I’m Not A Serial Killer
“Erica, I absolutely did not say that.”
This was my ever-suffering mother’s response to the punchline of the story I was telling my extended family.
When I’m in crisis, my brain thinks in humor. It’s the cross I bear.
Being arrested, then subsequently bailed out of jail by your parents - of all people - can feel very crisis-ish.
I’m a terrible adult. Good person, bad adult. And I’m semi-ok with that. I’m a bad adult in a way that I have to Google words like “apropos” that I would have probably learned if I had read books in my teen years. I did, however, memorize every episode of VH1s “Behind the Music”.
The Milli Vanilli story is timeless.
For someone who so craved the responsibilities of being grown up as a young girl, I’ve had a full Freudian regression in my 30s.
Which is how I ended up talking about Ted Bundy in the back of a patrol car on my way to jail.
Here’s the blotter:
It’s first really nice weekend in June, and I had just Irish-Goodbyed out of a party whilst choking back tears after arguing via text with my very recent ex-girlfriend over an Instagram post that we both blew out of proportion. You know, as two twelve-year-olds that happen to be in their mid-thirties do.
In my defense, it was also about an hour and a half before I was to get my period, so I was at the zenith of my insanity.
In her defense, dating me is akin to trying to wrestle a greased alligator. A feat not lessened by breaking up.
Can you love someone so much that your heart breaks at the mere thought of their perfect neck, and want to wring it simultaneously?
Sitting in the parking lot I fired off one more three-page text from perched atop my soap-box-saddled high horse. That’s when I shoved my phone into the holder attached to my dashboard.
The pop-cap on the back (given to me as a gift because it has my own face on it, and it’s objectively hysterical), renders the holder in my car slightly less effective.
The phone promptly fell to the floor, and I left it. Adele had just come on, and she may be the only woman in my life who understands me and how I’m a well-intentioned person deep down. She’s never questioned my motives on social media.
As my black cloud of a mood and I pulled away, I heard my mother yelling after me, “Don’t drive upset, you’ll get pulled over!”
This, by the way, is what the kids call foreshadowing.
With the winds of change blowing through my almost too-perfect curls, I switched Adele to something more sedate and educational. As one does. I just wanted to get to my lake house and make myself a lovely whiskey sour and have a good cry whilst looking in the distance at my unattained dreams.
You know, like most Saturdays.
About three miles away, stopped at a long light that I know well, I bent to pick up my phone and put it back in the holder.
And that’s when I saw the lights flashing in my rear-view mirror.
As the officer approached my car, I tried getting my face put back together. No one wants to see me in a short-sleeved men’s button-down shirt crying like a girl.
“No officer, I don’t know why you pulled me over. Yes I have my registration...somewhere. My license may be in my suitcase in my trunk. What do you mean you’re giving me a ticket for not having my license on me? Wait. Ok. Here’s my name and birth date...ok, I’ll take my keys out of the ignition and wait here.”
Being fully immersed in a very active pity party, I just figured I must have missed a reduced speed sign, or something equally benign.
That is until I noticed the second cop flanking the other side of my car, hand atop weapon attached to hip.
“Ma’am, please step out of the car.”
I attended that one scalding hot year of law school fifteen years ago, but weirdly, my brain wouldn’t connect to my body, and I wasn’t sure if I actually had to get out. In my world, with my skin tone, and in my little red 2018 Jetta, this isn’t something on my radar.
I walked toward my trunk, where I was met by both of my arms being grabbed from behind, as I was bent forward into my car.
And not in a fun way.
Now listen, I’m a big girl, which is why I’m genuinely impressed that this little Barney Fife looking mamajamma was able to move me like he did. But seriously, bro, these colors don’t run. You could have just asked me to stand still, and I would have surprised you with just how still one could stand.
I heard him say, “You’re being arrested,” then, “You know what you did.”
And my response was, “Um, I don’t. But be careful with the handcuffs...I have a shoulder injury.”
I don’t know why, but I thought that was a great time to tell them more.
“They think it’s a torn labrum, not the rotator cuff. I don’t want to get an MRI. I’m going to physical therapy. It’s helping.”
I don’t know when exactly I had my first neurological episode, but I do know that no one with a fully working frontal cortex would have discussed their internal rotation of their scapular plane during their roadside arrest.
I was lead to the first officer’s SUV, where the lady cop proceeded to begin frisking me.
Now. What I heard her say through my shock and the pervasive runnel of tears was, “Does anything on you hurt?”
To which I obviously blurted with as much emotion and longing as I could muster with my arms behind my back, “Just my broken HEART.”
“Ok. No. I asked if there is anything on you that will hurt me. Needles? Knives?”
“Oh,” I corrected, finding that ever-so-slightly amusing, “no ma’am, just the heart shards on the inside.”
Quietly chortling at myself, somehow, I almost missed it when she got to frisking The Ladies.
Now, at the time I was 35 and 7/8ths years young. You know for a damn fact I was wearing all the metal brassiere support in three counties to keep The Girls afloat.
So I absolutely ejaculated, “UNDERWIRE UNDERWIRE UNDERWIRE UNDERWIRE!” as if I were ordering an attack on enemy ships in the south pacific.
She did not think for a second that my Balconette was a weapon.
I’m now asked to sausage myself into the back of the police cruiser. I’m not totally sure what compartment syndrome is, but I tell you what, that’s the place to get it.
Just before they shut the door, I leaned about a degree to the right and looked over my tear-logged eyelashes and asked, “Is now a bad time to mention that I know a state trooper?”
“Yes.” Echoed in unison as the door shut.
They must teach that at the academy.
Being left to contemplate my fate, I cried in earnest. Have you ever felt the creeping, cold sensation of shame sliding into your DMs, reminding you that you are truly a screw up? That no matter what you do, or how hard you try, it doesn’t matter because it’ll never be enough. That pit in your stomach which you try to cover up with dating or food or humor or White Claws is actually fear. Fear that you haven’t ended up being who you’re supposed to be.
We delude ourselves into believing that other people buy into our illusion of a blemish-free life, and the potential of curtain being lifted is terrifying.
Sitting with your arms tied behind your back, shoehorned into a plastic jump seat where killers and drug dealers sit, with every item you own taken away from you, those fears looks like fact, and things generally look pretty bleak.
And that’s when I heard it.
The funniest thing to ever come out of my car since the time I beeped my horn by accident at a stop light and was so startled that I simultaneously farted.
As the officer turned my car on in order to roll up my windows, I heard...at the top most possible volume...my Lyndon B. Johnson audiobook.
This is the hardened criminal they nabbed.
And the cloud lifted. I’m not a bad person, I made a mistake.
They came back with my wallet and phone in hand. I was then informed that I had a ticket from 2017 for a registration issue (I had moved), and that my license had been suspended on June 3rd.
It’s June 8th.
Because I was driving sans license, I was being detained and they were going to tow my car.
I was told that I would have to come up with bail or I’d spend up to 15 days in the clink.
Luckily, my begging to let my parents come pick it up as they were down the road didn’t fall on completely deaf ears, regardless of the flop sweat pouring from every inch of me.
It went so well, in fact, that I thought we’d just wait there on the side of the road until my parents came, and together the ‘rents and I would convince Reno 911 that I was raised well, and they would just take me home and cane me, or something.
Well, you don’t get credit for the collar of the century if you send her home with her daddy.
We began the drive to prison.
This was the apex of my bewilderment, stress, dehydration, and the absolute summit of my premenstrual hormones, and also the moment my brain broke.
I leaned as far forward as I could, considering I looked like a sweaty Baby Huey in the back of the Paddy wagon. With my face against the sneeze guard that they have over salad bars and between hardened criminals like myself and cops, my and pushed my lips into the little breathe holes as far as I could.
What happened next can only be described as a series of rapid fire blackouts. Possibly small strokes.
Imagine with me, if you will, my blurting the following in a shaking and apologetic voice. Something like a shy spoken word poet with no audience. Imagine a small shrug at the end of each statement. Imagine that this cop didn’t say one word after anything I said, which honestly only perpetuated the situation. As my family and anyone who has dated me knows, the silent treatment will be filibustered, and I will win.
Then imagine that I look like a just did an eighth of cocaine (it comes in fractions, right?) ((I just Googled cocaine units of measurement...it’s an “eight ball”)) with huge frizzy hair due to humidity and stress and sweat - like a more disheveled Nick Nolte...same shirt.
Imagine. Because all of this actually came out of my mouth.
“Have you ever had a really bad day?”
“Blue lives matter.”
“You know, traffic stops are important.”
“That’s how they caught Ted Bundy.”
“He had a broken tail light.”
“He was in Florida.”
“Serial killers get caught doing the most mundane things, like getting tickets like this.”
“I’m not a serial killer.”
“But I guess that’s what a serial killer would say.”
I now think that I might as well have yelled, “SHOTGUN!” as if I was trying to win the front seat while getting placed in the car.
Unsurprisingly, Officer Speaks So-Little, then leaned his head toward his shoulder and spoke into his little police boy walkie talkie, “Check her trunk.”
At the end of this impossibly long day, my parents and I had to scrape together the exorbitant sum of fifty dollars.
I wasn’t fingerprinted, wasn’t photographed.
I was handcuffed to a bench in a room with drains on the floor, in the middle of a very thick building. He stood perched on a raised floor behind a high counter, where he asked me the strangest questions about my religion, marital status (to which I replied, “Single, if you couldn’t tell”), my weight (#lol), and my job title.
I’m sure I'll get the police Christmas card in the mail this year as a result.
I feel my period come upon me like a whisper from the Archangel of Inconveniences.
The red river floweth, unimpeded.
The villages wept.
I was uncuffed once we made it to the outer shell of the building, and I was led to my parents who were waiting on an olde timey bench underneath two faux gas lamps. They waited with bated breath to hear I had killed a guy, or had several DUIs in multiple countries, or that my cocaine business didn’t take off.
Imagine their horror that their adult daughter was arrested for a ticket that she had been fighting for two years because she’s just stubborn and a little lazy.
And it was then...it was that moment...as we were walking toward our cars….that I heard my mom’s punchline.
Now, is it possible that I misheard her? Absolutely.
Would I make something up for humor purposes? It’s been done.
Did I ignore whatever loving and empathetic thing the likely did say and interject this in its place to keep my brain glued together? Let’s just say that my therapist is rich.
But I swear to the tiny, infant, Jewish baby Jesus that as we took the long walk to our sad cars outside of the clink, I heard my mother say, “You’re already gay, so prison can’t be that bad, right?”
I expect my phone to ring exactly ten minutes after I hit publish on this blog. She’s going to be horrified.
And that’s the moral of the story.
Stop torturing your parents, but always reference Ted Bundy when handcuffed.