, cosmic, whatever. Like a war raging all around but that the person in question is ignorant of. She tells me that I can call dispatch and either have him meet me at the station or else give them my number and he’ll call. I elect to do this and the lady at dispatch helps me as well. I’m feeling better and as I take a seat across from the window begin to feel, in spite of the cameras watching and the plainclothes officers coming and going, pistols-on-hips, much better. Five minutes pass, then ten, and I figure I’ll just have him call me. I get up to leave but choose to walk back through the door and thank the woman behind the glass. She starts: “Oh! He radioed five minutes ago to tell me he’s on his way! I should’ve told you, sorry!” So I again choose to stay but realize I’d already told dispatch to have him call me. Now I’m putting him through the paces—and I don’t mean to imply that the officer is in any way like a demon (God bless him). So the anxiety has faded (I already intuit that this has been an excursion in futility) and now a sense of foolishness attempts to set in. And so I take the bench, more akin now to a child waiting outside the principal’s office than some self-interested and overly concerned citizen. Five minutes pass and the door to my left opens and out steps this tall, powerfully built man with close-cropped gray hair and ice blue eyes that could melt steel. An air about him as if he were pulled from something exceptionally more important, which he was. He wouldn’t shake my hand. I ask him politely what the deal was earlier and he gave me the honest response. After a couple other terse exchanges, I apologize and thank him for obliging me. He turns and exits through the door from which he came. I waved with my whole left arm as I exit ashamed, not choosing to thank or apologize this time (sorry). The constituent thoughts of the past half-hour blending into something resembling a thorough shame colored with my ever-present self introspection based in what is “normal”. You’ve gotta know that I imagine all the stuff those involved would be saying about me in the wake of this ridiculous exercise. Around this time I realized what had happened: anxiety attack.

But here’s the thing. I am this close to cresting what would have been my ultimate downfall. I am this close (holds up thumb and forefinger, really) to digging out of a past, not colored or checkered or anything, but really hard. And anything along the lines of what I was anxious, panicking over this morning doesn’t need to happen. The polarization of the parts in question (I see a police officer outside my house so I go down to the station to interrogate) is actually pretty drastic. But then again, I knew something was up when I left the house dressed like that.

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