I blinked at the flashing lights behind me. My stomach tightened. “I don’t think I was speeding.”
My two young daughters sat in the back seat staring. My eldest glanced out the window. “Are we getting arrested?”
“We haven’t done anything wrong.” I laughed.
The officer marched up to my window in full uniform. “Your plates are expired.” His stern gaze was framed by a dark complexion.
“Oh no,” I said.
We had just moved to an apartment, I started a new job, and filed for divorce. Bills popped out at me like monsters in a horror movie. I had forgotten about updating my plates. The reminder of yet another expense hit me hard. I braced for the ticket hoping the penalty fee wouldn’t be too high.
The officer cocked his head as if ready to listen so I told him a little bit about what was going on. He nodded. “I’ll give you a week to get this straightened out.”
I breathed heavy and forced out a smile. “Thank you so much. I’ll get it taken care of right away.”
The officer walked back to his squad car, but instead of finding relief in getting out of a ticket, the stress overcame me. A cement of emotions submerged my head, ready to conceal me in the hard truth: I was on my own.
It felt like everything that could go wrong would. I gasped for air trying to hold back the tears but they rushed out like escapees. The pain gripped me. Everything fell away and I sat in my car more alone than I had been in years.
The officer came back up to my window. “Are you okay?”
Embarrassed and ashamed I wiped my eyes.
He leaned in. “I don’t know what you’re going through, but it’s okay.” He placed his hand near mine and I gripped it.
“I’m sorry. It’s just a lot right now.”
He squeezed my hand and let go. “Do you need me to call someone for you and your kids?”
I covered my mouth and glanced back at them. Neither saw me cry often and both leaned forward. “It’s okay mommy.”
I sniffled and sat taller. “No. I’ll pull over to the gas station for a minute.”
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yeah. We’ll be alright. Thank you.”
He waited for us to get to the gas station across the street before he left. I shook my head. I had never cried at getting pulled over before. It made me feel weak and stupid. My daughters sat in silence.
I glanced at their curious faces. “I’m sorry girls.”
My eldest smiled at me. “It’s okay mommy. We’re dealing with a lot of changes.”
I heard myself in her words. It made me laugh. Her face glowed with wisdom.
“Are you sure you’re only five?” I asked.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m one-hundred.” She giggled.
“Me too.” I smirked at her. Thankful for the cop’s generosity I thought about how different the situation was from everything the media portrayed: A black officer pulling over a white single-mom and comforting her.
It reminded me that no matter how many things go wrong there are always people willing to offer moments of peace and kindness. I breathed deep and my lungs relaxed. Somehow I knew we would be okay…
I’ve felt the need to spread this account for ages. It’s not political or divisive enough for most magazines, but my main focus in life is always togetherness. Whenever I absorb too much negativity online or in the news, getting back to the real world always put everything in perspective.
I’ve submitted this piece to numerous publications. Some showed interest but eventually went a different route. That’s the biz, but I do see quite a disparity and a bias towards publishing pieces that alarm, anger, or depress over those that uplift.
Now, my Monday morning posts are often centered around current events, and sometimes I do get a bit political, but I have never and will never push narratives that destroy our hopes and dreams for the future. We need to remember these kind of moments. The stereotype breakers, the best of humanity, and just those times of peace and serenity.
Getting pulled over for having expired plates during a divorce is not the worst thing to happen to me by far. I’ve been homeless, physically and sexually assaulted, and more.
The reason this piece is so dear to me is that it represents all the things that the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge: decency, kindness, and love for humanity. It does not always have to be our “darkest times” that bring out the best in us; sometimes all it takes is a little relief from the stress and pressures of life.