accomplice

My mother and I are driving home from my brothers’ new apartment after delivering groceries. I had been there before and am giving her directions, but we make a wrong turn. It’s getting late and we’re lost in a bad area of the city. My mother believes all black people are criminals, she is paranoid the people on the sidewalks are going to rob us. When she sees the sign for Avenue D she screams. She starts driving quicker, until I see a sign for 490. We start to head west, toward home.

She’s tired, and when we reach the end of the expressway she continues speeding though the town of Brockport. I know better than to ask her to slow down, so I just stare out the window. I blink when the car behind us turns on their brights and begins tailgating us—and again when it starts to flash red and blue. My Mother doesn’t believe in the police’s authority. She drives quite a while before pulling onto the shoulder. While we wait she turns to me insisting she wasn’t doing anything wrong and asks if I thought she was speeding. I shake my head—I know that’s the correct answer. When the policeman gets out of his car. My Mother ignores him until he knocks on her window, and even then only rolls it down three inches.

“Can you roll down your window, Ma’am?” My Mother feigns concern, “I don’t know you and it’s late.” He shows her his badge, “Please roll down your window so I can hear you, Ma’am.” She’s annoyed. “I can hear you just fine, so tell me what the hell you want.” He looks shocked. I cover my face and sigh. Oh my god, she’s such an idiot. “You were swerving back there, have you been drinking?” Insulted, she screams at him, “I never drink! I’m just tired, and I want to go home!” He steps back and puts his hand on his side arm, “I’m going to need you to step out of the car, Ma’am.” I start to breathe quicker. She screams, “I just want to go home!” and peels away from the curb.

I can see that her face has gone dark. “What are you doing? Are you crazy? Stop, Mom! Stop! How do you think you’re going to get away with this? He ran our plates, he knows where we live!” She tells me very calmly to shut up. “Are you kidding? This is stupid! What do you think is going to happen here?” She looks at me and growls, “I SAID SHUT UP, HANNAH!” I’m quiet. The policeman follows us for several miles. The speed limit is 55 now and my Mother is going 50. I laugh to myself. The flashing stops, and I look back to see him turn around—we had crossed over into Orleans County. I turn to my Mother, “At least get off the main road, so we’re harder to find.” She does. I guess I’m an accomplice now.

My Mother cuts down the back roads. It’s dark, and we’re the only ones out. We’re close now. Maybe we’ll make it. I see lights in the rearview mirror and my stomach turns. I can’t make out if it’s a police car or not until it speeds up to tailgate us. We reach the main road again and there’s a lamppost, “It’s them, they found us!” She hands me her phone and tells me to call Dad. Home is left, she turns right. I want to tell her she’s going the wrong way, but I’m afraid she’ll slap me. I dial, “Dad! The police are after us, you have to come get us!” I can tell he was asleep. “What? Hannah, what’s going on? Where are you?” My Mother turns again, but we were boxed in. Twelve policemen surround our car with guns drawn, screaming, “Turn the engine off! Hands up, now! Drop the phone! Do it! Now!” I scream, “Norway Road!” and drop it.

I’m sobbing as they pull me out of the car and onto the ground. My face is pressed into the pavement and an officer pats me down. I can see the woods and think about running, but I’m afraid they would shoot me in the back. He cuffs me, and walks me over to his car for questioning. After a while he asks me why she ran. I try to answer, “I don’t know, she’s crazy.” He smirks and asks me how I’m affiliated with her. I look down and mumble, “She’s my Mom.” I can tell he’s surprised when he says, “but you’re so reasonable.” I watched her laying face down in the road with her hands cuffed for a long time. It was surreal. It made sense to me. This is where she belongs.

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