Safety: a short story

It had happened many times before, but not in over a year, and something was different this time.

Before, it was the kind of thing that sent his heart reeling to recover, like a narrowly avoided collision at 70 miles an hour. This time, there was a new rush; a fresher, cleaner one. Pure and serene it was; the subtle kind of creeping joy like sitting at a baseball game on a day off from work. Behind him, the red and blue still pulsed in rampant waves, but whatever physiological response his body had Pavlovianly learned over the past ten years was suddenly and wonderfully absent. There was no worry now, no secret buried in the rubbish of his back seat waiting to be unearthed, no stash of the illicit, no fear of discovery. No foul would escape his breath, and no engorged tributaries of red would be noticed in the floodplain of his sclera. Now there was only a smile for the officer, only genuine wonderment at the reason for the stop.

“Sir, the reason I pulled you over is because your brake light is out. May I get your license and insurance please?” Another smile, not in the least disingenuous, and he confidently pulled out the requested documents. He had to unfasten his seatbelt to retrieve them, but he did not hesitate to hand them over, for he was unashamed of what they could indicate. The date on the insurance was months away, and the license would reveal no unresolved business when swiped through the scanner in the patrol car.

Patiently he waited, not annoyed, not bothered, a cool breeze whipping through his open window refreshing his face.

The officer returned a minute later, having written out a warning for the brake light. He accepted it gladly, gratefully, almost gleefully. As he drove off, he smiled again. How different, how sublimely new! Somewhere inside in that moment, for reasons he could not fathom, some phenomenon deeper than his understanding was occurring: some piece of time was freezing, slowing to still, verging on and almost touching the eternal…

And then it was gone, and he could hardly remember what he been happy about in the first place. Before he realized it, he was home, and the rest of his evening was pleasant and uneventful.

***

The next day he took his car to the shop to get the light replaced. When the job was done, he paid for it with debit, and popped in to head back home. It would be a while before anyone would pull him over again, he knew. He was slightly saddened by this for some reason, and felt a bit silly and perplexed for being so. But mostly he just felt good. The windows were down, the day was mild, the breeze faint, and the drive home quite peaceful.

***

A few minutes later he would forget the whole incident almost entirely, but not quite. In years to come, on certain breezy spring evenings, he would still smile for no reason at all.

***

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

–  Psalm 119 : 165

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