“Have you been on vacation recently?” The cashier asked as she rang up my orange juice and wine. “No. Why do you ask?” I had to avoid eye contact with her, so I tried to look interested in the disposable cameras just below me at the counter. We were waiting for the credit card machine to kick into gear and to my horror, she was making small talk.
“Your face is so red.” She blurted just as the little machine hummed to life and spit out my receipt. I smiled and shrugged as she pushed the tiny piece of paper forward with a pen for my signature. My hands were so shaky that I didn’t even bother trying to sign my name. I scribbled a few lines, offered her a half smile, grabbed my bag of goodies, and walked out. I hadn’t needed the OJ, but it was 9:15 in the morning. Walking out with only a double bottle of wine that early would have looked bad.
Because it was so early – the store had just opened – the best spots closest to the front door were available. The only closer spot was the handicapped spot. I’d parked right next to the handicapped spot. And when I walked out, a police car was parked in it. It was between me and my car – and the cop was still sitting there. Now, had I been sober instead of in withdrawal, it wouldn’t have mattered that a cop was there. But had I been sober, I wouldn’t have been at the store in the first place. The police car was a huge problem for two reasons and as soon as I saw it, I panicked. I was already going into severe withdrawal – I needed alcohol – immediately, but I was also on probation. I wasn’t supposed to be in withdrawal because I wasn’t supposed to be drinking – and I was carrying wine.
I had to walk behind the cop car to get to my car – where my dog waited attentively. About five feet outside the front entrance, my legs began to give out. I’d never experienced anything like it. My thighs felt weak. I only had about 30 feet to go, but I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it. And if I collapsed, the cop was right there and I’d be in a shitstorm of trouble. So, I told myself to take tiny steps and focus on my dog. “One step, one step, one step, one step, look at Rumi, look at Rumi, get to the car, one step, one step, almost there, almost there.” That’s how I coached myself to the car. Each step was absolutely terrifying.
And the cop watched the whole time. I was walking funny and we both knew it. But I made it and practically collapsed into the driver’s seat. Why had he parked in the handicapped spot when the lot was nearly empty.? And why was he just sitting there? I forced myself to reach into the back seat to pet my dog and as I did, I looked at the cop. We made eye contact for an instant before he looked down and went to work on something in his lap. I opened the OJ and took a long gulp before starting the car. I knew I couldn’t give the officer a reason to pull me over and I only had a mile and a half to go. I remembered that I still had Colorado tags on my car so I backed out instead of pulling forward so that he couldn’t pull me over for those. I made it home.
I was so shaky and my legs were so trembly that I had to scootch down the steps – all 20 – to the front door on my butt.