The first time I ran from police was when I was nineteen. I was in college, still living at home, and my then boyfriend Jamie and I were hard pressed for alone time, away from our families. Consequently, we discovered a number of interesting and not-so-private places to have sex: on a blanket on the shore of Lake Ray Hubbard, in the fourteenth floor men’s room of the Mall of the Americas tower, and in a church playground which, unbeknownst to us, belonged to the Catholic diocese. But more often than not, the solution was to simply park somewhere and climb into the back seat of his mom’s two-door Grand AM. The running joke among our friends (besides that we were both going to hell) was that there wasn’t a parking garage in Dallas we hadn’t had sex in.
Our usual spot was the West Village shopping center in uptown. The garage was four stories, dimly lit, and always packed with foreign luxury cars belonging to the young and wealthy. It was there, parked among the Lexuses and BMWs, that we made love in the back seat of a GM, wrestling in a litter of soggy laundry and empty MacDonald’s bags.
Earlier that summer, we had consummated our relationship on an empty school playground. He was inside me when we heard the sirens, but it wasn’t until the wailing had reached the end of the block that we took off sprinting across the schoolyard like two boys playing flag football, each with an empty pant leg flapping behind us. Still buttoning and zipping and tying, we drove off in the silver Grand AM with its hubcap half missing on the passenger side, sticky cup holders, the smell of french fries and motor oil. Our getaway car, our youth. It shivered when pushed past seventy.
The second time I ran from the police happened a few days after the FBI interviewed me. I was seeing cops everywhere that month–trailing behind me on my way to work, peering at me from behind magazines at the drug store, sipping lattes across from me at Starbucks. I became acutely aware of sirens and flashing red and blue lights. If I saw a posse of uniformed officers ahead of me on the sidewalk, I’d cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. There were times I’d even circle my office building to scope the place out before parking and going inside. I was convinced they were following me. And why wouldn’t they be? I remembered the FBI agent in the hound’s-tooth jacket–the same woman who later testified against me in court–opening a three-inch thick folder with my name written across the front in block letters. “We already know the answers to the questions we’re a=going to ask you,” she said. Inside the folder, I had caught a glimpse of my apartment building. “Don’t leave the country.”
It was the night before Thanksgiving and I was to bring the pumpkin pie to tomorrow’s family dinner. I was short a can of pumpkin and was trying to decide whether to jump out the window or walk down to the neighborhood grocer. I lived on the eighth floor and had remembered a friend once telling me that seven stories was the maximum height a human could fall and still live. I opted not to kill myself. What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?
As I walked out the lobby of my building, I noticed two police cars parked across the street in front of Neiman Marcus. An ambush, I thought. They’ve finally come to arrest me. The cars were empty. Maybe they had already gone up to the apartment and were knocking on my door. I might have missed them on the elevators. I zipped up my jacket and hurried across the street, down Main Street Alley, past the art gallery and empty office buildings. To be honest, I was as excited as I was frightened. I imagined the officers kicking in my door, guns drawn, only to find an empty apartment and preheated oven. One of them, the bad cop, would slam his fist down on my kitchen counter before running back out the door and down the stairwell (not bothering to wait for the elevator) while the other cop, the not-so-bad one, trailed behind calling for backup over his radio: “The Kiddy Fiddler’s on foot. I repeat: we got a hot one.”
After purchasing the can of pumpkin, I walked back home keeping concealed within the shadows of the buildings. It had rained earlier in the day and the pavement shined like copper beneath the street lamps. Neiman’s had their Christmas decorations up. The theme that year was renewable resources, and in one window display was a Christmas tree made of recycled books. The police cars were still parked outside.
When I reached the lobby of my building, I contemplated taking the stairs–no surprises that way–but the elevator doors were already opening. I stood back as two officers emerged. One of them eyed me and looked down at the can of pumpkin in my hand. This is it, I thought. They found me. I braced for the worst: the bad cop spinning me around by the shoulders and slamming me head first into the wall before slapping the cuffs on me. “All right, Joy Boy! Drop the pumpkin!” I should have jumped out the window.
But neither officer said a word. They walked by and out the lobby doors without so much as a “Good evening.”
The pie turned out pretty good.