Friday, January 13, 2006

The speed of obsession

I drove out to a friend of mine's yesterday for lunch, because he was having a crap day and needed the company, and I needed human contact. On my way out there, I'm zooming down a major highway, singing along with a fabulous local rock band, and the next thing you know, there's a cop coming down the offramp to my right. I'm busted, and I know it. I pulled over before he even had a chance to turn his lights all the way on. He gets out of the car with a smile on his face, and walks up to my window.

"Did you know you were going 90 under that overpass?" Ninety? I was going at least 95, but sure, I'd take the favor.

"No Sir, I did not. 90 huh? Yeah, 90's pretty fast." I passed him my license and settled in to wait. As I sat there, worrying the steering wheel with my fingertips, I remembered my "former life", before I went overseas, before I came back as somebody else. I remembered some one else getting in trouble with the law...

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Bentley* was 32 when I was 19. He was tall and stunningly slim, with ink-black hair, deep, penetrating eyes, and olive skin. He was slick, articulate, graceful, and refined. He was gorgeous, and I was in love. Actually, I was more than in love... I was obsessed.

Bentley worked long, impossible hours at a difficult, thankless job. He liked to watch sports in the evening, was a pretty darn good cook, and would come up with the sweetest, most thoughtful surprises at random. He was also unreliable, emotionally distant, impulsive, and childish. We had the type of emotionally-intense, dramatic relationship they write sap romances about. We loved each other passionately at night, and in the morning, I'd whine that I didn't see him often enough, or long enough, or that I wasn't an important enough fixture in his life, or any number of other things that young women try to lace men down with. With Bentley, that was relationship suicide. I don't know why he kept me around for as long as he did. I was cloying, and needy, and I just couldn't understand why he couldn't drown in me the way I wanted him to.

So... on to the story. He was having a night out with his co-workers, and I wasn't invited. He was supposed to call on his way home from the bar. I waited up until nearly 3am (the bars in my area close at 2), and the phone never rang. When I called the next morning, he didn't pick up. I didn't actually hear from him until mid-afternoon the following day.

Apparently, he'd been pulled over on his way home from the bar. Bentley wasn't a heavy drinker, but he wasn't the most aware drinker, either. There were a lot of times he stumbled through the front door and I gave him hell because he shouldn't have been driving. This, apparently, would have been one of those times. He'd failed a breathalizer test at a standard sobriety checkpoint. He'd been arrested, of course, and issued a DUI. His license had been confiscated. His precious cherry-red Lexus had been impounded.

Bentley could have said:
"Maybe I shouldn't have had that last drink," or,
"Maybe I should've waited longer before I got behind the wheel."

But he didn't. He said the test wasn't performed correctly, that the police officer didn't inform him of all his options, that, despite the fact that he was, in fact, driving under the influence, that it didn't matter, because the test was invalid. He said whatever it took to get the charges dropped and the DUI dismissed.

I never could look at him quite the same, after that. It was the beginning of the end...
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So I sat in my seat, fingers plucking at the strings in the steering wheel, thinking that I could talk myself out of this ticket, if I really wanted to. But I didn't. I didn't even try.

Why? Because the cop was just doing his job. Because I really WAS speeding excessively. Because I deserved the ticket ($168, by the way). Because I drive fast regularly, and it makes sense that I should pay more for my insurance because of it.

Because accpeting the consequences of my actions is the right thing to do, and that's reason enough for me.

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