“I think that’s everything.” Gary shoved our suitcase into the car and slammed the door shut. It was time for our long drive north from Palo Alto to our rural community 200 miles north.
That morning I felt great. I was buzzing from the steroids they pumped into my system the day before along with chemo meds.
Climbing into the passenger seat, I checked my wig in the vanity mirror. It had a tendency to slant, so I gave it a tug. Perfect. It was itchy, but I loved how it covered my bald head. Even in the car the wig made me feel more whole.
Chemo treatments offered Gary and me time together. It was a rare treat because we lived far away from family who could care for our little one when we wanted a date night. Every two weeks though, when we made our pilgrimage for cancer treatment, my sister stayed with Lauren. Chemo is not on anyone’s top ten list for a date, but we enjoyed the uninterrupted hours of being a couple.
“I’m desperate for a new pair of jeans,” I told Gary. Our town’s population of 900 didn’t include many retailers, certainly none that sold jeans. My only pair was splattered with stains acquired over the last decade. “Maybe we can stop at the mall while we’re among the civilized.” I looked out my window and saw the blur of shops.
“Let’s see how you feel in an hour,” Gary replied. Sometimes chemo took its toll during our drives. Leaving Palo Alto, I’d be a jittering ball of energy — all hyped up like an over-caffeinated millennial. By Santa Rosa, I’d start crashing. Gary would have to haul me out of the car when we finally made it home.
Traffic slowed to a stop and I flipped on the radio. It was going to be another long crawl up the 280 Freeway.
Once we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and hit the 101, our speed picked up. “There’s a Macy’s just around the bend,” Gary said. “We can stop if you want.”
I yearned for new jeans, but unlike almost every woman I know, I hate to shop. I’d rather clean my oven than shop for clothing, but I couldn’t put my legs into those worn out pants one more time.
“I don’t know,” I said, dreading the reality of entering a mall.
Excuse needs Cheeky Chat
“The exit is coming up,” he said. “You have to decide.”
“Um, yes, I do want to stop.” Gary swerved into the exit lane.
“No, I changed my mind. I hate malls.” Gary swerved back out.
We followed this sequence a few more times, then both saw the flashing red lights at the same time.
Gary pulled over swearing under his breath, and I watched through the rear view mirror as the cop strode to the passenger door. As he walked, he pulled out a book and poised a pen.
“Let me do the talking!” I whispered.
I glanced in the mirror one more time, cringed, then whipped off my wig and threw it in the back seat like a World Series seventh-game fastball. Gary’s mouth dropped.
“License and registration please.” The cop looked like a teenager.
I watched his eyes go from his book to my bald head and do a double take. They lingered uncomfortably and his expression changed.
“Sorry, Officer. I just had chemotherapy and thought I was going to throw up. I asked my husband to pull over, but then my nausea subsided. That’s why he was weaving.”
The fresh-faced cop was at a loss for words. My earnings dangled in the open air, and I looked into his eyes earnestly. The poor guy didn’t know what to do.
“Oh, um, ma’am, um, miss, um, I’m really sorry. How much further do you have to drive?” Cars whizzed past us in the other lane. I put my hands on my stomach and spoke in a near whisper.
Gary reached for his paperwork, but the officer told him to forget it. “I’ll pray for a full recovery for you and your family,” the policeman said, giving our beat up truck a pat on its filthy door. “You’re good to go.”
Gary made sure to signal as we pulled back into traffic, and I started giggling like a school girl in church. It was one of those uncontrollable, guilty laughs that just won’t stop.
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