Officer Alex ruminates on how his feelings about rain have evolved over time
“Oh, yeah, the lack of skid marks was a clue, but the clincher was the open cell phone there.” I squinted my eyes and looked around, and was corrected with a pointed finger. “No, there, right in her hand,” the old traffic cop said. “It’s a clue.” A digital camera made a simulated clicking sound from somewhere behind me and he walked on, shaking his head.
The smell of rain on wet asphalt is a pungent one, and one that’s had a strange evolution in my life. I remember that scent as a young boy and how it reminded me of the summers in California that were perpetually warm and most often sunny.
That smell meant the sun was going to disappear for a moment and I could run around slapping the soles of my kindergarten-age feet on the pavement, trying desperately to make a puddle a quarter of an inch deep splash over my head before the sun took it away again.
As a teenager, I remember it meaning my books and anything outside of my Trapper Keeper was going to get ruined, risking a re-write of something I dreaded doing in the first place.
Later on it meant I had to slow down to avoid a crash…a lesson that wouldn’t have been wasted on today’s customer, I believe, her pale hand now protruding from her Toyota Avalon’s driver-side window, fixed in a pale claw around an old clamshell-style phone I hadn’t seen in years.
It was a happy smell that meant summer and warmth and the fascination of seeing steam rise from the asphalt as the sun began to cook off the water, but now? Now it had an association with premature death. Preventable trauma that had an irreversible effect on both the victim and their families, and after a few years of this? On my family, too, I suppose.
I looked down and saw a trickle of what most people would have assumed was blood moving towards the tip of my boot like a thin and jagged red spear, but this was too dark, of course. Blood from a fatal crash is still oxygenated, it’s bright red; no, this was dark and odorous. Transmission fluid, something that would make the Nozzle Heads working the scene even less pleased than they already were since it would require additional hazardous materials clean up.
I simply took a step back and let the rivulet pass, and again drank in the scene, the smell, the direction of the wind as made clear by the drizzle that had a role in this event. The lead vehicle had stopped for another wreck ahead caused by inclement conditions, and this one almost certainly was caused by a young mother staring at her cell phone instead of her windshield, physics having neither concern nor sympathy for either.
I eased towards my cruiser, my shift having ended and responsibilities handed off to my replacements, and as I sat behind the wheel I dislodged a now all-too-familiar bulge in my shirt pocket and stared at my cell phone for just a moment, then tossed it into the passenger-side floorboard.
I was going to go home, as so many others assume they will get to do, and unlike the unfortunate few that don’t always make it there, I was going to take my time doing so.
It was raining after all…and I used to love the rain a very, very long time ago.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.
Photo by Oshin Beveridge