Looking back, she should have known burning her bra and leaving more rubber on the road than her tires would have consequences. Oddly, both activities shared similar smells and sense of empowerment. The never ending summer heat and restless thoughts often brought her to this desolate stretch of country road. Driving Daddy’s 1962 Chevy Impala fast and rough, living in his shadow for so many years, she was always chasing his memory around the next bend. She felt him here, watching somewhere from above the low hanging oaks while she recklessly pushed the car deep into the snaking curves.
The sirens and lights of the police car unexpectedly approaching were an unwelcome interruption. She winced at the noise the overgrown summer weeds made scraping and scarring the underbelly of the car. As the officer approached, she assumed it would be the usual horse and pony show: the expected banter of “what’s a nice girl like you doing out alone this late at night,” “license and registration please,” completed by some man old enough to be her grandfather taking one long look at her obvious youthful body.
As expected, officer “what’s his name” seemed to be enjoying the show as she peeled her body free from the black leather seats then almost lying face down while reaching for the glove box. The interior light glowed enough to accomplish the task, but he seemed intent on assisting with his oversized flash light obviously searching the occupant not the car.
Unable to reach and see in the glove box, she blindly felt around knowing the papers were in there somewhere along with empty cigarette packages, a box of travel Kleenex, matchbooks, maps and ketchup packets. She felt the papers at the exact same time she felt the cool plastic frames. Lost in thought she handed the papers out the window with her left hand and in her right she surprisingly held a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.
At first glance, she knew they were Daddy’s glasses. The lenses, smooth and dark, like windows into his soul. This was impossible, Daddy was never without them and she knew he had been wearing them in his final moments. The officer became background noise, drowned out by the flood of memories that instantly replaced everything around her. Closing her eyes, she could feel him near her, his hand gently gliding over her long blonde hair, she could hear the movement of his leather jacket and identified the smell only a child can distinguish as a parent. Then the nightmare that had replaced all that was good, the unexpected explosion of their house, her own guttural screams that were burned into her memory, fatherless at fourteen. She had spent the last ten years chasing a dream, looking for a sign, and now tonight on this lonely stretch of road, she had finally caught up with him.
Officer “what’s his name” returned to find the provocative woman he had pulled over had been transformed by an endless stream of tears rolling down her cheeks, his eyes followed the trail of mascara dripping onto her tight tshirt. Seeming suddenly different, possibly regretting his earlier behavior, he mentioned she reminded him of his daughter about the same age and would let her go with a warning if she would pay attention and move on. Before turning to leave he wrote what she thought was a warning citation, handed it to her and looking deep into her eyes gave her a wink.
As he pulled away, she realized the red and blue lights had been replaced by the soft easy light of early dawn. Suddenly chilled, glancing at the paperwork she unexpectedly found a note. In familiar handwriting she read, “Stop chasing me baby girl because Daddy is with you, put this thing in gear and let’s drive.”
Slowly she opened the sunglasses, polished the lenses on the edge of her shirt, placed them on her face. The car roared to life as she turned the key, making a quick u-turn in the road to face the low hanging sun in the eastern sky. As her true self shimmered in the early light, she put her foot heavy on the gas, eyes wide open, soul free she smiled and softly spoke, “I love you Daddy.”