It’s not really an unknown fact that I frequent several of the cemeteries around Pittsburgh nearly every day. Cemeteries are my favorite places to jog, to have some peace, to just be. Henry, finally realizing that he receives less bitching/nagging phone calls on days that I get to go on these cemetery runs, has been making concessions to enable me to take a break from Chooch and go to my happy place.
The one I went to yesterday morning is the more deserted of the handful of area graveyards I’ve claimed as second homes. Occasionally, there might be a maintenance man here and there, driving around on his mower, making my skin crawl with the promise of rape. But it’s very rare that I encounter any human life form other than the type that stinks of sweat, gasoline, and molestation.
So imagine, as I stood outside my car all a’pretzel in my pre-run stretches, the fear that ricocheted off my heart when I heard a wet snuffling approaching to my left. It was accompanied by a frenzied panting interspersed with grunts and a soft jangling of chains. I caught a quick glimpse of a shock of black hair.
Ducking behind my car, my first thoughts were:
- Someone is taking their Team Jacob idol-worship way too seriously
- This sounds akin to Henry, being released from a cage after being fed nothing but porn and Pop Rocks for a week. (They used to do that to him in the SERVICE!)
- I am about to witness my first zombie and I hope to god it’s not a child one but I think it’s really going to be a child one
It was a dog. Just some black dog being walked by a girl in (really short) yellow shorts. I laughed a little to myself and began the very scientific process of applying my suntan oil. But my heart never really had the chance to recover from its WE ARE ABOUT TO DIE NOW Indian drum beat; a cop car coasted up behind me as I was making sure I had ample coverage on the back of my neck. The car slowed its a pace a little as it became parallel with me and my car, then it made the first right, crawling slowly, gravel crunching and twigs cracking beneath its wheels amplified in my paranoia-filled head.
I have a strong dislike for cops. Some might say I even HATE them, but let’s pretend there might be a cop reading this who isn’t a complete fucker and I will try to remain unbiased. But cops and me? We’ve got a pretty storied past.
I was expecting him to turn right onto one of the smaller arteries that would lead him back out of the cemetery, but instead, he turned around so he was perpendicular to my parked car, and backed up into the shadows where the road is cut off by a guardrail. (The rest of that road is crumbling down a hillside. I like to walk on it because I am THAT dangerous.)
“OK, he’s turning around,” I thought, and then realized if that were the case, he’d be driving right past my car in a way where my OUT OF DATE inspection stickers would be visible. So I’m trying to be all casual about this, all “Doo do dooo,” walking stiffly to the front of my car and laying my sun tan lotion and water bottle across the expired stickers with the motion of a robot up to no good.
And then I ran away.
I tried to shake it off, to stop looking like I had a body stowed in my trunk (because who would be at home watching Chooch if that were the case), and proceeded to just enjoy my time in the cemetery. I was down in the lower section, Dance Gavin Dance keeping me all motivated, when I started to ascend a hill and noticed that the cop car was still parked in that dead-end corner. I shook it off again, and lost sight of it for awhile.
But then I came up one of the paths that was parallel to where he was parked, but lower so that I couldn’t see the car just yet. I’m walking along this path and my mind starts churning. I start wondering if there’s something going down. The four main cemeteries I like to walk in are all smack in the middle of the North Side, which is not the best area in Pittsburgh. At all. What if I’m about to be an innocent bystander in some sting operation gone awry? Would I even be able to hear the gun shots with headphones on and one bad ear? (My right ear is in the middle of A Saga right now. This morning I actually looked for a doctor before giving up after five minutes!)
Finally, the path I was on intersected right in front of the cop car. I turned a quick right so that I was walking away from the cop. I could feel that I was wearing my shoulders as earrings, which is typical “Erin is nervous/guilty/tense” fashion. My arms were locked at my sides. I looked less like I was on a casual jog through the cemetery and more like I was being escorted to the gas chamber.
Act casual, act casual, act casual. The more thought I put into it, the more I walked like some leg-braced orphan from 1935.
This particular cemetery isn’t that big, so I inevitably had to be near him again. But this time, I was more curious than frightened, so I pulled my headphones off, perched my sunglasses on my head so he could see my eyes and not feel inspired to shoot, and approached the drivers side of the car with purpose.
And then I spoke to him. It went exactly like this:
Me, in a tone that sounded kind of bitchy even though it wasn’t my intent: “AM I OK BEING HERE?” Seriously, nervous situations make my octave raise involuntarily. I’m a walking suspect.
Him, smiling (OMG cops smile??): “You’re fine. I’m just sitting here reading a book until I get my next call.” He gestured at the big red hardback propped against the steering wheel. He didn’t appear to have a tattered copy of Hustler tucked inside the pages, either. (OMG cops READ??)
Me, laughing nervously, fidgeting with the wires of my headphones, practically asking to be arrested: “OK I WAS JUST MAKING SURE, YOU WERE FREAKING ME OUT (COME SEARCH MY CAR NOW I SWEAR I DON’T HAVE 48956 KILOS AND A DEAD MEXICAN IN A TARP)!”
And then we both laughed. I turned stiffly on my heel and stalked away.
How refreshing! A cop who was not only pleasant, but reading a BOOK and not a menu at a donut joint. The first thing I noticed about him was that he bore a striking resemblance to Eric Van der Woodsen from “Gossip Girl.” Also, he didn’t have that perma-sneer marring his mug like most cops do. (Are they born that way, or do they learn that shit at the Academy?) I never thought I’d see the day that I not only exchanged pleasantries with a police officer, but I shared my haven with one.
Me, little old Oh Honestly, Erin, had a conversation with a cop that didn’t involve Tourettes-level cursing and end with a fat fine.
I did a few more laps. He was still sitting back there reading as I got ready to leave. When I drove away, I beeped two staccato “goodbyes” to him, and then giddily laughed at the fact that I acted like a real person in front of a cop and not some daughter of a fallen Mafia don out for vengeance.
I wish I had asked him what book he was reading. It was probably just some library copy of Twilight.