I curled my legs next to me like a child and rested my chin on my knees.
“Thanks for rescuing me. I’ve never been inside a police car before.”
My bare feet began adjusting to the sharp coolness of the leather seats.
“Yeah. It’s a lot more cluttered than I thought it’d be. And there are less bad guys and guns.”
He laughed. “I’m Michael.”
“Nice to meet you, Officer Michael. I’m Ann. Sorry you had to pick me up off the side of the road. I never realized that a broken down car situation would feel like watching a horror movie in slow motion. Suuuuuper scary.”
He rolled his eyes. “You kept me from doing all the damn paperwork sitting on my desk. Excuse my language, ma’am.”
My turn to laugh. “It’s okay.”
“What are you doing out here, anyway?”
“I’m moving. Well, in a minute. I’m going home to see my parents for a little bit, then I’m moving to Little Rock, Arkansas.”
“Little Rock, Arkansas? He whistled, low. “You must be in love. Who’s the boy?”
I adjusted my ponytail and glared at him sideways. “Boy? Why would it be a boy? It’s a job. Sometimes girls move for jobs.”
His eyebrows lifted. “A job? You’re moving farther away from your family for a JOB? I’ll tell you what my 50 years have taught me: it’s not gonna be worth it.”
I felt something inside me twist. I paused, trying to swallow the doubt and regret that were surfacing, again. “I hope you’re wrong.”
The blue and red lights screamed noise into our silence.
“What kind of job is it?”
“Ministry. I’m going to be working for a church, loving kids and teaching them about Jesus. And doing arts and crafts, and music.” I hugged my knees. “And… pretty much everything I like to do, really.”
He wrinkled his nose and rubbed his hand over his tightly trimmed buzz cut. “Church? So you go to church a lot, huh?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure they’re going to expect me to be there pretty much every Sunday. And most days during the week.”
He picked up a piece of paper with the words ARREST WARRANT typed in large block letters at the top and swatted me on the head. “Smartass. You remind me of my daughter.”
“She must be awesome.”
His eyes instantly became murky, and he bit his upper lip, buying time. “She’s…” He exhaled slowly, his breath rustling the papers strewn across dashboard. “She’s…” he tried again.
“She’s… she’s about your age. But she… she’s… she’s on drugs. It’s bad.”
I waited, watching his eyes. He stared straight ahead.
“She dropped off my grandkids 2 months ago.”
“Dropped off?” I felt my hands clench into fists.
“Dropped off at my house. I hadn’t seen her in 2 years, and she came to my house and told me she couldn’t be a mother. And-“ his voice cracked. He swallowed, hard.
My heart screamed in pain. My hand lifted, on its own accord, and closed over his.
He blinked twice, and set his jaw. “And now I’m raising them. And it’s fine.”
“It doesn’t sound fine. It sounds really hard.”
The lights flashed two, three, four times.
“It is hard.”
“I’m sorry. About your daughter. And about… and that life is hard, sometimes.” I spit the words out, knowing they were the wrong ones.
He snorted. Laughter? Oh… tears.
“It’s odd, that life works this way. That beauty can come out of sh- out of bad situations.”
I smiled at his attempted censorship. “It is odd. The beauty is your grandkids? They’re fun, huh?”
His eyes shone with tears, and joy. “Ahh, they all right, I guess. I forgot the energy it takes to raise kids. They’re exhausting.” The corners of his mouth turned up. “Fun’s the right word, though. They’re pretty damn fun.”
A car whizzed by, slowing only slightly at the sight of red and blue blinking.
He turned his head to look at me. “Do you pray?”
“What?” I didn’t understand his question for a moment, then I felt my bruised heart beat fast.
“Do you pray? At the church ministry thing you do, do you pray?”
“Yes. And at other times, too.”
His aged fingers tapped the steering wheel nervously. “Like now?” He looked out his window, as though he had posed the question to someone else.
I curled my fingers around his, and asked My Creator to hear my heart. Hear Officer Michael’s heart. Hear past my limited words and limited sentences and limited language.
… amen.” I looked up at his tightly clenched eyelids. “Would you like to pray?”
Eyes still closed, he pursed his lips while he considered it. “Okay.” He cleared his throat. “God, please help me to do a good job with these kids. Please help them feel like I love them. I mean, I do love them. Sometimes it’s just really hard because I’m so tired. So, God, I want them to feel me love them more, I guess. And also, I want to try and forgive my daughter. And myself. So, that’s about all for right now. Uh, Amen.”
It was the simple and perfect prayer of a child. In a 50-year-old body.
My eyes locked with his as the same tear slid quietly down 2 different cheeks. For one breath, time stood still.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
And then a shadow fell behind us as a tow truck pulled into position. I pushed open the car door, and the heat rushed in with vengeance.
“You ready ma’am?” The gangly 20-year-old called out to me from beside my car.
“Yes!” I shouted back. My barefeet touched the grass. “My shoes!”
Officer Michael lifted them to me.
“Thanks”. I slid them on. “Thanks much. You know, for rescuing me and all that. And for… and for sharing that stuff. Thanks for being a real human.”
His eyes looked somewhere over my shoulder, and then slowly found mine. He lifted his well-worn hand and covered mine, squeezing gently.
“MA’AAAAM? ARE. YOU. READY?”
The lights flashed as Officer Michael pulled away, taking my regret and doubt with them.
My eyes followed his car. “I’m ready” I whispered softly. I lifted my eyes to My Creator, and I realized I was.
“It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it” -A.W. Tozer