It was freezing as I make my way to the bus stop, but that wasn’t the only reason I stuffed my hands in my pockets and kept them there. For the majority of my life, I thought I was severely shy. So shy to the point I’d be stuck in the moment and couldn’t speak. There were so many passing moments, I should have spoken up about something, but every time, my voice escapes me. So many things I should have done, but my body would become paralyzed with an unknown fear.
Later in life, I found out I was diagnosed with panic disorder and anxiety. Everything keeps me on edge. That’s why I keep my hand in my pockets. My right hand constantly caressing the content inside. I stay ready; that way, I don’t have to waste any time getting ready.
I round the corner as my heart beats faster, pumping blood throughout my entire body. My eyes are wide open, and I’m alert as can be. This isn’t the best neighborhood to walk in alone, but it also isn’t the worst. I’d probably have these same emotions walking inside a gated community.
My ears pick up the most silent of things. For instance, I’m sure I could hear an ant burrowing under the ground as I walk past. A dog barks in the distance. It’s faint like he’s barricaded inside the house, but it still causes me to jump, which throws my anxiety into overdrive. I squeeze my fingers around the object inside my pocket, ready to pull it out and use it at any moment. It’s the only protection I have. I wouldn’t feel safe at all without it.
It’s so cold out here, my breath turns the air in front of me to that which resembles smoke. I see the bus stop up ahead, which makes me feel calmer, knowing my destination is only a few feet away. I try to slow my steps, thinking it would also slow my heart rate as I implement my breathing techniques.
I can hear a car in the distance, probably going a little faster than it should in a residential area. It creeps me out because I don’t see it yet, and then it rounds the same corner I’d just turned.
“WHOOP! WHOOP!” That loud piercing sound stops me dead in my tracks and freezes me. Only my physical movements because everything else inside my body again kicks into overdrive.
The car comes to a rolling stop right in front of me with the cop car just behind it. In my head, I’m screaming to myself to just get the heck away from there and keep going. This isn’t my business. Once again, my hand squeezes the safety net inside my pocket. My mind shouts for my body to move and continue to make my way to the bus stop, but it’s as if my shoes have turned into cement blocks. If I don’t hurry, I will miss my bus.
Nonetheless, I’m frozen with fear. Fear of the situation unfolding in front of me. Fear of leaving and fear of staying. The guy in the driver’s seat easily resembles one of my sons or even nephews. The cop approaching the car also resembles a few of my family members who wear the same uniform. We all are well aware and informed on how this scenario usually plays out. I pull my protection half-way from my pocket, making sure I have a firm grip on it.
The officer pumps his chest out as he saunters over to the driver’s side. Feeling instantly agitated, he knocks on the frostedwindow. He shouldn’t have to do that because it should be common sense that he can’t have a proper conversation through the closed glass. His senses heightens, feeling this stop could bepotentially dangerous. “License and registration,” the cop barks as the driver only cracks his window open a smidgeon. What is he trying to hide? The cop thinks to himself as he places a palm on his side, firmly gripping his protection. (I get it. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.)
The guy inside the vehicle catches a glimpse of the cop resting his hand on the gun inside the holster. “Why did you pull me over?” The driver shouts through the slit in the glass.
I’m sure all of our hearts were beating out of our chests at the moment.
“Step out of the vehicle with your hands up!” The officer yells as he takes a step back and brandishes his weapon in front of him, pointing directly at the driver’s window. Anxiety pumps through his veins as he watches for any sudden movements.
“I’m not getting out! Why did you pull me over?” The man in the car is filled with fear himself as he sees the barrow of the gun. Anxiety takes over him and he hovers his right foot over the gas pedal. His flight or fight senses kicking in as his fingers tightly grip the steering wheel. He’s contemplating his chances of zooming off and taking flight.
The cop removes the stick from his side, ready to bash the driver’s window in. That’s when I pull my hand from my pocket and aim. Who do I shoot? The cop? Or the man in the car? I can’t decide, so I shoot them both.
“STOP!” I yell with every fiber of my being, it had even shocked me. From my single voice, the world had come to a halt. Nothing moved or made a sound. Even my camera phone I was holding in my hand had stopped recording and paused.
I make my way towards the police officer and hold my paused phone up to him. I can see everything…
Officer Churchill had lost his partner not too long ago in a routine stop, just like this one. It should have ended in a warning or worst-case scenario… a ticket. Not someone’s life ending. Not only did his partner lose his life but also the person who had taken his partner’s life. That day, Officer Churchill had to make a split decision to end a human being’s life for the first time.
Anxiety and panic shoot through his brain, waking up the fear inside him as he walks to the driver’s side. Inhaling a deep breath to soothe his nervousness, his chest puffs out. “License and registration,” Officer Churchill asks the driver as flashbacks of that day rush through his thoughts. The driver only cracks the window instead of rolling it down completely. Red flags go up, alerting Churchill that this guy was trying to hide something. Drugs? Weapons? He couldn’t be sure because he couldn’t see anything clearly through the frosted glass.
Insubordination. It was the first clue that this guy may be a problem. I take the phone away from the officer and direct it towards the driver.
Derrick had gotten a call from his son, who lived across town, telling him he’d missed the bus. One goal his son had made since kindergarten was to graduate high school with perfect attendance. Reaching middle school, he had done so thus far. Doing all that he can to help his son maintain that goal, Derrick hops in his car without having enough time to warm it properly and zooms off.
WHOOP! WHOOP! That sound alone sizzles fear like electric shocks throughout Derrick's body. Silently cursing to himself, he pulls over to the side of the road. For sure his son would be late now. The officer approaches as Derrick clicks the button to roll the window down, but because the car is still icy, the window only gives a little.
“Why did you pull me over?” Derrick asks with adrenaline still coursing through his body. He did nothing wrong that he could see that would warrant to be pulled over. He quickly retraces his steps, wondering what he had done.
The cop pulls his gun out and orders Derrick to exit the vehicle. No way was he falling for that trap. He’d seen way too many incidents on social media and even had a close friend lose his life this same way.
If I get out, I’m a dead man. Derrick thinks to himself as panic kicks in his flight or fight senses and hovers his foot over the pedal.
“Listen…” I mutter to myself as I take a few steps back from them both.
We are not each other’s enemy. Fear is.
Perfect love gets rid of fear.
But how do we have perfect love? It can only come from both sides. Both sides must have perfect love for one another, or else fear will kick in and control us all and keep us divided.
I know… it’s tricky because fear saves us too.
Fear also tells us when danger is present.
Maybe fear isn’t the culprit after all. Perhaps it’s panic. Maybe that’s why it’s a disorder. I’ve never heard of or have been diagnosed with fear disorder.
So, if perfect love gets rid of fear… what gets rid of panic?
“Listen,” I whisper as I press the button on my phone and continue to record.
“My window is frozen,” Derrick says, his voice shaking as Churchill lowers his stick from the window. “I can’t even open my door, sir. I had to get in from the passenger’s side.”
“Try the window again,” the officer orders. Derrick rolls the window up, down, up, and then it finally gives way and rolls down completely. “I pulled you over because you were going pretty fast back there in a residential area. It’s icy out here, and it could be unsafe for kids walking to school.”
“I understand officer,” Derrick says and briefly explains why he was in a rush.
“I will let you go with a warning this time on the premise you drive safely.”
“Will do, sir.”
My heart jolts when I hear a screech and a whooshing sound. I gasp as I turn my head and see my bus awaiting me. I smile and place my phone back into my pocket and board the bus.
“Good morning,” the bus driver grunts. “It’s a bad day out today.”
“No sir,” I smile back at him. “It’s a good day, but it is freezing out there.” I have a seat and slide my hand back in my pocket, gripping my phone tightly. Ready and waiting.