It was a long night sleepless in the valley. I passed the time listening to my radio as I sat down in my favorite park by that old cotton mill. It wasn't long until a patrolling police officer stopped to ask me questions -- his breath reeking of stale coffee. I watched warily as his patrol car pulled up into the Post Office's parking lot and he walked over shining his flashlight into my face.
"Sir, can I see your ID?"
"What for?" I ask, perturbed. I just wanted to be left alone and certainly didn't want to be accosted by one of the city's lapdogs. I was pleasantly minding my own business.
"It is just routine, sir," He replies impatiently. "It is odd for someone to be in the park so late."
I reach into my wallet and hand him my ID.
"You been drinking, sir?"
"You have a commercial driver's license. Do you drive a truck for a living?"
"No," I continued, keeping my answers to the bare minimum.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I am a writer and I am getting up material to write as we speak."
The police officer smiled and handed me back my license.
"I always wanted to do something like that," he told me as he shook my hand.
My tense shoulders slumped when I realized the policeman was just bored and doing his job. He turned out to be a very nice man and I let my guard down.
"Do you have a cell phone?" he asks me before leaving.
"No," I reply. I didn't go into why I wouldn't want one of those infernal devices.
"Great for safety," her furthers. "You could just call us if something happened. You realize a lot of people hang out in the park late at night drinking and up to no good." I have never before seen someone in the park after dark except for myself and I am down here often at night.
"Thanks for the tip," I say brightly, playing along and hoping the policeman would go about his business. I was tired and just wanted the solitude of the park. I wanted to be left alone. I watched as the policeman got in his patrol car and drove off shining his spotlight upon the nearby Post Office. I sighed with relief.
As I sat on my park bench, I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. Racing. I remarked at how nervous I still get around police officers even though I wasn't doing anything wrong. Why? What is up with this feeling? I felt stupid. Why did I act so suspicious? I had nothing to hide. "Guilty until proven innocent," I finally muttered to myself as I thought of the policeman's questions. He automatically assumed I was up to no good until he found otherwise. It is par for the course in this police state we live in after 9/11. It makes me defensive.
I left the park to walk on home stopping by the convenience store to refill my coffee. I bid my favorite clerk good morning and told him of my encounter.
"Just be glad he didn't write you a ticket," the clerk said. "The park is supposed to be closed to the public after dusk."
I sighed in defeat. Just another rule and regulation to take the joy out of something I appreciate so immensely. I will never again be able to sit in that park without worrying about getting a ticket or being bothered. My parade had been thoroughly rained upon this morning.