Three police cars surrounded us. I sat at the wheel of my car waiting to be told what to do and dazzled by all the flashing lights. All that–for me!
An officer told me to get out of my car. I told my passenger, K., to keep quiet. Keeping K. quiet ever was a challenge. Keeping a drunk K. quiet was a feat. One time she and a friend simulated sex on the side of a busy road. I didn’t need her vying for more attention when she wasn’t even 21.
I stood next to my Chevy hatchback, pulled over on the main drag through town. It was late on a Monday night. The officer who asked for my license was short, heavyset, and bald. He had me follow him to the back of my car and his headlights illuminated us for the world. He looked up at me, his hands on his hips. “Have you been drinking?”
“No, sir.” Then I remembered tasting a friend’s drink. One sip. Maybe he could smell that? “Well, I had a sip–”
“Don’t lie to me. You lie to me and I’ll take you to jail.”
“You were at that bar back there, weren’t you?”
“Yes, sir, but just to pick up my friend.”
“You’re from Florida?” He pointed to my Florida plates.
“You want to know why we stopped you?”
I wanted to ask why it took three police cars to stop a 21 year old college girl. “Yes, sir.”
“You did this.” He made this gesture with his hand as if he were brushing hair out of his eyes. “Thought you might be drunk or hysterical.”
“Oh. Well…” I had no idea how to respond.
“And you were going 40 in a 30. Did you know that?”
“Now I want you to get in your car and drive home. Do you understand me?”
“If you go anywhere else, if you don’t go straight home, I’ll know and you’ll be in big trouble. Now where are you going?”
He nodded. “I’ll find out if you’ve lied to me.”
“And no speeding.”
I was shaking when I got back in my car.
You think you know what you’re writing until someone comes along and points out the things you didn’t know were in your words. You look back over what you’ve done. “Really?” you might ask. Now, most readers are sharper than a man who thinks a girl brushing her hair out of eyes is actually in trouble or up to no good, but that doesn’t mean that a line I put down without thinking, won’t be the line another soul picks up and sees in a whole new way.
This could freeze you up. Every word has to count, they teach you writing class, but if I think too much about that, I wouldn’t write at all.
What have you written that has been misunderstood? Did that misunderstanding make you see your work in a new way that made you happy? Or did it just tick you off?