Look! Piles of them. Mountains, even. Mashed into the glove box and sticking out at the hinge.
Covering the floor like carpet, with mudprints and crumbs and Doritos stains. Down inside the seat beyond the reach of my fingers.
The date on this one reads, “November 1, 2007,” but I don’t even remember getting it.
It seems the city has wasted whole forests on me.
A ticket geologist – if one existed and we brought him in – he could read the layers. Like he could say, “This layer here’s from the ‘No-Inspection-Sticker-zoic Era’.”
Or “from the Rolling-Stop-o-lithic Period.”
Or maybe “from the Dragging-Sparking-Coughing-Muffler-ocene Epoch.”
That one I do remember.
The ink runs illegible and layers push together until finally? Given enough pressure? Enough time? They form things called warrants with names like “Failure to Appear.”
During the nights, Tarab-less, my sleep is filled with nightmares, and in them I am pulled over – some silly, minor infraction, I guess – with my kids in the back seat and warrants on the wire. Flash to twenty years from now and it turns to: “Rachel, do you remember that time Mom got arrested and we watched as three dozen cops beat her on the side of the road ‘til their nightsticks got covered in blood and we had to wait for CPS to come take us away? Do you remember that, Rachel? That’s what fucked me up and turned me into the serial killer I am today!”
Here’s the “Pre-Operational-Seatbelts-icene Epoch.”
The “Forty-Five-in-a-Thirty-rian Age.”
The “Failure-to-Maintain-Proper-Distance-ian Age.”
Our ticket geologist, he’d have it all charted out like this, for this fossil record is impressively extensive and goes on and on and on.
Angela says, “Mom, all these papers are tickets?’
I say, “Yes, Angela, they are.”
Angela thinks about this and then she says, “Did you really go to ALL these movies without me?”
My options – as I understand them to be – are few and they go like this: Pay the tickets or go sit out the jail time.
“Pay ‘em or go sit it out,” says my boss, who is an attorney.
“Pay up or lock up,” says the voice of the man on the phone.
“Pay or play,” says Doctor Belloq, still fresh from watching “Orange is the New Black,” as though jail would be Dyke Fantasy Vacation for me.
I have calculated my fines to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the military budget of a small but up-and-coming dictatorship. By now, buying a governor for an official pardon would be my cheapest path.
Paying is not an option and these warrants will not die.
No choice left and no escape. I fought the law and the law won. I see that now, and so I officially announce at work and to my neighbors, to my ex and to my children and to all those who might notice my disappearance… I announce my official coming in from the cold. Life on the run is too much, too much of a burden and this member of Houston’s Most Wanted is so… weary.
I take three weeks off from my three jobs and I walk on into Franklin Street with my hands held high.
I say, “It is me! It’s Katy Anders!”
I say, “I am turning myself in!”
I say, “I am a wanted woman and you are looking for me.”
Then I lower my hands and I push my wrists together like, you know, awaiting the cold click of cuffs.
But the room remains quiet. It is nothing like a scene from a movie. One lonely cop sitting behind a counter – Whataburger wrapper where a donut would otherwise be – nods at my presence. Pokes at a keyboard. Chews. She finally looks up and she says, “Okay, now WHAT is it you want?”
I glance around, conspirator-like. Here it comes. I repeat myself. “I am here to turn myself in!”
My license – expired, probably suspended – is requested, and I hand it over gladly and start waiting for the alarms and for the running around, for the “She’s here, boys! We got her! We finally got her! For this, I’ll make lieutenant!”
The cop pokes at the keyboard some more. And some more. Then, a little more. She hands my license back to me.
She says, “Yeah. We don’t have room for ya.”
She says, “You got warrants out but we don’t have room for you.”
She says, “Why don’t you just pay the warrants off, doll?”
Is there no justice in this town? Does crime go unpunished? Are evildoers just left loose, out on the streets, to evil-do some more?
“Eighteen days,” it said. I read it twice to be absolutely sure and that is what it said. Eighteen days, right there in black and pink. Yet here I am, ready, willing, and able to take my eighteen days and they refuse to give them to me?
I try and explain things to the cop with the Whataburger wrapper. I am persuasive. I try and make her see the light. To make her imagine all those piles and piles of unpaid traffic tickets – almost touching the clouds by now! – that are cluttering up my van and my house and my life.
But she says, “Baby, I’m going to ask you to go home now.”
She says, “Just pay the damn fines.”
She says, “You can pay with cash or online or with a money order.”
I stomp out of the door and back into the day, no means to get home but to walk. I got dropped off here. I don’t even have my phone. I stomp on down the streets of downtown Houston and I am still a wanted woman.
And I remain a wanted women today, right here and right now, as I type these very words, and what’s worse? What’s worse than that? What’s worse is the humiliation.
I mean, how am I ever supposed to explain to my kids that